Aug 24, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. --A season ago, Tyler Hunter became an integral part of the Mark Stoops-led defense that finished the year ranked No. 2 in the nation. Stepping into the nickel back role vacated by Mike Harris, Hunter excelled as the team's third cornerback where he matched up with slot receivers and helped man uncovered ground for the defense.
A year later, Stoops is gone and Hunter is no longer the team's third cornerback. In fact, he's technically not even a cornerback anymore. Instead, Hunter, who played in all 14 games last season and registered three interceptions from his nickel back spot, is now thriving in the back end of the secondary.
"I really like playing safety the most because I like being over the top and being able to come down and make hits," Hunter said.
Under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, the Seminoles are unleashing a defense that figures to be defensive-backs heavy with multiple looks and packages to throw at opposing offenses.
While the "star" and "money" positions get a lot of publicity in this new scheme because the success of those spots in Nick Saban's defenses at Alabama, Pruitt's version of the defense features Hunter as primarily a safety. The "star" and "money" roles are perhaps better served for fellow safeties Terrence Brooks and Karlos Williams.
"I feel like I am," Hunter said, when asked if his skill set is perfect for the new defensive scheme. "Just being able to play whatever position coach wants me to play. Just lining up and just doing it."
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has singled out Hunter multiple times during fall camp
With fall camp at its close and the season a little more than a week away, Hunter is excited about the potential game-changing impact the Seminoles' defense can have this year.
"I think we will have a lot more takeaways just because of the aggressiveness," Hunter said. "You never know when we are going to blitz or whose coming. So that will confuse the quarterback and just create a lot more turnovers."
Odell Haggins Q&A
Few have done it as well and as long as Odell Haggins has done it. Entering his 20th season as the Seminoles' defensive tackles coach, Haggins has coached some of the best and most dominant players in program history.
Here's a brief Q&A with the longtime 'Noles assistant coach.
Q: How is it coaching this specific group of tackles that you have this year?
Haggins: "It's been good and the kids are working hard for me. ... The kids worked hard this summer and they prepared they go out there and they listen and are very coachable. They are a very good group of kids. As football players, they can be very good if we stay on the same pace that we are going.
Q: What does it mean to have Jacobbi McDaniel back in the mix after he missed all of last season?
Haggins: You know what it means? It's a blessing. Because when that kid hurt himself he really got depressed. I told Jacobbi, 'Sometimes things happen for a reason. I don't know why it happened -- I hate to see you get hurt, you are one of my kid and I love you -- but things happen for a reason.' And now Jacobbi is a better person and a better football player."
Q: How has Timmy Jernigan developed over the course of his first two years?
Haggins: Timmy has developed into an all-around player. A lot of people see him go out there and make those flashy plays but now he is getting better as a technician and is in the process of becoming an excellent football player. If you got out there and make a good play but don't use good technique, that's not a good thing all the time because when you face a great opponent in a tight game you revert back to your bad habits if you don't develop great habits.
Q: How much do you enjoy working with the student-athletes -- especially since you yourself used to be in their exact same position?
Haggins: I love it. When I stop loving it, you won't see Odell Haggins around here. If I can't give everything I've got to these young men while I'm here to teach them how to be young men, get their degree and coaching them hard technique-wise I am not going to be here; I'll retire. But I love that. It's the inner drive in me. I can't explain it. When I hit that field as soon as I hit that first field, 'bam' I am gone. Next thing I know it's over. I love every minute of it.
Answering your Twitter questions
I asked FSU fans to send me some questions Friday afternoon about the team but a certain starting-quarterback announcement later in the evening pushed this camp report back a day.
Here are a few of the tweets I received inquiring about the 'Noles:
Wildcat in its traditional sense of a skill-position player taking a direct hand-off is not something that I think we will see from this FSU offense this season. Jameis Winston boasts excellent athleticism and I'm sure his running ability will be utilized this year. Also, the "wildcat" formation hasn't typically been used by Jimbo Fisher. While this type of play may not be seen, what I think fans will see is some wide receivers get opportunities -- and that leads me into the second part of your question. Players like Kermit Whitfield, Bobo Wilson and Rashad Greene are very dangerous with the ball in their hands and I think it's safe to assume that we will see creative ways in which each of those receivers is given the football behind the line of scrimmage in 2013.
Marquez White is an interesting position. He has tremendous upside and has the chance to be a very good player for the 'Noles. But is he ready right now? And are there enough defensive and special teams snaps to warrant using a full year? The new Jeremy Pruitt-approved defense will feature a lot of five defensive-backs sets so there are opportunities -- but look at the sheer number of players at the position that make up the rotation. P.J. Wililams, Lamarcus Joyner and Ronald Darby are at the top with Nick Waisome and Jalen Ramsey right there in the mix. It also looks like Keelin Smith has had a strong camp and he could be in line for more playing time.
Ultimately it will be up to Fisher and Pruitt to decide if White would get enough playing time as part of this crowded and very talented depth chart. He is a terrific athlete and could potentially be used at wide receiver as well.
I am with you on the all-white uniforms love. Classy and clean looking, the are few things better than the all-whites with the gold helmet. Will FSU wear them against Pittsburgh? Or against any team this year for that matter? In two words: who knows? Well, I take that back. There is one person that knows: Fisher. If history is our guide, I don't expect any variations. But we can always hope, right?
While White may be a question mark when it comes to redshirting, I think that Ryan Green isn't. Sure, FSU will ride the powerful legs of Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. this year but that doesn't mean that Green or Mario Pender won't get opportunities. There will be a lot of two-back sets this season and Green could be in the mix for some nice opportunities. The speedy freshman is also in the conversation at kick returner.
Nothing new from an FSU standpoint. With a legal process that is still ongoing, Greg Dent is still not part of the team.
From what I have seen, Jacob Fahrenkrug seems to be a bit more comfortable operating at the left tackle spot than he does in the middle. When healthy, he is still the 'Noles utility man and can be utilized at guard and center. But while the team brings along Wilson Bell, he is nice to have as Cameron Erving's backup. I am really excited about Christian Green this year. Well, I have always been excited about him -- but this year I think he has a chance to make a legitimate impact. With Kelvin Benjamin, Greene and Kenny Shaw the starters, Green is a guy that can be plugged into any one of those three spots in any formation. I expect him to put up career numbers this year.