Nov. 17, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Saturday will be a special night for the Florida State football players. For many, it marks the end of a collegiate career playing home games inside Doak Campbell Stadium and for others it means playing one last time on Bobby Bowden Field with close friends and teammates.
At 7:15 p.m. on Saturday night, the senior members of the FSU football team will be honored in a pre-game ceremony before taking on Virginia. It will be the last time that a 'Noles home-crowd can cheer on many of their favorite student-athletes.
Let's take a look at the 2008 signing class and examine the impact that each of the members of that recruiting cycle had while at FSU. This list does not include current senior starters Bert Reed and Shawn Powell, who were both part of the 2007 signing class, and Mike Harris, who was a junior-college signee in 2010.
Recruiting rankings from Rivals.com and Scout.com (247Sports.com was not around yet in 2008) are used in this story.
A.J. Alexander - Athlete - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
Alexander started his FSU career as a defensive back in 2008 and played in two games before receiving a medical redshirt. As a redshirt freshman in 2009, the Altoona, Pa. native played in three games and registered an interception. Alexander would make the switch to the offensive side of the ball in time for the 2010 campaign and caught two passes for 18 yards and ran the ball three times for 12 yards in three games.
FSU officials announced during halftime of the Seminoles' game against Clemson last season that Alexander had elected to leave the team and move home. He currently plays wide receiver for St. Francis (Pa) University and has caught 25 passes for 490 yards and seven touchdowns for the Red Flash.
Travis Arnold - Defensive Back - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com three-star
Arnold never enrolled at Florida State and wound up at Butler Community College in Kansas.
Nigel Bradham - Linebacker - Rivals.com five-star, Scout.com five-star
Bradham was the only member of the 2008 recruiting class that was ranked a five-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com and No. 13 will play on Bobby Bowden Field one last time Saturday night knowing that he lived up to those lofty rankings.
With 62 stops on the season, Bradham currently leads the Seminoles in tackles and has the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in Tallahassee. The Wakulla, Fla. native could become the first player to lead FSU in tackles in three consecutive seasons since the mighty Marvin Jones accomplished that feat from 1990 to 1992.
Ironically, Bradham's most memorable play at Florida State may have occurred just last weekend in the win over Miami. Late in the ballgame, Bradham's bone-jarring hit on 'Canes' receiver LaRon Byrd drew a personal-foul penalty and ejection. Two days later, the Atlantic Coast Conference office released a statement clarifying that Bradham's tackle was actually legal and that he should not have been removed from the game.
Not only does Bradham have the chance to leave memories of his ability to make tackles like Jones but he now will forever live in FSU versus Miami "big-hits" lore just like Jones, too. And, of course, Stanford Samuels hit on Roscoe Parrish as well.
Nigel Carr - Linebacker - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
After a sophomore season that saw him register 26 tackles, Carr was supposed to take over for the graduated Dekoda Watson at the starting weakside linebacker spot in 2010. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came to fruition for the talented Jacksonville, Fla. native.
Carr was released from his scholarship on Aug. 18, 2010 by FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher because of off-field legal troubles. He wound up transferring to Alabama State and played in 12 games last season, racking up 55 tackles and three sacks.
This year, Carr -- a senior -- was deemed academically ineligible for the first seven games of the Hornets' season but has since played in three games and recorded 13 tackles. On Nov. 16, he was selected to play in the 3rd Annual HBCU All-Star Bowl Game.
Avis Commack - Wide receiver - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com four-star
Commack came to FSU as a wide receiver and appeared in five games but did not record a catch. He then played in one game in 2009 and had to sit out all of the 2010 campaign after breaking his leg while practicing the hurdles for the FSU men's indoor track & field team.
Commack switched to the defensive secondary during his redshirt season last year and also switched from jersey No. 14 to No. 21 before the start of this season. He has played in 10 games for the 'Noles this year as a backup cornerback and has six tackles.
Andrew Datko - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com three-star
There were several underrated players in this signing class but Datko is definitely the star of the "diamond in the rough" category. As a three-star prospect according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, Datko was not considered a top-30 prospect on the offensive line by either service.
Despite that, FSU coaches saw something special in Datko and they weren't wrong; he has been a stalwart at the left tackle spot since he stepped foot on campus and the only thing that has slowed him down has been a shoulder injury.
After practice this week, Fisher announced that Datko had undergone successful surgery on his shoulder and will definitely not play the rest of the season. Datko has been out of the lineup since the Clemson game.
A freshman All-American in 2008, Datko has widely been considered one of the top offensive tackles in the nation during his upperclassman years at FSU.
Everett Dawkins - Defensive linemen - RIvals.com four-star, Scout.com three-star
Dawkins has been one of the most consistent members of the 2008 class. The Spartanburg, S.C. native medically redshirted after three games in his true freshman season and has gone on to start 40 games at defensive tackle for the Seminoles since then.
