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How FSU’s 2021 class is shaping up

Florida State heads into NSD on Wednesday with probably only one or two spots left for high school prospects. The coaches are looking to finish off the class with four-star receiver Destyn Hill (Edna Karr – New Orleans), four-star defensive tackle Tywone Malone (Oradell Bergen Catholic, NJ) and as a long shot Terrion Arnold (John Paul Catholic-Tallahassee).

Landing Hill is the most important prospect. He gives them a big-time threat at receiver. FSU needs a No. 1 target and we feel Hill can make an impact next season. Malone is a major need at defensive tackle with the loss of Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden this past offseason. Defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins has done it before and pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Will he do it again? Terrion Arnold is a local star. He has been all over the place. Arnold has liked Florida, UGA and FSU. There have been rumors out there that FSU has slipped into the conversation. Florida just used up one of their final scholarships on a transfer, Arik Gilbert from LSU. Alabama is about full. UGA has a major need for a defensive back after Tyrique Stevenson transferred back to Miami. Arnold has not really given any outsiders an idea of where he is leaning.

One thing is for certain: NSD will have some suspense once again. Below is FSU’s class and how each position shapes up.

Quarterback

McKenzie Milton

(Fish) Evaluation: Once the Seminoles lost the commitment of Luke Altmyer they have a major need at quarterback. Milton fills that void. He was one of the best grad transfers on the market. If Milton even gets back to 80-85 percent FSU will have landed a good one. He gives an offense a major shot in the arm that needs it more than any other P5 team in the country. 

Grade – (A) FSU needed a QB and landing one. Milton could have the greatest impact of any incoming prospect in this year’s class.

Running back

D.J. Williams

(Fish) Evaluation: FSU was looking to sign a high school running back. There was not much to choose from. Instead they entered the portal and pulled in D.J. Williams. He played his high school football at Sebring. DJ was a prospect that came out of nowhere his senior season and pulled in offers late. He gives FSU a power back after losing LaDamian Webb this offseason. You would have liked to see FSU pull in a star high school back but when you can’t get one it is now easy to go to the portal. 

Grade – (C+) FSU’s backfield has some young talent. Lawrance Toafili made an impact as a freshman and should be getting more opportunities to carry the football in 2021. Jashaun Corbin should also be getting a lion’s share of the carries. Where DJ fits in the mix is anyone’s guess. He should provide depth for what could be a loaded backfield in 2021.

Wide receiver

Malik McClain, Joshua Burrell, Andrew Parchment (arriving in summer)

(Fish) Evaluation: Since coach Mike Norvell took over at FSU he has lost DJ Matthews (transfer), Isaiah Bolden (transfer), Warren Thompson (transfer) and Tamorrion Terry (declared for NFL draft). Terry was the most productive receiver of the group. This was a major need for FSU. During the early signing day FSU signed McClain and Burrell while adding a grad transfer in Andrew Parchment. FSU heads into NSD expecting to land Destyn Hill. He would give FSU a true No. 1 receiver. Hill is probably the top receiver FSU would have signed since Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin a decade ago

Grade-(A) FSU signs Hill tomorrow and you could argue this is one of the best receiver classes they have signed in the past 10 years.

Tight end

Jackson West, Koby Gross

(Fish) Evaluation: Norvell leans heavily on his tight ends to make an impact in his offense. Last season coach Norvell was dealt a bad hand when Tre’ McKitty decided to transfer to Georgia. To make matters worse grad transfer Jordan Wilson (UCLA) injured knee early on in fall practice. Without Wilson and McKitty, FSU had to rely on two walk-on players at tight end along with Cam McDonald. To fix the problems at tight end FSU signed two players in this year’s class. Jackson West was an under-the-radar gem from Alabama that FSU was able to pull in. West has a ton of potential and should be able to see the field year 1. The other tight end FSU pulled in was Koby Gross. He was a juco prospect who has not seen a football field in close to two years. Gross redshirted his freshman season and this year was lost due to Covid. He should have four years to play football at FSU.

Grade (B+) – West is the wild card of the group. He was ranked only a three-star on the networks. He is ranked as the 30th best tight end in the nation. After watching his film it is our opinion that there probably are not 29 players nationally who are better at their position.

Offensive tackle

Rod Orr

(Fish) Evaluation: FSU had a major need at offensive tackle. They landed one of the very best tackles in the nation (Orr) in the early signing day. Orr has great size and athletic ability. For a position of need FSU has started to turn the corner. Darius Washington will end up a four-year starter for FSU at tackle. They also have Robert Scott in the mix. He played as a freshman and was quite impressive. With Devontay Love-Taylor returning, tackle went from a weakness two years ago to a strength. Keep an eye out for freshman Lloyd Willis, who will also be in the mix. Adding Orr just gives you more competition this fall.

Grade-(B+) Orr is one of the premier tackles in the country. FSU needs one more tackle in their class and will most likely tap into the transfer portal after spring football. If they are able to get another tackle this grade goes from a B+ to an A.

