Scrimmage Preview: What to Watch for on Defense

As Florida State’s new-look defense prepares to take the field for the first scrimmage of the spring, there will be a few key things to keep an eye on.

  1. Handling Tempo – Yes, everyone is excited to see Willie Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense in motion. Just as exciting though, will be how the FSU defense handles the tempo of it. In recent years, fast pace teams that spread FSU out such as Clemson, Louisville among others have often found success against the Noles. It wasn’t uncommon to see players out of position pre-snap which led to opponents quickly running downfield for an easy six points. The Seminole faithful are hoping those images will be a thing of the past under new coordinator Harlon Barnett. As Michigan State’s defensive coordinator, Barnett helped orchestrate a defense that held Urban Meyer’s high-powered Ohio State offense under 20 points in two of their last three meetings.
  2. The Battle at Linebacker– Willie Taggart has been clear that every single position is up for grabs right now. Junior Dontavious Jackson seems to be emerging as an obvious choice for a starting role with a strong start to his spring. Nothing is guaranteed though as several players remain in the hunt for one of the three starting positions. Sophomore Leonard Warner, junior Josh Brown, RS freshman DeCalon Brooks, RS junior Adonis Thomas, junior Emmett Rice and early enrollee Amari Gainer will all be looking to turn some heads.  A scrimmage setting inside of Doak is often a good litmus test at this point in the spring. It will be worth keeping an eye on this weekend to see who takes advantages and makes some plays as we search for some clarity.
  3.  Early Enrollees – Florida State signed a pair of blue-chip early enrollees in linebacker Amari Gainer and safety Jaiden Woodbey. As stated above, Gainer, while somewhat of a dark horse, finds himself possibly in the mix for a starting job. Woodbey’s name has been making waves since The Chase, Florida State’s offseason conditioning program. Since then, the hype has only continued to build. The former five-star prospect out of California has looked like a vet so far this spring making several eye-popping plays. Will Woodbey keep it up and make some plays during live scrimmage action as he pushes for playing time in a loaded FSU secondary?
  4. Defensive Line Dominance – As Greg Frey attempts to clean up the mess at offensive line left by the former staff, Florida State’s front four will look to take advantage in the first scrimmage of the spring. The interior will be led by Demarcus Christmas, who somewhat surprisingly decided to return for his senior season at Florida State. Joining him inside will be rising sophomore sensation, Marvin Wilson. The former five-star prospect will look to build upon the void left by Derrick Nnadi who will be playing on Sunday’s this fall. On the outside, Brian Burns finds himself in his money year and will look to prove that he is more than just a pass rusher. He will certainly get his chance to show what he can do against a run-heavy Gulf Coast Offense. Also on the edge, Wally Aime has made himself a known commodity this spring after switching from defensive tackle. How will he handle his first live action in Doak as he looks to continue his impressive spring so far?

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