Aug. 10, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When Jeremy Pruitt arrived at Florida State from Alabama, he brought with him a more aggressive defensive mentality than that of his predecessor.
The 'Noles excelled with Mark Stoops calling the shots as the defensive coordinator, ranking as high as No. 2 in the nation in total defense in 2012 (second only to 'Bama). The one thing that FSU didn't do particularly well on that side of the ball, however, was generating turnovers.
Under Pruitt, that figures to change.
With a more relentless attack that puts defenders in better position to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, the 'Noles' 2013 opponents figure to be much more susceptible to a potential game-changing giveaway on offense. Count senior linebacker Telvin Smith as one of the many players that have welcomed the new philosophy.
"This is what we expected; this is what we want," Smith said. "This is what we were asking Coach [Mark] Stoops to do a lot more; let us run around a little bit [and] let us get in there on the quarterback a little bit. We've got the speed to do it and we've got the guys to lock it down on the edges. This is something that we've been waiting on.
"It's a dream come true."
With the amount of athleticism and speed that FSU boasts on the defensive side of the ball, the Pruitt defense could be a nightmare for the rest of the ACC.
Senior Lamarcus Joyner has even said the defense's goal is to put offenses on the defense.
"Of course I love Coach Stoops and the things we did; we had many accolades," Smith said. "But I really love this new system. I feel like we are running around a lot and it's getting a lot of guys involved. It's team work. I feel like it's really developing the team because sometimes you are just blocking so the next guy can come around and make a play for you."
And making plays means also avoiding costly penalties -- a task that may be more difficult to accomplish with the implementation of new targeting rules for the 2013 season.
At its core, the rule remains the same (players are penalized for initiating a tackle with the crown of their helmet and targeting the head or neck area of an opponent or for launching themselves). What's different, however, is the result of the penalty. While a launching defensive player may have been given a 15-yard penalty in year's past, this year's change will result in an ejection from the ballgame.
The rule has sparked tremendous debate this off-season, but that's not what's important. What matters is that FSU's defenders avoid being put in a situation that calls for them to be removed from the game because of an infraction. And to do that, they must change their mentality; nstead of going for a kill shot on their opponent, why not just go for the ball instead?
That's the message Pruitt is delivering to his players in film sessions and on the practice fields.
"I'm going to deliver the hit when I have to," senior safety Terrence Brooks said. "But I would rather take a pick than be kicked out."
-The Seminoles' Saturday practice is the first one in pads this fall.
-Fan day is scheduled for Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center and fans can attend FSU's practice inside Doak Campbell Stadium for free afterwards. Sunday's practice is scheduled to start at approximately at 4 p.m.