As coach Bobby Bowden and his staff evaluate a prospect in the weeks to come, the bottom line on whether they will offer him a scholarship will turn largely on one simple question:
Can he play for Florida?
"You've got to get the same kind of players. You've got to get the same quality," said Bowden, who once used the Miami roster as the measuring stick.
The Gators won the national title in 2006 and, with a win against Alabama in the SEC title game this weekend, are likely in the Bowl Championship Series finale.
Oh, yeah, the Gators have won five straight against FSU, the last two 45-12 in Gainesville and 45-15 last weekend in Tallahassee.
"In these type of situations," Bowden said of rebuilding, "whether it's Notre Dame or Southern Cal or Oklahoma, there's only one answer I know — you've got to recruit guys who can beat those guys."
Rivals.com has FSU No. 6 in its team rankings thanks to a stellar group of 18 oral commitments, headlined by DT Jacobbi McDaniel, a five-star prospect from Greenville (Fla.) Madison; Demonte McAllister, a dominating DT from Alonso High; Willie Haulstead, a 6-3, 210-pound WR from Titusville High; C.J. Mizell, a speedy LB from Tallahassee Leon; S Jajuan Harley from Tallahassee Rickards; and DE Brandon Jenkins from Tallahassee Florida High.
Actually landing them and closing strong by the Feb. 4 national signing day, however, may turn on the ruling from the Division I Committee on Infractions.
In the wake of an academic misconduct scandal that involved 61 student-athletes in 10 sports (25 in football) and three former school employees, FSU self-imposed penalties, including scholarship reductions. For football, it's two in 2009 and three in 2010. The Committee on Infractions could accept that sanction or find it is insufficient.
Even if the Seminoles are down just five over the next two years, it reduces the margin for error in assessing recruits.
"The more you sign, the best chance you are of getting 18 good ones because you ain't going to hit 25 out of 25; it doesn't work that way," Bowden said. "That number will be down, so we've got to do a great job of evaluating and getting ones that won't miss."
QB question: Bowden said he was pleased with the progress that redshirt sophomore Christian Ponder made in his first year as starting quarterback. But the Seminoles need to see him make another jump. Remember, he has thrown for more than 200 yards just once in a game.
"You take the emergence of Kansas and the emergence of Missouri, and teams like that, it's the quarterback," Bowden said. "They have super quarterbacks."
Can Ponder be super like Kansas junior Todd Reesing or Missouri senior Chase Daniel? (Like Ponder, Reesing and Daniel are both from Texas. Hmm.)
"He can be," Bowden said, adding that he does like what he has seen "behind him." That would be redshirt sophomore D'Vontrey Richardson and freshman E.J. Manuel, who's sitting out this season but has impressed Bowden in practice, running the scout team offense.
"I really like what I see," he said.
Looking for two: After a stellar preseason, folks had big expectations for WR Corey Surrency. But he was inconsistent and dropped passes, something he rarely did in practice. FSU won an appeal for Surrency to play this year and Bowden said the school will ask the NCAA to give him one more season.
"He needs another year," Bowden said.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.