Without Cook's emergence in the second half of the season and MVP performance in the ACC championship game, the Seminoles likely would not have made the inaugural College Football Playoff in the first place.
One of the elite prospects of the 2014 class, Cook was able to get a jump-start on his college career when he enrolled at Florida State in January of last year rather than the summer, which is when most signees officially step on campus full time. Although Cook suffered a shoulder injury that cost him all of spring practice, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said it was pivotal having Cook in team meetings and learning the nuances of a complex offense. It clearly paid dividends in the fall.
Fisher hopes the next crop of early enrollees, which arrived this past weekend, can provide a similar impact. Few programs play more freshmen than Florida State, and it will certainly need a boost from its 2015 class with significant losses coming at nearly every position.
The good news is that once again Fisher's haul is an impressive one, and the Seminoles' top four commitments are all on campus. Five-star defensive end Josh Sweat, five-star and No. 1 athlete George Campbell, No. 1 safety Derwin James and No. 3 running back Jacques Patrick highlight the Seminoles' No. 2-ranked class, and they're all on campus.
Sweat, No. 5 in the ESPN 300, suffered a torn ACL during his senior season, but he'll now be able to rehab with the Florida State staff. While it's unlikely he will participate in spring practice, the weakside defensive end should be ready in the fall and can provide an immediate pass rush on third down. The Seminoles struggled all season to consistently rush the passer.
With the loss of Nick O'Leary and Rashad Greene, FSU's career leader in receptions, the Seminoles have a significant void to fill at receiver. Campbell, ranked No. 10 nationally, was a 6-foot-4, 190-pound athlete rather than a receiver initially, but reviews from his senior season and Under Armour All-America Game practices suggest Campbell's hands have improved significantly.
Last day in Orlando before I start my mission in tally.
— Jacques Patrick (@jacques_patrick) January 3, 2015
Love it all ready up here
— Derwin James Jr (@derwinjames6) January 5, 2015
"There has not been a 6-foot-4 vertical receiving threat in the Under Armour All-America Game who runs as well as George Campbell since A.J. Green in 2008," Tom Luginbill, ESPN.com's senior national recruiting analyst, wrote last week. "The knock on Campbell has been consistent ball skills, but all he did was pluck the ball nicely and take the top off the defense. Campbell falls out of bed in the morning and runs a sub-4.4 40-second dash, and he will be a nice complement to the more physical, stoutly built Da'Vante Phillips."
The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Phillips, No. 58 in the ESPN 300, is also enrolled early. He comes from Miami Central High School, the alma mater of Cook.
Patrick will provide a bigger complement to Cook and Mario Pender in the backfield. Patrick is 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, so he could immediately see time in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Although Florida State failed to effectively run the ball at times this season, the Seminoles performed well in short yardage with the senior Karlos Williams. Patrick might fill that role.
Then there is James, the top-ranked safety and a player who has impressed evaluators at every camp, combine, practice and all-star event. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound James has been committed to Florida State for nearly three years, and his loyalty could be rewarded with early playing time. Luginbill labeled James "The Punisher" for his physicality and speed. Luginbill called James a "headhunter," and fellow recruiting analyst Craig Haubert said the NFL coaches at the Under Armour All-America Game practices could see James turning into an elite linebacker. The Seminoles are in need of an upgrade at linebacker.