Florida State Seminoles: Denver Kirkland

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South Florida is arguably the most fertile area in the country for recruiting, and college football coaches annually flock to the talent-rich area to try to land a small piece of a very large pie. The large area located south of Lake Okeechobee that includes the football hotbeds of Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties has produced 45 ESPN 300 members in the last two recruiting cycles and almost half (22) signed with out-of-state schools.

Five stories to watch: Miami NFTC 

March, 15, 2013
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Here are five storylines for the Miami NFTC.


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State of the Noles: Offensive Tackle 

February, 20, 2013
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NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, one of the biggest long-term needs for FSU: Offensive tackle.

Current scholarship offensive tackles (4): Cameron Erving (RJr.), Henry Orelus (RSSr.), Bobby Hart (Jr.), Wilson Bell (Fr.)

Potential early departures: The buzz surrounding Erving in his first season on the offensive line in 2012 was immense, making an early exit for the NFL a possibility. But throughout the year, he showed he still needed time to develop. He has the physical talent for the next level, but it remains to be seen if he'll be ready by the end of 2013.


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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher has spent the past two months selling his program to a class he couldn't have known would come together so well in the end. Amid chaos in the coaching staff and a bevy of last-minute shifts, Fisher was the man in the middle of the action, assuring his 2013 commitments that the program was in good hands, and their futures remained bright at Florida State.

When the dust settled, Fisher beamed.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Thomas
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsThe Noles highlight of signing day might have been when the nation's No. 1-ranked linebacker, Matthew Thomas, announced he'd join the class.
"It think it was a great day," he said after Wednesday's final letter of intent came across the fax machine. "I'm very proud of our class. We hit a little bit of every position throughout the whole class."

This wasn't another sales pitch. This was as honest an evaluation of Florida State's take on national signing day as Fisher could muster.

No, FSU didn't hold together the entirety of the class it had assembled before six assistant coaches left for greener pastures. Yes, Fisher lost out on some key battles for recruits. Some needs were met, others fell a bit short.

But after a whirlwind six weeks in which Fisher was both assembling a staff and a recruiting class, sometimes nearly singlehandedly, the end result was about as good as he could have hoped for.

Florida State landed 22 players -- though offensive lineman Richy Klepal isn't expected to play for the team for medical reasons -- and ended the afternoon with ESPN's No. 9 overall signing class.

(Read full post)


As it is virtually every year on national signing day, there were some big hits for Florida State, and there were a few tough misses, too. Overall, Jimbo Fisher and his new-look coaching staff have to consider the Class of 2013 a big win given the immense chaos that has ensued with six assistants leaving since Dec. 1. Most key commitments held strong, and a few late arrivals turned a solid class into one that cracked the top 10 in ESPN's national rankings.

Of course, rankings aren't everything. A lot of the success or failure of a class is based on a team's needs, and on that front, there were also a few highlights and a few noticeable problems. Here's how it breaks down.


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NoleNation recruiting predictions 

February, 5, 2013
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NoleNation gives its picks for national signing day. Who ends up where?


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All signs pointed towards ESPN 150 offensive tackle Denver Kirkland (Miami/Booker T. Washington) selecting Miami on Wednesday, but that won't be happening.


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Five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) is fresh off of a visit to Alabama, but questions linger about whether the nation’s sixth-rated prospect will head to Miami (Fla.) or USC next.


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DE Chad Thomas likes three 

January, 4, 2013
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It has only been a few weeks since Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and his teammates were crowned state champions, but he's already added a major offer.

Big East and Sugar Bowl champions Louisville have entered the picture, but the ESPN Watch List defensive end still has the familiar three on top.

"Since the offseason, I really have only gotten one from Louisville," he said. "I just have my top three right now with Miami, LSU and Florida State.

