Florida State football: Seminoles secure top recruiting class on signing day

By The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 3, 2016 at 6:08 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State University finished national signing day with the top football recruiting class in the nation on Wednesday.

Even with several top recruits still on the board Wednesday afternoon, ESPN.com ranked the Seminoles No. 1 overall. Florida State entered the day with the No. 3 projected signing class but finished ahead of Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Ohio State, which rounded out ESPN's Top 5.

It marked the fourth straight season that Florida State hauled in a top-five class, and it's the second time the Seminoles have ranked No. 1 under coach Jimbo Fisher, who was asked about his secret to success while meeting with reporters late Wednesday.

"It's called personal relationships," said Fisher, adding that his assistant coaches and recruiting coordinators did a remarkable job of building loyalty among their targets with relationships that span "two, three and even four years. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a staff to recruit a player."

Florida State, which signed 17 four-star recruits and one five-star, added six of the four-star recruits to its class on signing day, including an unexpected commitment from Bradenton (Fla.) defensive tackle Shavar Manuel, who announced on Twitter early Wednesday morning that he was ending his longtime commitment to rival Florida and would make his decision later in the day.

When the announcement finally came live from Manuel's home while surrounded by family and friends, the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder donned a garnet and gold cap and broke out the Seminoles' famed "Tomahawk Chop."

Manuel's decision to attend Florida State means he'll join two other former IMG Academy stars who also signed with the Seminoles: four-star quarterback Malik Henry and three-star kicking recruit Ricky Aguayo, the younger brother of All-American Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo.

Fisher said Henry has a "tremendous chance" to compete for the Seminoles' starting quarterback job next year after the position was an ongoing issue during the 2015 season.

If Henry wins the battle, he will be throwing to Florida State's top wideout recruit, 6-foot-3, 211-pound Keith Gavin of Crawfordville, Fla., who was said to be a lock for Alabama but instead chose to stay close to home. Gavin's school, Wakulla High, is just 20 minutes south of Florida State's campus.

The Seminoles' 2016 class, however, was highlighted by its lone five-star recruit, defensive back Levonta Taylor of Ocean Lakes, Va. The 5-11, 182-pound Taylor was rated as the top defensive backs in the country and a five-star recruit by all major services.

Taylor committed in April 2015, and despite efforts from programs like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame to flip him, Taylor stayed firm throughout.

"His skill set is very unique," Fisher said when asked about Taylor, who was the first recruit to send in his letter of intent Wednesday morning to the Seminoles' athletic office.

Taylor was beyond excited to be the crown jewel of Florida State's class.

"I'm drippin' on 'em, baby, how you love that?" Taylor wrote on his Twitter account as the caption to a picture of himself wearing Seminole colors. "OFFICIALLY A SEMINOLE."

Florida State also reeled in the top offensive line class in the nation by signing the five top-rated prospects, including the surprise pickup of Landon Dickerson from Hudson, N.C.

Dickerson (6-5, 300) narrowed his choices to Alabama, Tennessee and Florida State but chose the Seminoles live on national television to solidify another standout class of linemen for Fisher. The Seminoles were also excited to land the nation's top-rated center Baveon Johnson of Lakeland, Fla., and tackle Jauan Williams (6-7, 303) of Washington D.C. Both committed Wednesday to the Seminoles.

Two other players that Florida State hoped to land -- defensive end Brian Burns of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and defensive back Carlos Becker of Kissimmee, Fla. -- also made the Seminoles' day when Burns spurned Georgia and Florida for Tallahassee. Becker did the same by picking the Seminoles over Ohio State and Ole Miss.

The only player the Seminoles would consider a loss was Miami safety Jamel Cook, who picked USC over Florida State.

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