NoleGameday

2016 Spring Preview: Defensive Backs

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Bold indicates a returning starter

UPDATE: On National Signing Day, four-star safety Jamel Cook flipped his commitment from Florida State to USC. Also, recent FSU defensive back commit Clifford Chattman flipped to Texas A&M as well. However, Florida State did secure the commitment of four-star cornerback Carlos Becker (#TBA) on National Signing Day. At 6-2, 195 lbs., Becker has the size to play anywhere in the secondary and should compete for immediate playing time as soon as he steps on campus this summer.

The original article is below.

Another year, another Florida State defensive back off early to the NFL. This time it’s Jalen Ramsey, who is projected to be a Top-10 pick by many scouts and analysts, and will likely be the seventh defensive back drafted since Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach in 2010. While his departure, along with the graduation of seniors Lamarcus Brutus and Javien Elliott, leaves many holes in the secondary to be filled, Jimbo Fisher and Florida State have accumulated a wealth of defensive back talent to fill them with. This spring, the coaching staff will have to fill spots at boundary cornerback, free safety and the star position.

To the delight of coaches and fans alike, Marquez White (#27) announced his return to Florida State for his senior season. White started all 13 games at the field cornerback position in 2015 and will likely stay at field cornerback in 2016. As such, sophomore and former 5-star recruit Tarvarus McFadden (#15) enters spring practice as the top option at boundary cornerback. Also competing with McFadden will be Ryan Green (#7), the former running back who redshirted last season due to an injury, junior Malique Jackson (#28), who has been primarily a special teams player in his first two years on campus, and sophomore Marcus Lewis (#13). Another option is incoming 5-star freshman Levonta Taylor (#TBA), who will enroll this summer. Taylor is the #1 ranked cornerback in the nation, a solid commitment to the Seminoles and will push for playing time as soon as he steps on campus.

At safety, Derwin James (#3) had a phenomenal freshman campaign at strong safety and will look to garner All-American honors in 2016 at the position. Florida State will have some competition at free safety however. Sophomores Calvin Brewton (#10) and A.J. Westbrook (#19) will be among the competitors for the job, as well as Nate Andrews (#29) who has started at free safety in the past for Florida State. Andrews excelled at the money role in 2015, aka the sixth defensive back on the field, but will likely open spring as the starter at free safety due to his experience.

Florida State will return Trey Marshall (#20) at the star position next year as well. Marshall suffered a season-ending bicep injury midway through 2015, which allowed for former walk-on Javien Elliott to step into action. Presuming Marshall returns healthy from his injury, he will return to his former starting position. Marshall will also likely see action at free safety as the coaching staff works to use the best combination of talent at one time. If Marshall moves to free safety, there will be a variety of options for the Seminoles at star. Nate Andrews plays his best football when he is close to the line of scrimmage, but lacks the coverage abilities required for a nickel defensive back. Ryan Green has the physicality that the position requires, but his coverage abilities have yet to be seen. Another contender would be Levonta Taylor, who does not enroll until the summer, but who has good physicality and coverage skills for the position.

Apart from the aforementioned Taylor, Florida State currently has two other defensive backs committed for the class of 2016, neither of which are early enrollees. Safety/athlete Jamel Cook (#TBA), who has good size at 6-4, is currently committed but is also hearing from LSU. Cook projects to be a rangy free safety in college and the coaching staff should be intrigued about incorporating his size into certain defensive packages. Cornerback commit Kyle Meyers (#TBA) is a native of Louisiana and is hearing from the Tigers as well, but has remained firm to his commitment so far. If no player locks down the boundary cornerback job in the spring, Meyers will likely be a part of the competition in the summer. Florida State will look to add one or two more defensive backs to this recruiting class before National Signing Day in February.

With all of the talent at defensive back, the problem for the coaching staff will be to assemble it into the best combination of five players on the field at the same time. Luckily, they have two established starters in Marquez White and Derwin James and former 4/5 star talents competing at the other positions. The secondary has historically been a strong point in Florida State’s defense and 2016 looks no different.

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.



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