Some say that when it comes to evaluating the performances of someone or something, hindsight is 20/20. This can be especially true regarding college football recruiting, as placing a finger on how an 18 year high school kid will perform at the collegiate level is no easy task.
Bobby Bowden was known for reeling in impressive recruiting classes in the early 2000's.
With that in mind, Noles247 takes a look at Florida State’s recruiting classes over the past 10 years and examines how they panned out.
Florida State’s recruiting class of 2002 was an impressive haul, as many of the Seminoles’ classes in the most recent decade were. It included the likes of exciting playmakers such as Lorenzo Booker, Buster Davis, DiShon Platt, Leon Washington, Chauncey Stovall and more.
The class had the Florida State fan base excited about the future, as it was filled with four and five-star prospects and ranked among the top five classes in the nation by various recruiting services. However, it wouldn’t be long until the fan base’s hopes and dreams would be shattered, as the 2002 recruiting class suffered one of the more notable implosions in recent history.
Lorenzo Booker, RB: Booker was one of the most prized recruits in Florida State history, as head coach Bobby Bowden and his staff ventured all the way out to California to capture this five-star talent. He was a consensus top five player in the nation and was viewed by many as the top tail back in the nation.
However, Booker failed to live up to his hype, as he never managed to reach the 1,000 yard plateau during his time in Tallahassee. His career high would come during his sophomore season, in which he totaled 887 yards. This isn’t to say he wasn’t a quality contributor for Florida State, though, as Booker ranks 7th in school history with 2,298 rushing yards.
The Miami Dolphins took Booker in the third round of the 2007 NFL draft.
Leon Washington, RB: An elite defensive back in high school, Florida State saw Washington as a running back at the collegiate level. Their evaluations ended up being pretty accurate, as Washington saw a good amount of success at running back for Florida State and finished his career ranked 10th in rushing yards in school history.
Washington was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft.
Thomas Clayton, RB: Clayton, a star out of Virginia, was another playmaker that had the fan base excited. However, after minimal playing time in his first season at Florida State, Clayton would transfer to Kansas State.
Torrence Washington, FB: A linebacker in high school, Florida State recruited Washington as a full back. While he showed promise because of his size and athleticism, Washington failed to ever really get things going as he proved to be injury prone. He left the team before the 2004 season.
Wyatt Sexton, QB: A native of Tallahassee and alumnus of Leon High School, Sexton was a promising young quarterback prospect who appeared to be on the right track up until 2005. After making seven starts in 2004 as a redshirt sophomore, Sexton appeared poised to seize the starting job in 2005 when Lyme disease struck. The quarterback was sidelined and would never again see game action.
Sexton was also known for a few issues regarding his personality and has since suffered various legal troubles after his career with Florida State was cut short.
DiShon Platt, WR: Platt was one of the more frustrating for Florida State’s fan base in 2002. After being ranked the top receiving prospect in the entire country, the star from Florida’s west coast would never actually make it to Florida State’s campus, as he failed to qualify academically.
Chauncey Stovall, WR: A junior college transfer, Stovall showed promise and Florida State hoped he would make an immediate impact. He did make an impact, but not to the five-star scale that many had hoped. Stovall made 11 career starts in his two years as a Seminole, hauling in 72 catches for 1,120 yards and eight touchdowns.
Lonnie Davis, TE: Florida State only took one tight end in its 2002 recruiting class in Davis and ended up with none, as the Ed White (Jacksonville, Fla.) standout failed to academically qualify after signing with the Seminoles.
Cory Niblock, OL: Niblock, the only lineman taken in the class, was also one of the better stories out of this group. Overlooked by many schools, the Jacksonville native only had one other offer outside of Florida State—Middle Tennessee State. Niblock was starting at left tackle by his junior season in 2005 and ended up with a solid career as a Seminole.