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Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013
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Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

White Team offense

Quarterback: Kevin Olsen (Miami)

Running back: Keith Ford (Oklahoma)

Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ryan Green (Florida State), Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)

Tight end: Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

Offensive tackle: Derwin Gray (Maryland), Dorian Johnson (Pittsburgh)

Offensive guard: Patrick Kugler (Michigan), David Dawson (Michigan)

Center: Scott Quessenberry (UCLA)

White Team defense

Defensive end: Carl Lawson (Auburn), Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Defensive tackle: Henry Poggi (Michigan), Kelsey Griffin (South Carolina)

Inside linebacker: Reuben Foster, Yannick Ngakoue

Outside linebacker: Trey Johnson

Safety: Max Redfield, Antonio Conner

Cornerback: Gareon Conley (Ohio State), Shaq Wiggins (Georgia)

White Team special teams

Long snapper: Brendan Turelli

Kicker: Ryan Santoso (Minnesota)

Punter: Shane Tripucka

Captains: Ryan Green, Hunter Henry, Patrick Kugler, Reuben Foster


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Denver Kirkland (Miami/Booker T. Washington) entered the room with a big smile on his face. And who could blame him?

As the offensive tackle checked in at the Under Armour All-America Game, he made the rounds seeing the jerseys, gloves, cleats and other gear that would soon be his own. This, though, is just the start.

Practicing all week at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports against other top prospects has its own appeal.

"It is a good feeling knowing that you've made it here and stuff like that," Kirkland said. "It is a good experience. And it will be a good experience to go against guys I haven't met before."

The UA Game, which kicks off at 5 p.m. ET Friday live on ESPN from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., marks the final high school football game for Kirkland and the other prospects. From that perspective, the opportunity will be relished.

"That is mainly it," he said. "High school is mainly over after this and it is on to the big leagues. I am looking forward."

Kirkland has already been to official visits at Florida State and Mississippi and plans to use the last three he's allotted. Those trips have now been set and scheduled as signing day draws closer.

"I am going to South Florida on Jan. 11," Kirkland said. "Jan. 18, I am going to the University of Miami. On Feb. 1, I am going to TCU."


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Johnson to work on his teammates 

December, 14, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- From the moment the final gun sounded after the state semifinal two weeks ago, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington began considering the reward of revenge.

[+] EnlargeMichael Johnson
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comFlorida State commit Michael Johnson is hoping that high school teammates Matthew Thomas and Denver Kirkland join him as Seminoles.
Jacksonville The Bolles School had knocked it off in the championship game a season prior, and now the Tornadoes were awarded another try.

Washington took full advantage, winning 35-7 in convincing fashion.

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Denver Kirkland (Miami/Booker T. Washington) couldn't help himself.

As he stood on the sidelines watching the final seconds tick off the scoreboard in the FHSAA 4A State Final, he was overcome by it all. The Tornadoes were state champions, and the crowd at his back roared in jubilation.

"When the time was winding down and stuff like that, just seeing everyone out in the crowd, it kind of brought tears to my eyes because it took me four years to get here," he said. "It just brought a tear to my eyes and I started getting emotional.

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NoleNation recruiting mailbag 

December, 6, 2012
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NoleNation addresses questions from the fan base about Florida State recruiting as we head toward national signing day.

Matthew Thomas
Jeff Peoples/IntersportIf Matthew Thomas isn't the top player left on FSU's board, he's pretty close.
ktruba asks, "What committed recruits out there are the most critical to FSU at snagging for the 2013 class?"

Dowlar: For me, the top remaining guy is Matthew Thomas. He is an instant impact guy at the linebacker position and Florida State has been all over him for a long time now. The Seminoles are probably the leader in the clubhouse, and from that position, they can't afford to lose him.

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Same three at top for 5-star LB Thomas 

November, 15, 2012
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Don’t talk with five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) too much about recruiting right now.

It’s playoff time and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior does not want to think about anything else.

"I really haven’t put much thought in recruiting lately," Thomas said. "I have been to a few games this season but I was just going to check out the games. I’ve been trying to just focus on the team."

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