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Jimbo Fisher on Deondre Francois: He is a big-time player, he can lead

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It has been a few years since Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has had reason to feel comfortable with his starting quarterback position in the spring. After Heisman Trophy-winning Jameis Winston moved on to the NFL, Florida State has had options at the position but never felt it had a sure-fire answer to plug in. That seems to be a bit different this spring in Tallahassee as Deondre Francois has already taken control of the position and gained the confidence in Fisher along the way.

He is a big-time player,” said Fisher of Francois, according to the Associated Press. ”He can lead. He is tough, accurate and can throw the ball.”

Anyone who watched Florida State last year would agree. Francois can definitely throw the football. He opened the season by throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss to get things rolling. Ole Miss didn’t know what hit them.

Francois played in all 13 games for the Seminoles last season as a freshman. In those 13 games, Francois completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He also rushed for 196 yards and five more touchdowns, proving capable of helping out on the ground when needed without being labeled a dual-threat. Francois proved he could be a reliable player to lead the offense last fall by completing 12 percent more of his passes in the second half (although his third quarters were much more efficient than his fourth quarters), and 15 red zone touchdown passes without a single interception inside the opponent’s 40-yard line all season long.

“I’ve been focusing on consistency and doing a better job of managing the game and situations,” Francois said. ”I feel like I have gotten a lot better from experience. I made some mistakes last year and this spring I am getting the opportunity to improve.”

Francois may not have ended the season on a great personal note in the Orange Bowl by completing just nine of his 27 passes against a very stingy Michigan defense, but he clearly took some lumps as a freshman that can be used as teaching tools moving forward.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

ACC National Signing Day recap: Florida State, Clemson impress once again

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Few leagues have transformed their reputation on the field more than the ACC has the past several seasons and the biggest reason for that has been because Clemson and Florida State captured national titles. As a result, it should come as no surprise that those two programs once again paced recruiting for the league when all was said and done on National Signing Day.

The Seminoles remained among the national elite with another stellar class while the Tigers used their limited number of scholarships to land some top-notch talent, possibly including Deshaun Watson’s successor in five-star QB Hunter Johnson (who’s already on campus).

In addition to the league’s two powerhouses, Miami put together another solid class to help them close the gap under Mark Richt while other schools like Pitt and North Carolina pleasantly surprised with some good hauls. It should all make for an even more competitive ACC in the coming seasons and allow us to look back to Wednesday and see where it all began.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 2 overall Cam Akers (RB, Florida State), No. 6 overall Marvin Wilson (DT, FSU), No. 19 overall Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson), No. 28 Khalan Laborn (RB, FSU), No. 30 overall Hunter Johnson (QB, Clemson)

Top 25 classes: No. 7 Florida State, No. 13 Miami, No. 16 Clemson, No. 25 Virginia Tech

Biggest storyline: Florida State and Clemson continue to keep pace with college football’s elite, Miami closing the gap

Same ol’, same ol’ in the ACC when it comes to the recruiting rankings. The league’s past two title winners both turned in great classes full of impact players and continue to keep pace with the elite programs in the sport. The Tigers’ class wasn’t as highly rated as many expected coming off that championship down in Tampa but a lot of that has to do with the limited number of spots that the program had and nothing to do with the talented that signed with Dabo Swinney. The Hurricanes once again signed a quality group and even went outside the state to land speedy four-star receiver Jeff Thomas from Missouri.

Biggest surprise: Wilson heads to Tallahassee.

Wilson was one of the few recruits that had any drama surrounding his decision on Signing Day. While many expected it to come down to either LSU or Ohio State, it was the Seminoles who closed strong to add another top 25 player into the fold. The last five-star defensive tackle the team landed from the Lone Star State worked out well and history might repeat itself with the very talented Wilson.

Don’t sleep on: Louisville

It was a banner season in many ways for the Cardinals and that was true even if the ending was a bit rough on the field. After seeing quarterback Lamar Jackson capture the Heisman Trophy, Bobby Petrino’s staff really went after addressing needs along the offensive line while also adding size and speed on defense. It may not be as highly rated as the top tier ACC programs, but this a good effort on the recruiting trail for Louisville once again.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

The ACC is full of programs that are hard to peg when it comes to recruiting classes simply because they rely so much on developing recruits over several seasons. Duke landed a top 50 classes while Georgia Tech was right around the same area in most team rankings. We probably won’t know about those two or the Wake Forests of the world until a few years down the road so stay patient if you’re a fan of an ACC program that isn’t in the top 25.

Top-rated DT Marvin Wilson commits to Florida State

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In a somewhat surprising move, 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson announced a commitment to Florida State on Wednesday afternoon.

Wilson ranks as the nation’s No. 6 overall player and the top-ranked defensive tackle, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He hails from Houston’s Episcopal High School, where he was a teammate of the nation’s No. 10 player and No. 3 offensive tackle Walker Little, a Stanford signee.

Industry experts pegged Wilson to LSU at a 59 percent rate on the Crystal Ball forecasts, and Ohio State also pursued him hard.

Wilson also represented the Big 12’s last shot at landing a true blue-chip recruit through Oklahoma, who were truly only tangentially connected to the Wilson hunt.

As for the team Wilson is joining, he joins a class that already contains 5-star running back Cam Akers, 5-star all-purpose back Khalan Laborn and 5-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh among the Seminoles’ 24 signees. Florida State is ranked sixth among all teams and tops in the ACC in the 247 Composite rankings.

FSU confirms WR Travis Rudolph leaving ‘Noles for NFL

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It was reported Thursday that the 2016 season was the last for Travis Rudolph at Florida State.  A day later, that’s been confirmed.

FSU announced via a press release that Rudolph is foregoing his remaining eligibility and declaring for the 2017 NFL draft. “This was a very difficult decision and one that I didn’t take lightly,” Rudolph said in a statement, adding, “It has truly been an honor to wear the Garnet and Gold.”

Rudolph will leave Tallahassee seventh on the football program’s all-time charts in career receptions with 153 and eighth in receiving yards with 2,311.  This past season, he led the Seminoles with 56 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns.

The 6-1, 192-pound wide receiver’s best catch, though came when, on a trip to a Tallahassee middle school by the FSU football team, he noticed an autistic boy eating lunch by himself and joined him.