Chris Davis, ATH: An electric wide receiver at the high school level, Florida State hoped Davis would provide a spark to its offense with his arrival on campus. However, he failed to break out like expected and instead only broke the 600 yard mark for receiving yards twice in his seasons.
Lorne Sam, ATH: Sam was another prospect that Florida State was attracted to because of his athleticism. However, after failing to make a significant impact in his redshirt freshman season and undergoing two surgeries, Sam ended up transferring out to Texas-El Paso after just one season with the Seminoles.
Broderick Bunkley, DT: Bunkley was another rare good story in the recruiting class, as he played immediately in his first year on campus and had a solid four years at Florida State. He finished his senior year ranked second nationally for tackles for loss by any defender, first in the ACC for tackles for loss and was selected 14th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2006 NFL draft.
Chris Turner, DT: Turner was another Florida State signee in 2002 who had loads of potential, but unfortunately was not able to reach for that potential, as he failed to academically qualify.
Chris Bradwell, DT: Another victim of academic ineligibility, Bradwell failed to qualify out of high school. He would end up at Florida State after attending junior college, but would ultimately be kicked off the team in 2005.
Kamerion Wimbley, DE: Wimbley was the only defensive end taken in the class, but ended up panning out quite nicely for Florida State. The standout from Kansas only missed six games in his four years with the Seminoles and racked up 7.5 sacks in his senior year in 2005.
Wimbley’s hard work ended up paying off, as he was selected in the first round, 13th overall, by the Cleveland Browns in the 2006 NFL draft.
Darrell Burston, LB: On the more “average” side of things as a recruit, Burston struggled to find the field during his tenure with Florida State. While he played linebacker at the high school level, Burston was moved to defensive end with the Seminoles. His career high for tackles in a season came during his junior year, when he accounted for 15.
Buster Davis, LB: Davis had one of the more successful collegiate careers out of this recruiting class, as he started in each of his four years after he took a redshirt in 2002. He ended his career at Florida State with 102 tackles during his senior year and was drafted in the third round of the 2007 NFL draft.
Nate Hardage, LB: Though he failed to qualify out of high school, Hardage didn’t give up on his desire to play linebacker for Florida State. After attending junior college for a year, Hardage did ultimately make it to Florida State, only to transfer to Valdosta State before his career as a Seminole even began.
Sam McGrew, LB: This linebacker wasted no time hitting his stride, as he saw the field and saw it often in his true freshman year in Tallahassee. McGrew played in 52 games over his four years and boasted a career high 11 tackles in his final game as a Seminole against Penn State in the 2006 Orange Bowl.
A.J. Nicholson, LB: Nicholson, a North Carolina native, put together an impressive career with Florida State. He played in nearly every game in all four of his years with the Seminoles and was a Butkus award semifinalist in his senior season. He was also named to the second team All-ACC.
Pat Watkins, DB: After not seeing the field in his first three games as a true freshman in 2002, Watkins didn’t look back, as he then played in each of the remaining 49 games of his career with Florida State. The Lincoln (Tallahassee, Fla.) standout was sought after by many as a recruit, but chose to stay home with the Seminoles over Florida, Georgia and Southern California.
Watkins really made a name for himself as a contributor on special teams and perhaps one of the more memorable moments of his career was when he downed a punt at the one-yard line in the 2005 ACC Championship game.
After examining the 2002 recruiting class of Florida State, it’s clear that things didn’t exactly turn out the way many had envisioned when the letters of intent were being faxed in on National Signing Day. Instead of championships and heisman candidates, the Florida State fan base suffered through the heart of what would prove to be “the lost decade”.
After only 12 members of the class made it to their senior year (and no, no one’s time in Tallahassee was cut short because of an early exit for the NFL), it’s apparent that more than anything, this class taught us a valuable lesson regarding the world of recruiting.
Yes, it may be exciting to follow and yes, good recruiting is vital to a program’s success. However, in the end, the only rankings that actually matter come out in early January and are decided by current collegiate players—not future ones.