TALLAHASSEE — For Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, recruiting ain't what it used to be.
He can remember going out on the road and staying in a prospect's hometown for two weeks, holding almost a vigil to woo him. Now he gets one shot to visit and make it count. But that's not the element of the game that has changed the most. It's how early a class must come together.
"Kids are committing so much earlier," he said. "They used to not dare … commit before signing day or a couple days before."
The Seminoles had 17 oral commitments before last season began and spent the past few weeks and days working to hold onto them while picking up four more for a 21-member class, three of whom had committed elsewhere but switched: DB Greg Reid (Florida), OT Aubrey Phillips (Tennessee) and QB Will Secord (Arkansas).
"I'm very pleased. It's an excellent group," he said. "The key to this whole thing is evaluation. Evaluation.
"I was just watching television on today's signings, and I don't know if anybody in Florida did a bad job. There's so many players in this dad-gum state. Now it's going to get down to who evaluated best."
A closer look …
Looking for a playmaker: Bowden has said for the past few years his team might be one great player away from getting back into the sport's elite. Is Reid, a Rivals.com five-star player and the No. 2 cornerback, according to ESPN.com, such a player?
"The kid's just a playmaker. He makes plays," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "Some people go the whole year and they don't get any interceptions or they get one. Or they go the whole year and they don't get any fumbles. They don't cause any fumbles. He's a guy we certainly think can contribute, can play right away."
Reid, who committed on the eve of signing day, had two interceptions to earn MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 4.
Men in the middle: The Seminoles scored big at defensive tackle with five-star prospect Jacobbi McDaniel from nearby Madison County and Alonso standout Demonte McAllister.
"I expect them to come in and be ready and try to play them," defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins said simply.
Speed to burn: FSU has wanted to get faster in recent years, and this year's group shows that. Tallahassee Godby's Willie Downs, who said he might want to play safety rather than receiver so he can get on the field sooner, has run 4.4 in the 40. (He also won the state triple jump title in 2008).
So, too, has S Justin Bright, WR Willie Haulstead and RB Chris Thompson. But the fastest just might be S Jajuan Harley. His coach, Rudy Hubbard (a former FAMU coach), said he has run a 4.3. "A legitimate 4.3."
Bloodlines: Bowden has had a string of players of late who are the sons of former Seminoles he coached, including Christian Ponder, Caz Piurowski and Marcus Sims.
Well, he has another, DE Dan Hicks out of Oxford, Miss. His dad is DL Dan Footman, a former Hillsborough High standout who played in the NFL from 1993-98. Hicks is raw but talented and could be a sleeper in the class.
By the numbers: FSU coaches had evaluated more than 300 prospects for this class by the end of March. That's not counting 1,320 unsolicited tapes of other players. After winnowing the list to about 1,200, they sent out 73,800 pieces of correspondence and another 40,200 e-mails. By August, they had 17 oral commitments. In all, 21 of 26 players who made official visits signed.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.