There are many areas on the FSU roster that Willie Taggart and his staff would like to strengthen with the 2020 recruiting class but probably no position needed to be upgraded more than quarterback.
The Seminoles didn’t sign a quarterback in either of Coach Willie Taggart’s first two FSU recruiting classes, including the 2019 class that saw Sam Howell from Sun Valley High School in Monroe, N.C., flip on National Signing Day (his FSU commitment was also in doubt when offensive coordinator Walt Bell became the head coach at UMass shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 season).
The Seminoles have added Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook and redshirt freshman Jordan Travis, who transferred from Louisville to the quarterback room for the 2019 season. Travis will add depth this season if he wins his appeal with the ACC seeking immediate eligibility.
Priority one on the recruiting trail this spring and fall will be signing a high school quarterback for the 2020 class. FSU took a huge step in the right direction at the quarterback position when Jacksonville Sandalwood High School quarterback Jeff Sims committed to Taggart on Feb. 2
“FSU’s No. 1 priority was going to be quarterback after not signing one the last two years,” said Osceola Recruiting Analyst Charles Fishbein, who is also President of Elite Scouting Services. “The one thing Coach Taggart and his staff where able to do this year compared to the last several years prior is they had already identified the guys they wanted. They were very interested in Sims.”
Sims, a rising senior, is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. He is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 16 pro-style passer in the 2020 recruiting class and the 49th ranked prospect in the state of Florida heading into the spring evaluation period.
“Not only is he a very good football player at a position of need, he has kind of been the bell cow for this class and is helping recruit the rest of the 2020 class,” said Fishbein.
As a junior this past season Sims completed 111 of 187 passes for 1,442 yards, 12 touchdowns and only five interceptions. In addition to completing 60 percent of his passes, he also ran for 212 yards in 2018.
Fishbein believes the strength of Sims’ game at this stage in his career may be his accuracy.
“I had a chance to see him earlier this year and even though he was throwing in a 7-on-7 drill, the one thing you saw right away was his ability to put the ball where the receiver doesn’t have to do a lot of work,” Fishbein said. “Jeff throws the ball to the receiver’s upfield shoulder, he gives the receiver a chance to catch and run. A lot of times they talk anticipation with quarterbacks, Jeff anticipates where the receiver will be and puts the ball on the mark. That was what made Jameis Winston so good. When a guy is accurate and can anticipate where the receiver is going to be, it makes the offense flow better.”
The lanky signal caller, who was clocked at 4.88 in the 40 at the Elite 11 quarterback combine in March 2018, could be a perfect fit for FSU under new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ system, according the longtime recruiting analyst and evaluator.
“I think he is a perfect fit for the Briles offense, he is like a Robert Griffin III, who played for Briles at Baylor. Jeff will give FSU the ability not only to stretch the field but a lot of those crossing routes and underneath throws he can make because he is very accurate with the football. He does need to continue to work on his feet, that’s the main thing with quarterbacks. He might have a little longer release than you would like so you might have to tighten up his release. He does get rid of the ball quickly right now but could improve on that if he shores up his release,” continued Fishbein.
The strong-armed gunslinger may develop into a player with the ability to compete for playing time as a true freshman.
“Jeff is close to him being where you want him to be. I am not saying he is going to go in and start at FSU day 1, but he is not a raw quarterback. I think he might be someone that can come and compete and push the starter in camp,” finished Fishbein.
Sims has also left quite an impression on high school coaches who have been tasked with slowing the productive quarterback down, including Tallahassee Leon football coach Garrett Jahn. Leon faced Sims and Sandalwood in 2018 and the veteran coach and former Florida Atlantic quarterback says Sims was the difference in the game.
“He is definitely a playmaker, we had a pretty good game plan against him, bringing a lot of pressure. Sims is tall, athletic, has a real strong arm and he was able to extend plays and he is able to make big plays happen at any moment,” said Jahn of Sims.
While Sims is considered a pro-style passer, Leon’s head coach think his feet help make him an outstanding prospect.
“He was the one that helped separate Sandalwood in the second half. He is really mobile and can take off running or he would buy time moving around in the pocket and he would eventually find an open receiver,” continued Jahn.
Jahn also believes one of the biggest learning curves for Sims in college will be knowing when to extend plays and knowing when to get the ball out of his hands.
“As you move up from high school to major college football you find it more difficult to extend plays because the quality of athletes on the other side are playing with a greater level of athleticism. That transition will take a year or two at the major college level, but some guys make the transition easier than others,” Jahn said.
While I would prefer to do a more thorough evaluation of Sims, and will during his senior season, his highlight tape on Hudl and YouTube is impressive and it is easy to see why FSU, Fishbein and Coach Jahn are high on the rising senior, who still has a season to develop in high school.
He is tall and athletic, with a strong arm, good feet and above-average pocket awareness for a player at this stage in his career. Sims does a great job of feeling pressure and moving around in the pocket to buy more time, keeps his eyes downfield when forced outside the pocket and is a very accurate passer on the move. Sims, even when flushed from the pocket, would prefer to pass first and run second.
While he is listed with 4.8-40 speed he plays faster than that and although he is not a dynamic runner with the ball in his hands, he will keep defenses honest with the quarterback run game and RPOs he will run in Briles’ offensive system. He throws a nice, catchable deep ball and at time shows flashes of being able to throw the ball with some velocity on quick slants and other inside routes in short passing game.
Like most young quarterbacks he does need to work on not throwing off his back foot so much. He can get away with this in high school but will need the extra velocity on the ball that transferring your weight from back to front allows for once he gets to the major college level where defenses are faster and throwing windows close much faster.
In addition to his scholarship offer from the FSU, Sims also has offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, FIU, UGA, LSU, Penn State, Tennessee, UCF, USF and Virginia Tech.
But Sims is solidly an FSU commitment and is poised to be the Seminoles’ quarterback of the future.