Sept. 8, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There's been much well-deserved ado about the heralded 2011 signing class but if No. 4/5 Florida State is going to live up to its lofty expectations this season, it's last year's class that's at the heart of any potential championship run.
FSU has been the benefactor of a tremendous early return from that group of Seminoles.
Entering the Charleston Southern game, 16 of the 22 student-athletes that signed a National Letter of Intent as part of the 2010 class are in the rotation. Five of those are undisputed starters and another two -- wide receivers Jarred Haggins and Kenny Shaw -- could be starters depending on the formation on the first offensive snap.
That means 73 percent of that class is an integral part of what FSU does every Saturday.
"I take pride in that 2010 class," starting safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "When we were all recruited we came in with the idea that we would be be the class that would turn the program around and start a new era when we combined with the older guys. I really do take take pride in the fact that you are seeing that happen and we have an important role in that."
Joyner is one of those five clear-cut 2010 class first-teamers. While he starts at safety, Christian Jones is at strongside linebacker, Mike Harris at cornerback, Anthony McCloud at nose guard and Bjoern Werner at left defensive end.
Harris and McCloud were junior-college signees in 2010.
In addition to Haggins and Shaw, wide receivers Greg Dent and Christian Green, quarterback Clint Trickett, fullback Debrale Smiley, defensive tackle Cameron Erving, linebackers Nigel Terrell and Jeff Luc and safety Terrence Brooks dot the abbreviated first- and second-string depth chart.
Chad Abram, Darious Cummings, Dan Foose and Will Tye are on the third team. Holmes Onwukaife has not yet practiced or played this season due to injury and Tank Sessions was deemed medically ineligible during the summer.
"We all knew about the talent and different skills that each of the guys had when we got here," Jones said. "We knew this would be a special class and we knew we had a chance to help make this team even better. It's on us to help make the freshmen better and this team grow."
FSU saw the scoreboard do some growing of its own in the first game of the season thanks to some of the 2010 class members.
Haggins helped move the offense with five catches for 28 yards and Dent hauled in the first touchdown of his career on a 50-yard catch and run from EJ Manuel.
"I remember when Greg caught that touchdown, I sprinted over there just to meet him," Jones said. It's exciting to see guys you came in with making plays. It's guys that are going to be the future of this program so it's on all of us to keep each other motivated and feeling good after they make good plays."
Dent wasn't the only offensive player to give his classmates and the rest of 'Nole Nation a reason to cheer.
Shaw set up the first of many scores in the 34-0 opening-day win with his highlight-worthy catch in the redzone during the first quarter.
In the fourth frame, Trickett replaced Manuel and tossed the first pass of his career. That throw, of course, turned out to be a touchdown and memory-maker to true freshman Rashad Greene.
"When it happened, I saw him turn and break the tackle and score and I was just standing there for a second -- like what just happened because I wasn't expecting it," Trickett said. "I looked at (Andrew) Datko and he was cheering and was like `just jump up on me' so I just jumped up on him and I didn't really know what to do. It was a fun moment."
Trickett's first and only throw of his career is indicative of the current and potential impact that the 2010 class is having and will have on the program.
From Joyner's interception and the 29 combined tackles by second-year defenders in the opener to the seven combined catches from the second-year receivers, the results are speaking for themselves.
A game against a lesser opponent in Charleston Southern on Saturday will likely lead to even larger numbers. The stakes then drastically change next week when the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners come to town for a national showdown. That Oklahoma game and then the ACC grind will put more pressure on the year-two guys to perform at a high level.
But they appear ready for the challenge. And they have been prepared since the day each of them joined forces together on campus for the first time.
"The way we clicked right away, I knew it was something special," Joyner said. "We heard the older guys saying how advanced we were for freshmen. Just hearing that and just seeing how we all worked together made me really believe that we had something special."