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NoleGameday

2019 Spring Practice Focus: Defensive Backs

Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire

This is another installment of NoleGameday’s spring practice focus on the Florida State football team. The Seminoles are set to kick off their spring practice slate on Monday, March 4 at 9 a.m., culminating with the annual Garnet & Gold game at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 6. We’ll be breaking down each position on offense and defense while also highlighting the special teams unit leading up to the first day of practice. This piece will focus on the defensive backs.

Previous spring practice focuses:

– Quarterbacks

– Running Backs

– Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

– Offensive Line

FSU has long been a school that has been considered as one of a few schools that could be DBU, but 2018 was a struggle in the secondary. The Noles ranked 119/129 in passing yards allowed per game in the 2018 season while allowing 30 passing TD’s. The struggles can be attributed to injuries, depth issues, and inexperience of the 2018 secondary, but the 2019 secondary can only get better. FSU will return four starters from the 2018 secondary and add another starter from a different position.

Departures

AJ Westbrook, Senior

AJ Westbrook started all 12 games his senior year, making 65 tackles, breaking up 9 passes, and intercepting 2 passes. The senior started all 12 games at the strong safety position, leaving a hole at the position in 2019. Westbrook’s best play of the season came against Louisville. With the game looking in doubt, Westbrook jumped all over a hook route and gave FSU the chance to win the game on offense, and they capitalized. Westbrook was tossed into the fire in 2017, during his sophomore season, after star safety, Derwin James, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Westbrook was always a smart player, but at times lacked the physical tools to be a great player. In 4 years, Westbrook played 36 games, making 147 total tackles and intercepting 2 passes.

Returnees

Levonta Taylor, Senior

Kyle Myers, Senior

Stanford Samuels III, Junior

Hamsah Nasirildeen, Junior

Cyrus Fagan, Junior

Carlos Becker, Junior

Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, Sophomore

Asante Samuel Jr., Sophomore

AJ Lytton, Sophomore

Isaiah Bolden, Redshirt Freshman

FSU returns 10 scholarship defensive backs in the 2019 season. The 10 players combined to make 48 starts over the course of 2018 season. Levonta Taylor was a preseason All-American but struggled all season long with a back injury, before missing the last 4 games with a leg injury. Taylor was a lockdown corner in 2017, and he could potentially return back to that form with health. The other senior leader of this group is Kyle Myers, who had 29 tackles, 4 pass break-ups, and 2 INT’s in 2018.

FSU returns 4 junior DB’s, highlighted by Stanford Samuels and Hamsah Nasirildeen. Samuels started the 2018 season as a safety, due to depth issues at the position, before being moved back to his natural position at CB. Samuels led the tea with 4 INT’s on the season. Nasirildeen started 5 games in 2018, all at the free safety position. Even though he only started 5 games, the rising junior led the Noles with 91 total tackles on the season. Cyrus Fagan had 24 tackles on the season, while Carlos Becker missed the entire season due to injury.

FSU returns a very talented group of 2022 grads, in Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, Asante Samuel Jr., AJ Lytton, and Isaiah Bolden. Lars-Woodbey is a returnee and a newcomer, after playing his freshman position at the STAR LB position. But the highly rated recruit came to FSU as a safety; he was moved to LB due to depth issues, a common theme with the 2018 FSU football team. Woodbey (58 tackles, 8 PBU) was a freshman All-American and he will only get better moving back to his natural position. Asante Samuel Jr. was FSU’s best lockdown corner by the end of the season in 2018, leading the team with 9 PBU’s. Samuel earned a starting CB job for the last 3 games of the season and should be a starter again in the 2019 season. Lytton saw action in all but two games, totaling 14 tackles, 2 PBU’s, and an interception against Clemson. Lytton should see a large uptick in playing time in 2019. Bolden missed all but two games of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury, but he should be ready for spring practice.

Newcomers

Akeem Dent, Freshman

Raymond Woodie III, Freshman

FSU will be adding 6 total freshmen DB’s for the 2019 season, but only 2 have made their way to campus so far. Akeem Dent surprisingly declared early to FSU in early January, making him eligible for spring practices. Dent was one of the most highly touted DB recruits in the country, ending up as the 7th ranked DB in the 2019 recruiting class. Dent will probably see the most playing time out of the incoming freshmen, due to his talent and the fact he will get the spring practice reps. Raymond Woodie III is also on campus this spring and will be taking part in practices. Woodie was a top 300 recruit and rated the number 21 safety in the 2019 class. Woodie comes from nearby Florida State University School and his father, Raymond Woodie, is the linebackers’ coach, so he is very familiar with the team.

Spring Outlook

FSU is only losing one key piece from the 2019 season while adding 5 recruits and a former 5-star to the group, and also getting back a healthy former preseason All-American. In total, FSU will add 6 CB’s and 4 safeties onto what they had by the end of the 2018 season. FSU is going to be loaded with talent and depth on the back end of their defense in the 2019 season, recovering from injuries and adding elite recruits to the mix. Look for FSU to get back to their DBU ways in 2019.


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