March 17, 2013
The Florida State football team starts spring practice March 20 and Seminoles.com has you covered with daily looks at each position on the roster. Today we look at the defensive backs.
When Xavier Rhodes decided to enter the NFL Draft prior to what would have been his redshirt senior season, a predicted defensive-backs starting lineup for the spring looked like this: Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby at cornerback and Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks at safety.
Darby's stellar first year that resulted in a 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year honor helped ease the sting of Rhodes' loss and Joyner's decision to stay one more year fueled the talk of Karlos Williams' potential switch to linebacker.
Well, a few days before the start of spring practices and only one of those four predicted spring starters is accurate -- both Waisome and Darby are out for the spring and Joyner has made the decision this off-season to switch to cornerback.
"He can jam, he can run and you'll see him there," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said about Joyner. "You can see him in those nickel and dime situations inside. I think he'll be a great blitzer [and] great slot cover guy because he's extremely quick and powerful and I think that's something that he can do at the next level.
"I think it's what best for the team but that's what he truly is."
So what does the absence of both Waisome and Darby and Joyner's move mean for the spring?
For one, it means Williams is probably staying at safety where he is likely the team's new starter alongside Brooks. Williams saw his role increase as the season wore on last year and will now get the most "at-bats" of his career on defense as he adjusts to the new scheme of defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Backup safety/nickel corner Tyler Hunter is also out for the spring so with Joyner in the slot there are conceivably two "starter's" spots up for grabs in the spring. Youngsters like P.J. Williams, Colin Blake and Keelin Smith will be expected to compete at a high level at cornerback out of necessity. The lack of depth may be dangerous but it could also result in one or all of those young defenders taking their roles and games to the next level.
At safety, Justin Bright is now a student assistant with the coaching staff so depth is a concern. Depending on how Pruitt utilizes them, Blake, P.J. Williams and Smith could also be factors in the back end of the secondary along with safeties Lamarcus Brutus and Gerald Demps.
"P.J. Williams is a guy that has jumped out at me," Fisher said at the conclusion of 4th Quarter Drills. "Lamarcus Brutus has had a very good off-season. Gerald Demps. It will be interesting to watch all those guys."