It is always worth taking a moment to acknowledge someone who excels at their craft. Especially when they approach everyday with a high level of passion and dedication for what they do. Couple that with being a stand-up person who makes a difference for so many both on and off the field, and you have someone you can downright be proud of.
Of course, it helps when that person is also part of your team. However, whether you are an FSU fan or not, you cannot help but appreciate what we’ve seen so far from Alex Atkins.
Coach Atkins had quite the challenge lined up in front of him when he joined Mike Norvell’s staff in 2020. He was tasked with fixing an offensive line room that had been struggling for some time and always felt like the Achilles heel of FSU football.
In only a short amount of time he has already stepped up to the challenge in a big way. Atkins is transforming the offensive line room into what could be a strength for the Seminoles moving forward. Yes, you read that right, a strength!
Not only has Alex Atkins coaching helped to improve the play on the field, he has also flipped the room with high level recruiting and the ability to bring in transfers galore.
His performance during his time at FSU led head Coach Mike Norvell to promote Atkins to offensive coordinator following the departure of Kenny Dillingham after the 2021 season. Atkins also served as offensive coordinator at UNC Charlotte in 2019 during a season that saw the 49ers make their first bowl game in program history, and have the conference’s leading rushing attack.
Let’s look at some of the accomplishments and numbers during Atkins time at FSU.
Alex Atkins has been willing to go about recruiting in his own unique way, betting on his ability to be open, honest and transparent with recruits. This is in contrast to a lot of the sales pitches offered by many others who promise the world to get a recruit in the door. So far, it has paid off handsomely and proven to be a respected approach, something that has been repeatedly echoed by his players.
Not only has the sheer number of players brought in improved but the average size and rating has too. Every single signee under Atkins comes in at 6-foot-3 or better and pushing 300 pounds if not already over. As for ratings, here is a breakdown of the average rating per class for high school recruits under Atkins during his time at FSU.
As you can see, the average rating has increased year-over-year with 2023 topping the chart. Despite FSU still searching for success on the field, Atkins has made himself a household name in offensive line recruiting. His success on the trail has been very impressive as it stands, but imagine giving him on field success to sell as well.
The 2022 offensive line class Atkins signed was the highest rated since 2016. Looking at 2023, the current class is the highest rated since 2005 showing just how big of a deal this is for Florida State and the impact it could have for years to come.
Now let’s take a look at how FSU has improved in recruiting under Atkins versus prior to his arrival. Given he has signed three classes we’ll use that as our sample set, and then look at how 2023 projects as well. (Class average rating is for high school players only)
(A few notes to provide context to these numbers. They obviously spanned through a few coaching changes. Atkins first year was a covid year that made recruiting tough, I believe it was all virtual. The class of 2018 was the highest rated of the three years prior, but none of those players became starters or saw remotely significant playing time while at FSU and none are still on the roster currently)
Class of 2023 is still still a work in progress but is the highest rated under Atkins so far at FSU. With signing such a large class in 2022, FSU does not need as many players number wise, but instead will look to add top targets and raise the ceiling.
In the 2023 class, Atkins already has commitments from a pair of 4-star lineman, one of which is blue chip offensive tackle Lucas Simmons. Simmons, who is originally from Sweden, only began playing American football this past season and is already a high 4-star. Many believe he could earn a fifth star during his senior season as he continues to develop. FSU is also very much in it with 4-Star prospect D.J. Chester as well.
Another aspect of Atkins game has been the ability to bring in quality transfers such as Devontay Love-Taylor and Dillan Gibbons, who have been key contributors on the offensive line. The 2022 class saw FSU sign four transfers that I believe will also have a chance to make an impact for the Seminoles.
The point is, the floor has not only been raised but so has the ceiling as well. The trajectory of the offensive line room is higher than we’ve seen in quite some time and reason for FSU fans to be excited about the future. After all, very few of the higher rated players signed under Atkins have even stepped foot on the field yet.
Alex Atkins has been able to create genuine relationships with recruits and their families because of who he is as a person, and how he approaches recruiting in his own unique way. Atkins has proven he has the ability to be an elite recruiter in just a short amount of time and flipped the outlook of a room that needed it most at FSU.
Recruiting under Atkins is not the only area that improved during his time at FSU. Despite battling injuries and depth issues, which required FSU to roll out 14 different starting combinations in 21 games under Atkins, the level of play has improved as well.
That last stat obviously makes it difficult to build continuity among a starting unit, something that is crucial on the offensive line. Thankfully, FSU took a large step in addressing those concerns for 2023.
Some notable stats under Atkins time at FSU. FSU has had ten games with over 200 rushing yards, including six of those in 2021. They also helped lead FSU to be one of the best red zone teams in the country with 32 consecutive trips leading to points. (The longest active streak in the country leading into 2022)
Atkins has also seen multiple members of his squad earn honors including two All-Conference performers and two freshman All-Americans. Dillan Gibbons also made the pre-season All-ACC third team heading into this season.
To show the trajectory of improvement under Atkins, let’s take a look at some of the numbers during his time at FSU vs before he arrived in Tallahassee. Atkins has coached 2 seasons at FSU, so again we’ll compare a similar sample set.
(Stats used are pulled from NCAA stats website)
As you can see there has been improvement since Atkins took over. Florida State’s rushing offense has seen a sizeable uptick in production. There has also been a reduction in tackles for loss allowed, and sacks per game allowed are trending in the right direction.
Of course, there is obviously plenty of room to go, but I believe we will see continued improvement on these number this season. Mostly due to more continuity with players returning, the quality depth available and being year three under Atkins and strength coach Josh Storms.
Offensive lineman aren’t usually plug and play unless they are transfers. There was a good amount of players last season that played through injury due to depth concerns. When taking into consideration the transfers brought in this off-season, as well as further maturation of the younger players and those returning from injury, there should be an elevated level of play from this unit.
Many players and prospects, some that don’t even sign with FSU, comment about how Atkins helped improve their game during camps and coaching sessions. This further speaks to his ability to make an impact both on and off the field.
The Atkins effect is certainly being felt in Tallahassee and the future is looking even brighter yet. I also would like to believe having Atkins as OC will pay dividends by running an offense that is tailored to what his unit excels at, furthering the improvement of on-field play.
Atkins is not only a great coach and elite recruiter, but also a genuine person who goes about things the right way. His future certainly seems bright both on and off the field. There is no question that Florida State fans are thankful he landed in Tallahassee.
By the time it is all said and done, I have a feeling Atkins impact will be one of the cornerstones in getting FSU back to its rightful place among the college football heavyweights and there will be a head coaching opportunity in his future.
I’m excited to see what this unit looks like in year three under Atkins with the pieces he has brought in. The Atkins effect is creating a monumental shift in the trenches for Florida State and we’re grateful to have him in garnet and gold! Thanks for reading and Go Noles!
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