By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher believes that, had he not gotten hurt, Josh Sweat might have rated as the top recruit in the country.
A five-star prospect who enrolled at Florida State in January, Sweat suffered a dislocated knee and torn ACL in September 2014 and played only three games of his senior season. That didn’t stop him from garnering unanimous praise from all of the major recruiting services and a No. 9 national ranking in the 247Sports Composite.
Freshman defensive end Josh Sweat enrolled at FSU in January. Photo by Josh Newberg/247Sports
“When you’re talking about the number one player, (you look at) the production (Sweat) was having on offense and defense, and then you’re talking the measurables of size, speed,” Fisher said.
“…The guys who can affect that quarterback and come off that edge standing up with their hand in the dirt, it’s so effective. And he’s the type of guy who has that type of ability.”
Although Sweat is already among his teammates in Tallahassee, his injury will keep him sidelined for spring practice. But Fisher is optimistic that Sweat will be ready to return for fall camp in August, an idea bolstered by Sweat’s commitment to his rehabilitation program.
“He is very diligent,” Fisher said. “He’s on time, he does every workout, he’s doing his rehab very well. He’s got a little ways to go. I can’t give that prognosis yet, but he’ll be fine. Those knees can come back now (and) are always usually stronger.”
Johnson, Francois in the mix at QB
For just the second time during his tenure as head coach, Fisher signed two quarterbacks in one class.
Jacksonville native De’Andre Johnson, Florida’s Mr. Football in 2014, enrolled at FSU in January. And Deondre Francois, who played under former FSU star Chris Weinke at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, arrives this summer.
Balancing two quarterbacks in the same year can be a challenge – after all, there’s room for just one on the field at any given time. Still, Fisher is confident that competition can bring out the best in each.
“Generally, it usually works itself out,” he said. “If you’re good players, it all tends to work out. Just like (former FSU QBs) Casey Weldon and Brad Johnson.”
As the only quarterback on the roster with game experience, redshirt junior Sean Maguire, who arrived at FSU with Jameis Winston in 2012, likely has the inside track to the starter’s job this fall.
But Fisher still expects his newcomers to immediately compete for playing time as freshmen.
“Jameis did it,” he said. “Jamarcus Russell did it.”
Lewis rounds out deep DB class
By the time May’s NFL Draft is complete, FSU will likely have sent four starting defensive backs – Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks, Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams – into the professional ranks over the last two years.
While much talent passing through can take its toll, that effect was mitigated some Wednesday when FSU signed a five-deep crop of DBs, all of whom come with top-notch pedigrees.
“We had to have secondary guys,” Fisher said. “Because of the multiplicity of things you have to play in today’s game, you have to have those body types – those guys who can play corner, can play safety, can play nickel, can play dime.”
The Seminoles welcomed two five-star defensive backs in safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. And four-star safeties Calvin Brewton and A.J. Westbrook were among the country’s more sought-after prospects as well.
Had FSU finished with just those four, the Seminoles would’ve no doubt been plenty pleased with this year’s haul. But Fisher made one late addition that put the secondary class over the top.
Marcus Lewis, a four-star cornerback from Washington, D.C., made waves by signing with Florida State on Wednesday morning after most analysts believed he leaned toward Kentucky or Miami.
Lewis is considered the seventh-best “athlete” (meaning prospect who excels at multiple positions) in the nation.
“He was still looking,” Fisher said. “I think it was a perfect storm on both sides.”
Noles loaded with O-Linemen
With the departure of four senior starters from last year’s team on the offensive line, FSU has some holes to fill up front.
The Seminoles should at least have plenty of options.
FSU signed three linemen Wednesday, and a fourth, Ethan Frith, is already on campus after enrolling in January. Those four join the group of seven that the Seminoles inked in 2014.
Fisher said Wednesday that FSU could’ve signed more linemen if it had the “right guy,” but bringing in so many last year made it possible to be a little more selective.
“It’s quality, not quantity,” he said. “You have to make sure you can get guys that can play. If you're not sure you can get guys that can play at that level and do what you ask them to do, you have a guy that for four years eats up a scholarship for someone else that you could have recruited."
Fisher feels the four he signed this year are all in the “can play” category. He said Abdul Bello, a native of Nigeria who rates as the fifth-best tackle prospect in the nation, has “off the charts” potential.
And he considers Cole Minshew, a guard from nearby Douglas, Ga., to be “the most underrated guy I’ve seen out there in a long time.”
Frith is back in the fold after having shoulder surgery, and FSU also welcomed David Robbins, a Maryland native who offensive line coach Rick Trickett said has “a head like a St. Bernard.”