Guard/center

Bryson Estes

(Fish) Evaluation: FSU does not have a major need at guard or center. They have more of a need at tackle than guard. With players getting last year as a mulligan from the NCAA, FSU will return senior Baveon Johnson (G/C), sophomore Dontae Lucas (G), junior Brady Scott (G), freshman Thomas Shrader (G), sophomore Maurice Smith (G/C), sophomore Ira Henry (G), freshman Zane Herring (G) and now add Estes to the mix. That is eight lineman for three spots. The interior of FSU offensive line could be one of the strengths of their football team in 2021. 

Grade –(C+) Offensive Guard and Center were not a major need. Estes gives them a very good option at center over the next few years. Estes needs a redshirt season as Smith will have the center spot locked down for the next two years.

Defensive tackle

Keir Thomas 

(Fish) Evaluation: FSU lost Cory Durden to NC State. Marvin Wilson opted out late in the season and now is off to the NFL Draft. Jamarcus Chatman was probably going to move inside and he decided to transfer this past season. With the loss of three defensive tackles there is a depth problem. FSU returns Dennis Briggs, Fabien Lovett, Jarrett Jackson, Malcolm Ray, Tru Thompson. Briggs flashed this past season. Lovett had his moments but he needs to take his game to another level. FSU signed three defensive ends during the early signing day and it would not surprise us to see any one of the three move inside. 

Grade- (Incomplete) Right now we can’t give a grade for this position. FSU signed Thomas out of the portal. He will provide another depth guy. We don’t expect Keir to provide much more than that. The key Wednesday is the announcement of Tywone Malone (Bergen Catholic). In the past Haggins has landed some elite prospects on NSD. Will Malone surprise everyone tomorrow and choose FSU? Malone is choosing from FSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

Defensive end

Joshua Farmer, Shambre Jackson, George Wilson, Byron Turner

(Fish) Evaluation: Last season FSU only had 10 sacks. Not many of those came from the defensive end position. If there was ever a position that needed upgrading it was defensive end. FSU signed four during the early national signing period. Wilson has the potential to be an elite pass rusher. Farmer, Jackson and Turner may end up at strong side defensive end or any of the three could move inside and play defensive tackle. 

Grade – (B+) FSU needed bodies and got them. They bring in Farmer, who every time you go on his Twitter is working out. Jackson and Turner are both very similar prospects who have nice upside but that may end up being once they move inside. Wilson is a true pass rush end. While FSU signed four guys with nice upside there is not a Brian Burns type in this group.

Linebacker

Patrick Payton, Jordan Eubanks, Shyheim Brown, Jermaine Johnson

(Fish) Evaluation: For a program that has produced Derrick Brooks, Marvin Jones, Ernie Sims, Sam Cowart and many other great linebackers, this position has not been very good the past few seasons. FSU has recruited some highly regarded prospects but not many of them have panned out. Payton is a kid we really like. As a junior we were at a game vs. Columbus where he ended up with five sacks. He has the ability to get up the field and put pressure on the quarterback. Brown is a versatile athlete who can play corner, safety or linebacker. He has the size and athletic ability to play multiple positions on defense. Johnson was a huge get as he will be counted on to replace either Janarius Robinson or Joshua Kaindoh, who both left early for the NFL draft. Eubanks is a depth guy. He is 2-3 years away from seeing the field. 

Grade – (B+) Landing Johnson out of the transfer portal was huge. He had six sacks as a backup. At FSU, he would have been the team leader in sacks. Payton is most likely going to need a redshirt season. He as a ton of potential but at 200 pounds may be a bit light to see significant playing time in 2021. You could have him run down on special teams. You would have liked for them to have signed Branden Jennings, who was a legacy kid and one of the elite linebackers in the nation.

Safety

Jammie Robinson

(Fish) Evaluation: Robinson is one of the best recruits Mike Norvell and his staff have snagged. Robinson was a starter in the SEC for a coaching staff that was very good at finding and developing talent on that side of the football. We expect Robinson to start for FSU in 2021. At safety FSU returns Akeem Dent, Brendan Gant, Travis Jay and Sidney Williams. It would not shock us to see Hunter Washington move from corner to safety as we feel that is his most natural position in college. 

Grade: (B) If Washington moves over from safety and with the addition of Robinson, FSU has a pretty good group of safeties on their roster. Add in Terrion Arnold tomorrow and this grade goes up to an A.

Cornerback

Kevin Knowles, Hunter Washington, Omarion Cooper, Brandon Moore, Jarques McClellion

Fish (Evaluation): Hunter Washington is a kid whose senior film was much better than his junior season. He has good ball skills but Washington seems like a more natural fit at safety. Knowles was the best player on a McArthur defense which was not very good in 2020. He gives them some speed in their secondary. McClellion comes from Arkansas, where he should provide depth this offseason. Cooper and Moore will be fighting for a starting spot next season. Overall this a solid group of defensive backs added to a roster that is not lacking in talent on the back end.

Grade: (B+) In the past FSU has signed some guys like Jalen Ramsey, Demorie Tate, Travis Jay and Akeem Dent. All of these were guys who were considered elite at their positions. This past class FSU signed guys who will need to be developed to become elite players in the secondary. It is a group that should improve the depth but we don’t expect much from them in 2021.