The Seminoles rebounded from their loss to Oklahoma in the national title game with a recruiting haul that blew away the competition, Sooners included.
With coach Bobby Bowden calling signals, Florida State signed three high school All-Americans in quarterback Joe Mauer, running back Eric Shelton and linebacker Chauncey Davis on Wednesday, then rounded out its class of 2005 with three other stars rated among the nation's top 25 players.
"It's a slam dunk for Florida State," Allen Wallace of Laguna Beach, Calif.-based SuperPrep Magazine said. "They completely dominated the state and that means they completely dominated the nation. Nobody else comes close."
"Bobby Bowden is the ultimate closer," Bobby Burton of the Austin, Texas-based National Recruiting Advisor added. "They may not win the national title every year, but they certainly have the talent to get to the big game every year."
Mauer, from the same high school in St. Paul, Minn., as departed Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, threw for 5,528 yards and 73 touchdowns in two years. He also is a star catcher and could be a first-round pick in June's baseball draft.
Shelton, from Lexington, Ky., ran for 1,400 yards and 12 TDs last season.
In addition, the 'Noles signed nine of the top 13 players in Florida, according to SuperPrep's ratings Davis (Auburndale), defensive backs Jerome Carter (Lake City) and Gerard Ross (Jacksonville), quarterback Adrian McPherson (Bradenton), linebacker Willie Jones (Miami), offensive linemen Andrew Henry-Kenon (Tallahassee), Ron Lunford (Jacksonville) and Matt Meinrod (Tarpon Springs) and wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe (Tallahassee).
"Regardless of who the assistant coaches are, Bobby is the man and he still gets the great players," Tom Lemming of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Prep Football Report said. "By far, they have the most talented class in the country."
The Seminoles weren't alone in striking recruiting gold on the first day players were able to sign letters of intent.
LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas also can celebrate, with the Tigers making a surprisingly strong run to the top of the class. In fact, LSU's class was rated No. 1 ahead of Florida State by Max Emfinger of National Blue Chipbased in Covington, La.
LSU coach Nick Saban, who turned the Tigers' fortunes around with an 8-4 record in his first season, saw nine of Louisiana's top 10 players sign on.
"Recruiting is not an exact science," Saban said. "Football is different from any other sport - it is almost like picking puppy dogs. When you take the pick of the litter, it will always take two or three years to know what that dog is supposed to be like."
Among the new Tigers are four All-Americans: tight end Michael Clayton and wide receiver Marcus Spears, who attended different schools in Baton Rouge; defensive end Marquise Hill from New Orleans; and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth from West Monroe. Also signing on was quarterback Rick Clausen, younger brother of Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen.
"LSU cleaned up the state, got a bunch of All-Americans, went to California and got Clausen and went to Texas and got two good players" Emfinger said. Wide receivers Bennie Brazell and Ryan Gilbert are the Texas standouts.
In addition to Emfinger's top rating, LSU was ranked second by Wallace and third by Burton and Lemming; Michigan had a second, third, fourth and seventh-place finish; the Longhorns had three fourths and a fifth; and the national champion Sooners had a second, a fifth and two sixths.
Among 25 schools with new coaches, Ohio State drew mixed reviews with Jim Tressel replacing John Cooper and Miami had a decent class despite Butch Davis departing last week and assistant Larry Coker replacing him.
The Buckeyes kept several top recruits at home, including Parade All-American running back Maurice Hall, and they also signed running back Lydell Ross from Tampa, Fla., who was leaning toward Notre Dame.
Miami, which returned to the national title picture this past season, hung on to some previous commitments in signing linebacker Leon Williams from Brooklyn, N.Y., and local running back Frank Gore. The Hurricanes also won out over Clemson in signing linebacker Roger McIntosh from Gaffney, S.C.
Florida, which won the recruiting battle last year, was not among the top 10 due to a limited amount of scholarships available. "They'll be back next year," Lemming said.
Also faring well was the Pacific-10 Conference, led by Washington and UCLA, with a strong showing from Oregon tate, Stanford and USC under new coach Pete Carroll.
Among the Pac-10's scores - Shaun Cody, USA Today's defensive player of the year, chose USC over Notre Dame.
The Irish, meanwhile, did not sign many high-profile players and managed a No. 13 rating from Lemming, who said higher academic standards was the reason.
"They finished 13th and that's good for anyone else but Notre Dame," Lemming said. "But they were competing with the Stanfords and Northwesterns rather than the Florida States, Tennessee and Michigans. That's an indication of raised academic standards rather than a lack of effort."
The Sooners' prize recruit could turn out to be defensive lineman Tommie Harris, a 6-foot-3, 275-pounder from Killeen, Texas, a player the Longhorns coveted. Winning a national title has a way of helping, too.
"The exposure's been great and it's helped us in recruiting," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "All these young men want to win championship and they realize here at Oklahoma they're going to have that opportunity."
Michigan signed three USA Today All-Americans running back Kelly Baraka of Portage, Mich., and defensive backs Marlin Jackson of Sharon, Pa., and Ernest Shazor of Detroit.
"It's easier to get them, than it is to build them into a team," Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. "That's really the greatest challenge."
Penn State, after a 5-7 season, was missing from most Top 10 lists. The Nittany Lions' biggest failure was losing Kevin Jones of Chester, Pa., one of the nation's top-rated running backs who signed with Virginia Tech. Jones ran for 1,606 yards and 18 TDs in his senior season.
They beat out the Hokies for quarterback Michael Robinson, from Richmond, Va. The 6-3, 210-pound Robinson, viewed by Tech as a replacement for Michael Vick, passed for 1,281 yards and 15 TDs and ran for 1,056 yards and 12 TDs as a senior. But the Hokies signed another top quarterback in Bryan Randall, who threw for 1,301 yards and 14 TDs and ran for 1,012 yards and another 14 TDs.
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