Aug. 4, 2013
A fundamental switch has taken place in Florida State's defensive secondary this off-season and the reason why Jimbo Fisher has downplayed the difficulties of moving on from former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and ushering in the Jeremy Pruitt era is because of the 'Noles' versatility in the defensive backfield.
Consistent recruiting success has helped, too.
FSU spent spring practices installing a new defense that Pruitt brought with him from Alabama. And while some of Stoops' core concepts remain, the Seminoles figure to be much more aggressive, blitz more often and utilize more pattern-read coverage styles as opposed to traditional zone schemes.
A player like>Lamarcus Joyner should seemingly thrive in this change in philopsohy. Joyner enters his final year at FSU following an off-season switch from safety to cornerback -- a move intended to make him more valuable to NFL franchises next year. But the truth is that Joyner figures to still have traditional safety-like responsibilities from his cornerback spot. The speedy senior will be expected to press at the line of scrimmage and cover in open space, but with the myriad of aggressive packages Pruitt is sure to dial up, Joyner should still expect to drop back in coverage and roam from spot to spot around the field.
It's all about putting the best players in the best places to make a play and there aren't many better than Joyner.
Joyner's versatility is a common trait among Florida State's defensive backs; and that isn't by coincidence. Stoops and Fisher consistently recruited athletes that could play multiple spots in the secondary much like what Alabama does, unaware that eventually those types of players would one day be playing for a former Crimson Tide defensive assistant.
And because the 'Noles have recruited so well, the defensive back depth chart may be the deepest on the entire roster.
Joyner is the star but FSU also returns senior safety>Terrence Brooks, who should be considered one of the best at his position in the ACC. Next to him,>Karlos Williams begins his junior year atop the depth chart at Joyner's safety spot but he will be in a fierce competition with another speedster, junior Tyler Hunter. Also known for his versatility, Hunter should expect to see repetitions at cornerback, too, like he did last year after missing valuable time this past spring while rehabilitating from injury.
At cornerback, the 'Noles are brimming with all-star talent.
Nick Waisome was a breakout player a year ago when he replaced Greg Reid in the pre-season and went on to start and play well in all 14 of FSU's games. He, too, missed spring practices with injury -- as did defending ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year,>Ronald Darby. The good news is that Hunter, Waisome and Darby are full healthy and ready for the start of camp.
To think that there are two starting cornerback jobs (three, if you count nickel back) for a competition that features Joyner, Hunter, Waisome and Darby is staggering. Then add in the fact that up-and-coming star>P.J. Williams is also in the mix, and FSU's cornerback rotation must make ACC quarterbacks sick to their stomachs.
Will there be growing pains during this transition? Of course; it'd be foolish to think there won't be. But the level of talent and ability that dots the roster at defensive back should be enough to help make the switch as seemless as possible.