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Recruits and Fans Sign up for Jimbo Fisher

Feb 4, 2010 – 12:37 PM
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Jim Henry

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Jimbo FisherTALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- One voice, one message.

That's the way it's going to be at Florida State for the time being under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher. While that is a departure from the regime of former head coach Bobby Bowden, Fisher's approach and presence has rejuvenated the Seminoles' fan base.

Renewal of booster membership is up 90 percent from this point in 2009 according to the boster association, while the ticket office is reporting an 80 percent increase in new sales over the total from this time last year. And let's not forget Fisher's first recruiting class Wednesday, one that secured a top-10 national recruiting ranking.

Make no mistake: this was Jimbo's class. He's head coach, player personnel director and rush chairman. Though each of his assistant coaches played a role, Fisher signed off on all 24 players.

That's an 180-degree turn from Bowden, who let his assistant coaches handle the evaluations of all players aside from quarterback. And in recent years, Bowden eventually turned that responsibility over to Fisher as well.

"It never felt unnatural. No part of it never felt unnatural," Fisher said of the recruiting process under his command for the first time as a head coach.

While Bowden's assistants usually joined him and met with the media on signing day, Fisher was a lone solider at Wednesday's 60-minute recruiting recap here at the Moore Athletic Center.

Later Wednesday night at the program's second annual signing day party for more than 1,000 fans at the Tallahassee Car Museum, Fisher introduced his staff, which includes five new assistants less than a month into their new positions.

The high-energy event was streamed, free and live, on the internet and satellite "War Party" events were staged simultaneously throughout the state - and nation -- including two others in Tallahassee.

Fisher, 44, is inheriting a FSU program coming off its worst four-year stretch (30-22) in more than 30 years, but that's in the past. Bowden's legacy as one of the greatest college coaches of all-time is secure regardless of his finish. Fisher represents a new chapter, and there's no denying the renewed enthusiasm surrounding the football program.

National Signing Day was another step forward. The Seminoles signed 24 players, including 14 on the defensive side, immediately addressing the most pressing needs.

"Our past couple of recruiting classes have been OK, but it was more like the same ole' deal," said Brian Chambers, a frenzied recruiting follower who admittedly spent his entire Wednesday in front of a computer and television keeping tabs on signing-day updates -- and is already tracking next year's FSU class.

"I feel like Jimbo brings that youth to recruiting, he and his staff are more player-type coaches who know how to relate to these kids a lot better. Coach Bowden was great and I think what sold (recruits) was the legend, that Coach Bowden was in the house and they played for Coach Bowden.

"There's definitely a different feel, a different atmosphere around FSU now."

It starts with Fisher, who exudes confidence and passion. Let's not forget personality either. Fisher might micro-manage every aspect of his program, much like good friend Nick Saban does at Alabama, but Fisher's also approachable, funny and seemingly sincere.

He has a plan, too, which was reflected in a recruiting class heavy in athleticism and versatility. Fisher wanted football players.

"It's a team," Fisher said.

"It's not the best 11 players, it's the best team of players. All the good teams, you ever think about, everybody had a role on that team. You always didn't have 11 superstars. I am sick and tired of it being offense, defense, offense, defense. I hate that. We aren't going in the locker room like that, we aren't going to be by positions, we are going to mix them up, travel on buses together.

"They have to be a team."

Less than 30 days after Fisher officially became the successor to Bowden, the Seminoles landed a consensus Top 10 class. Of the three major recruiting services which rank players and signing classes, ESPN tabbed FSU's 2010 class at No. 6 nationally. The Seminoles checked in at No. 10 with both Rivals and Scout.com and was the highest-ranked ACC school.

Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina rounded out the ACC's top five recruiting classes, according to Rivals.

"[The rankings] say you are out recruiting the right guys or what people think are the right guys and who you are evaluating to be the right guy," Fisher said.

"To get those guys you better be competitive. I think if we get better and hopefully we can win a few more games and get up there, maybe we can move from six to one, we can move up there and get that.

"I don't think we are that far away."

The Seminoles did well in Florida, landing four of the state's top nine players and eight of the top 50, according to Rivals. Thirteen of the 24 signees are from the Sunshine State.

"You have to establish yourself in Florida," Fisher said. "You're not going to get every player in Florida, but you've got to establish your boundaries and get your share of the big-time players. We all know they're here."

Two players were rated as the best in the country at their respective positions: cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and middle linebacker Jeff Luc.

Joyner is the fourth USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year to sign with the Seminoles in school history, joining Derrick Brooks, David Warren and Antonio Cromartie. Luc, one of four recruits already enrolled at FSU, is a physically mature 230-pounder who relishes punishing ball carriers.

"We may look back on Luc and Joyner and say they started the whole thing," Fisher said.

"They understand the importance of what they did (signing with the 'Noles). Luc and Joyner they OK'd it for everybody to make sure you look at Florida State, which allows you to get in the door and allows you to see what Jeff and Lamarcus saw in your staff."

FSU signed five defensive linemen, five linebackers and four cornerbacks in an effort to revive a unit that will have a new coordinator - Mark Stoops - and a new scheme. Offensively, the Seminoles turned their attention to replenishing the receiving corps and did so with five signees, as well as two tight ends.

"We've put so much on recruiting, which is true, but now we've got to develop the players," Fisher said. "We have to develop the players, mentally, physically, spiritually. Every way you can develop them -- put every support system around them to help them get better in everything we do."

The excitement building doesn't stop with the arrival of another celebrated class of players.

Seminole Boosters, Inc., is enjoying nearly a 17 percent increase in monetary gifts.

Football ticket renewals, bolstered by an early push, are up from 423 to a whopping 2,327 compared to this time a year ago. That's a 450-percent increase, despite the fact that FSU last season finished 19th nationally - and first in the ACC -- with an average home attendance of 74,345.

Although Fisher didn't want to set a timetable on how quickly FSU can re-emerge as a national contender, he believes it will happen sooner than later.

One voice, one message.
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