Dawkins is currently 17th on the team in total tackles this season with 18 and he has an interception his credit. He still has one year of eligibility remaining.
Garrett Faircloth - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com two-star
Faircloth was a member of the 2008 class but he is still a redshirt sophomore this year after delaying his enrollment and officially joining the FSU football program in the spring of 2009.
A former high school defensive tackle before moving to Tallahassee, Faircloth has seen his role with the Seminoles drastically increase over the past month. The Jacksonville, Fla. native has been the starter at right guard during the 'Noles five-game winning streak after replacing the injured David Spurlock and is expected to be in the starting lineup against Virginia this weekend.
Jarmon Fortson - Athlete - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
Fortson was expected to be a breakout and potential national star in 2010 but he never got that chance. After grabbing 45 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore in 2009, Fisher dismissed Fortson on Aug. 9, 2010 for a "violation of team rules."
Fortson wound up transferring to North Alabama and playing two seasons under Lions head coach Terry Bowden.
Josh Gehres - Wide receiver - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com two-star
Like Faircloth, Gehres is just a redshirt sophomore despite being a member of the 2008 class. After delaying his enrollment until the spring of 2009, Gehres has caught three catches for 26 yards during his career. He has played in the wins over NC State and Boston College this season after missing most of the year while rehabilitating a knee injury he sustained during spring practice.
Antony Hill - Defensive tackle - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com three-star
Hill never enrolled at FSU coming out of Pensacola, Fla. and did not play anywhere in what would have been his true freshman season in 2008. He wound up signing with USF in December of 2006 and is now a junior for the Bulls as a reserve defensive tackle. He has 14 total tackles in 16 games during his collegiate career.
Ed Imeokparia - Athlete - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com two-star
Imeokparia redshirted in 2008 and then played in one game in 2009. He ran into some legal trouble in the offseason last year and did not play for FSU in 2010.
Imeokparia is no longer on the team.
Ty Jones - Running back - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com two-star
Another underrated member of the 2008 class, Jones is now a reserve tailback in his senior season. The Tampa, Fla. native may not get many touches but he has exceeded his two-star ranking coming out of high school, rushing for a career total of 948 yards with three games to go in his final year.
Jones has scored 12 rushing touchdowns during his career, including one this season.
Ja'Baris Little - Tight end - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com three-star
Like Gehres, Little came to FSU from nearby Lincoln High School. Little has played in 40 games and started nine during his collegiate career. He has caught two passes for nine yards as a blocking tight end.
EJ Manuel - Quarterback - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com five-star
If Bradham was the crown jewel of the defense, than Manuel was the shining star of the offense in the 2008 class. Manuel is just a redshirt junior and is in his first year as the full-time starter at quarterback for FSU so his career impact will be discussed at a later date.
One quick note, though: Manuel currently has the best completion percentage of any quarterback in FSU history with a mark of 67.3 percent. Charlie Ward holds the all-time record in the category at 62.3 percent so Manuel has the chance to rewrite an impressive Seminoles record.
Anthony McCloud - Defensive tackle - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com two-star
McCloud signed with FSU in 2008 but did not enroll in school until January of 2010 after attending Itawamba (Miss.) Community College. Since joining the football program, McCloud has become an integral part of the Seminoles' stout run defense.
McCloud played in all 14 games and started seven last year and registered 35 tackles and three sacks from his defensive tackle spot. This year, the redshirt junior has 24 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks in eight starts.
Moses McCray - Defensive tackle - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
McCray has unfortunately suffered the wrath of the dreaded injury bug ever since he got to FSU in 2008. His late-game injury against Miami last weekend may keep him sidelined against Virginia and comes after he missed all of the 2010 season with elbow and shoulder injuries.
He was one of only two freshman to start on defense in 2008.
A redshirt junior, McCray has played in four games this season for the Seminoles and has four tackles
Nick Moody - Linebacker/Safety - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com three-star
No matter what Moody does in his career, he will always be remembered for one thing: his hit on Florida's Jeff Demps in last season's 31-7 gutting of the Gators. It was that hit and a long line of other tackles that has given Moody the reputation of being the biggest hitter at FSU -- a title that Bradham could also strongly be considered as a candidate.
Moody redshirted his first season and has notched 132 tackles in his three-year playing career.
Terrance Parks - Defensive back - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com four-star
Parks came to FSU as a cornerback and played there and on special teams as a true freshman in 2008.
The 2010 campaign then saw Parks entrench himself at safety where he started 14 games as a junior and has started eight in his final year in the garnet and gold. To his credit, Parks has 82 tackles for his career -- including a team 10th-best 30 stops this year entering his final home game.
Tavares Pressley - Running back - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
Pressley is one of the prospects that makes one ask, "what if?" What if he had not battled with knee injuries? What if his career had not been cut short?
