Does Florida State struggle to recruit wide receivers?

Photo by Logan Stanford

The topic of wide receiver recruiting at Florida State is setting the Internet message boards ablaze.

In the past week or so, blue-chip recruits Warren Thompson and Joshua Moore have announced their commitments to Oregon and Nebraska respectively. Florida State was in the hunt for both of these players, so it stings that the Seminoles were not able to gain a commitment from either of them.

But the reaction to the news of two players pledging their services elsewhere have caused the Internet fandom to riot. The main target of their fury is on current wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey, who is entering his tenth year as position coach for the Seminoles. Coupled with the pain of losing out on several of their top targets in recent years, fans are beginning to call for a change to be made.

Dawsey certainly has drawn a lot of criticism during his time with the Seminoles. Throughout his 10-year tenure in Tallahassee, he has only gotten two receivers drafted (Kelvin Benjamin in 2014 and Rashad Greene in 2015) and the topic of how much development receivers on campus experience is discussed as well.

Scouring over social media in recent weeks, some Florida State fans are beginning to become very upset about the perceived “lack of traction” on the wide receiver recruiting trail.

I have been very open about criticism of this coaching staff on the recruiting trail. A while back, I took a look at the data and found that Florida State does not recruit quarterbacks as well as some other recruiting powerhouses like Alabama or Clemson.

I decided to take a look at that same data set, but this time in terms of wide receiver recruiting. I went back to 2008, the first year that Jimbo Fisher joined the program as offensive coordinator, and tracked every receiver that Florida State recruited to campus. Some familiar names are in there, like Benjamin, Greene and Kermit Whitfield, but also a hand full of names that fans might not recognize like Willie Haulstead, Isaiah Jones and Marvin Bracy.

Florida State and twelve other programs recruit at a national-championship level, so it felt only fair to compare the Seminoles to those schools. I also added Florida to this mix because, even though they do not recruit at a title-contending level, they are Florida State’s arch rival and a program often compared to the Seminoles on the recruiting trail.

Unlike the quarterback project above, I decided to measure the level of talent that each school brought in in a different manner. Instead of using overall ranking or receiver position ranking (which is often times skewed by JUCO or prep schools), I used the 247Composite grade given to each prospect. For example, George Campbell garnered a 0.9902 grade and Travis Rudolph earned a 0.9781 grade. I averaged these grades out for every school to get an average score.

Without further ado, here are those averaged scores. Again, these are the average receiver grades a school has signed since 2008, the first year Jimbo Fisher started at Florida State. They are in order from highest to lowest, along with the number of receivers each school has signed.

  1. USC – 24 WRs signed – 0.9435
  2. Alabama – 24 WRs signed – 0.9310
  3. Florida State – 26 WRs signed – 0.9141
  4. Ohio State – 27 WRs signed – 0.9125
  5. Texas – 30 WRs signed – 0.9120
  6. Clemson – 25 WRs signed – 0.9109
  7. LSU – 28 WRs signed – 0.9109
  8. Georgia – 28 WRs signed – 0.9033
  9. Notre Dame – 28 WRs signed – 0.9017
  10. Florida – 33 WRs signed – 0.8998
  11. UCLA – 18 WRs signed – 0.8946
  12. Texas A&M – 34 WRs signed – 0.8933
  13. Auburn – 23 WRs signed – 0.8890
  14. Michigan – 28 WRs signed – 0.8856

Keep in mind that the cut-off for a four-star prospect in the 247Composite grades is roughly at 0.89, so most of these schools on this list are averaging at a four-star receiver. Only Auburn and Michigan are averaging lower than that.

So what do we learn from this?

Well, for one, Florida State has recruited the wide receiver position better than 99% of teams around the country ever since Jimbo Fisher, and to a lesser extent Dawsey as well, arrived on campus. The only teams that, on average, recruit better talent to the position than the Seminoles are Alabama and USC.

To be honest, I was surprised by this data. Apart from George Campbell and Ermon Lane, there have not been many five-star, elite-level receivers that have signed with the Seminoles.

But the factor that set Florida State above the competition was their ability to consistently land blue-chip talent. Of the 26 players that Florida State has signed at the receiver position, 19 of those have been either four or five-star recruits. For those keeping track at home, that’s 73% of the receivers they have signed since 2008. The only schools with a higher percentage than Florida State in that regard are USC (79%), Alabama (76%) and Ohio State (74%). Just for fun, Florida is sitting at a paltry 54% for this same exercise.

As a quick side note, the Seminoles have had a lot of success with the few three-star receivers they do sign. Mentioned in that short list are Bobo Wilson (starter), Nyqwan Murray (starter), and Xavier Rhodes (first round pick at CB, who is technically still on this list – more explained below).

In this dead heat of summer, it is easy to get caught up in narratives and emotions and assume that the Seminoles are struggling to recruit receivers. But the last time I checked, there are around eight months until this current class of recruits sign. There is still plenty of time for Florida State to get in on recruits and land some commitments. If you take anything away from this data, it means that we should just trust Jimbo, Dawsey and this coaching staff to get the job done in the end.

It could always be worse. Take Florida for example, which doesn’t even recruit at a national-championship level.

Writer’s note: This data is taken from the 247Composite rankings. Every recruit was included that was either classified as a WR or an ATH that played receiver in college. No position changes were taken into account (ex. QB to WR, DB to WR). 

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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