ACC Title Road: Defending champs reload with 'massive' recruiting class

Jimbo Fisher on Noles' 2014 recruits: 'This is one of the most complete classes we've been able to sign since we've been here'

Kareem Are (Orlando Sentinel photo)

Kareem Are (Orlando Sentinel photo)

Jimbo Fisher and his Florida State coaching staff went into the 2014 recruiting season thinking 'big.'

They came away with a 24-man, highly-rated class that might also be described as massive.

Of the players who signed with the Noles, just one is shorter than 6-1, and that is 6-0, 196-pound five-star running back Dalvin Cook, an early Clemson commitment who also detoured to Gainesville on his way to Tallahassee.

Size matters in college football and it's clear that Florida State placed a priority on not just filling needs and replenishing depth but on doing so with players physically prepared for the college game.

"You've got a lot of size and a lot of length," Fisher said about his new players.

Championships are won in the trenches and Fisher's emphasis on size is most evident along the offensive and defensive lines where FSU inked a combined 14 players in the 2014 class and the measurements of each one jumps off the page.

The Seminoles are projected to start five seniors on the offensive line in 2014 so experience isn't lacking. But depth was. Behind Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Austin Barron, Tre' Jackson and Bobby Hart, there's only a handful of young players waiting in the wings.

In 6-foot-6, 336-pound guard Kareem Are and 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive tackle Chad Mavety -- both top-rated junior-college signees -- the Noles all of a sudden have two key players that can push for playing time this year and be poised to take over starting duties in 2015. Are was an early enrollee.

Are and Mavety weren't the only big linemen to sign with the Seminoles. Tackles Brock Ruble (6-foot-8, 320 pounds), Derrick Kelly (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) and Roderick Johnson (6-foot-7, 330 pounds) are big and athletic and bolster one of the game's most important positions. Guard Corey Martinez (6-foot-5, 300 pounds) and center Alec Eberle (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) also fit the mold of big, athletic bodies capable of adding immediate depth.

FSU's seven offensive line signees average 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds.

"You've got to win those battles up front," Fisher said. "You've got to protect and do those kind of things. Getting great offensive linemen is critical."

On the defensive line, FSU beefed up with some impressive signings on the interior.

Elite defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (6-2, 300) surprised some of the national recruiting experts by choosing FSU over in-state favorite Virginia Tech. He'll replace Timmy Jernigan, who left early for the NFL. Nnadi's fellow signees at defensive tackle include Adam Torres (6-foot-4, 280 pounds), Demarcus Christmas (6-foot-3, 300 pounds), Fredrick Jones (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) and Arthur Williams (6-foot-5, 298 pounds) so the trend of powerfully built prospects for defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins to mold continues.

"You've got to start inside with that run game," Fisher said. "(Nnadi) and Demarcus Christmas and Fred Jones and the group that we have in there, it's a very special group. Adam Torres is another big, physical guy inside. You've got to be able to play the run."

At defensive end, a pair of athletic 6-foot-7 pass rushers highlights that position group with new `Noles Rick Leonard and Lorenzo Featherston.

The Seminoles also added the speedy, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds Malique Jackson to a cornerback position that wasn't a pressing need in the 2014 class, as well as 6-foot, 190-pounds safety Trey Marshall .

A trio of big linebackers -- Kain Daub (6-foot-4, 243 pounds), Jacob Pugh (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and Delvin Purifoy (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) -- also highlights a class built on size, speed and playmaking ability.

Adding quality depth and size was priority No. 1 but a close second on Fisher's off-season to-do list was to also add more weapons in the passing game and to the victor's go the spoils.

After losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, the Seminoles will bring in capable replacements in fellow five-star wide receivers Travis Rudolph (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and Ermon Lane (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and four-star pass catcher Ja'Von Harrison (6-foot-3, 190 pounds).

"When you get three of them and be able to spread the field, inside and outside," Fisher said. "These guys are all big bodied guys. Big bodied guys that are outside guys and have capability to and body quickness to go inside, which is very rare."

FSU didn't lose any tight ends but with Nick O'Leary and Kevin Haplea both entering their respective senior seasons in 2014, adding 6-foot-6 tight ends Mavin Saunders and Ryan Izzo gives the `Noles some intriguing prospects to work into the rotation before eventually taking over at the position.

Not to be overlooked, quarterback J.J. Cosentino was the icing on the champions' signing-day cake.

Cosentino's size and arm strength combination should have ACC defensive coordinators concerned about the long-term prospects of the FSU offense after the newest `Noles signal caller gets to Tallahassee and joins the Fisher quarterback lineage.

"This is one of the most complete classes we've been able to sign since we've been here," Fisher said. "We've got large numbers this year and kind of hit needs across the board and filled it with great players and got every position across the board we had somebody in."

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