When he was healthy, Pressley was starring in the junior-college ranks at El Camino Community College and Monterey Peninsula College where in two seasons he combined to rush for 2,043 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
But at FSU that wasn't the case. He sustained a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 preseason and then appeared in a reserve role on a deep running-backs depth chart in 2009 when he ran the ball nine times for 40 yards. He then sustained another knee injury before his final year of eligibility in 2010 and was not able to play as a senior.
Beau Reliford - Tight end - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com two-star
Despite not playing football until he was a junior in high school, FSU coaches saw something in Reliford that they liked in 2008. Since joining the program, Reliford has started 21 games at tight end and has 35 receptions and three touchdowns.
Zebrie Sanders - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
Sanders was the highest ranked offensive lineman in the 2008 class and has lived up to that billing. He started the very first game of his collegiate career at the most important position on the line at left tackle and then switched to right tackle and started there for 10 games as a rookie.
In total, Sanders has started 47 games in his career along the line and most recently returned to left tackle to replace the injured Datko. It's at left tackle that Sanders appears to be most comfortable. According to the National Football Post, he is the No. 18-ranked senior prospect for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Rhonne Sanderson - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com two-star
Sanderson's career was cut short when he was deemed medically disqualified before the start of the 2011 season. Prior to that, he played in 23 games with one start on the offensive line from 2009 t0 2010.
Sanderson is still involved with the program as a volunteer student assistant.
Debrale Smiley - Running back/Fullback - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com three-star
Smiley starred at Thomas County High School in Thomasville, Ga. with McCloud, and like his teammate attended Itawamba (Miss.) Community College before joining the FSU football team in January of 2010.
As a reserve fullback, Smiley has carried the football 11 times for 42 yards and a touchdown that he registered this season as a redshirt junior.
Blake Snider - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com two-star, Scout.com two-star
Snider is in the same boat as his classmate Sanderson. He is now a volunteer student assistant with the football after being medically disqualified earlier this year. He redshirted last season and played in four games as a true freshman after delaying his enrollment until January of 2009.
David Spurlock - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com three-star
Another longtime offensive-line starter from the 2008 class, Spurlock moved into the starting lineup in the sixth game of the 2008 season and never looked back. He started all 13 games as a sophomore and then started another seven as a junior in 2010 before being sidelined with an injury.
Spurlock was the starter at right guard this season but an injury has kept him out of the lineup since the Wake Forest game.
Toshmon Stevens - Defensive lineman - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com three-star
Stevens doesn't get much playing time at defensive end because of the incredible talent at the position but he is one of the most important members of FSU's stellar special teams unit. A redshirt junior, the Pomona Park, Fla. native played in all 13 games in 2009 and then another nine last year.
This season, Stevens has 11 tackles in 10 games.
Corey Surrency - Wide receiver - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com five-star
Surrency is one of the most interesting FSU stories in recent years because of what he did before enrolling in school in Tallahassee and what ultimately ended his collegiate career.
Before playing two seasons at El Camino Community College, Surrency played for the Florida Kings, a "minor league" football team in South Florida. After enrolling at FSU in 2008 and catching four touchdown passes in 11 games, Surrency was not permitted by the NCAA to compete in what would have been his senior season in 2009.
The rule, No. 22.214.171.124 in the NCAA Division I Manuel titled "Participation After 21st Birthday," mandated that, "If an individual participates in an organized sport after his 21st birthday, but before enrolling in college, that participation "shall count as one year of varsity competition in that sport."
Jermaine Thomas - Running back - Rivals.com three-star, Scout.com three-star
Thomas burst on to the scene as a true freshman in 2008 and has been an important part of what FSU does offensively ever since. The Jacksonville, Fla. native rushed for the sixth-most yards by a Seminoles freshman with 482 yards and then started 10 games as a star sophomore and posted 832 yards on the ground.
Last year, Thomas gained 490 yards rushing and has 204 this year for a grand total of 2,008 in his career. Entering his final game in Tallahassee, Thomas also has 21 total touchdowns.
Joe Tonga - Offensive lineman - Rivals.com unranked, Scout.com unranked
Tongo came to FSU from Mt. San Antonio Community College in 2008 with one year of eligibility. He played in 11 games, primarily on the line during field-goal and extra-point tries.
Markus White - Defensive end - Rivals.com five-star, Scout.com four-star
White was one of the top junior-college football players in the entire nation and made an immediate impact at FSU after he enrolled in 2008. He wound up starting at defensive end for two years before being selected in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
He played his first game as a professional last weekend.
Vince Williams - Linebacker - Rivals.com four-star, Scout.com four-star
Williams has stepped into the role of team leader and starter at middle linebacker as a redshirt junior this season. After playing in 12 games as a freshman in 2008, a back injury ended his 2009 season before it even started and he was granted a medical redshirt.
Last year, Williams posted 17 tackles as the backup to starter Kendall Smith at middle linebacker. He has started nine games at that position this year and is fourth on the team with 41 tackles.