Harlon Barnett Aims to Rejuvinate FSU Defense

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Heading into the 2018-19 football season, Seminole fans across the country have been buzzing about the new offensive scheme that Head Coach Willie Taggart and Offensive Coordinator Walt Bell bring to the table. However, not only did Taggart inherit his dream job when he turned down Oregon’s 20 million dollar extension, but he got his guy in Harlon Barnett for the Defensive Coordinator position.

Barnett, who was a co-defensive coordinator at his alma mater Michigan State, held a promising track record that should get ‘Nole fans excited for the upcoming season. Over the course of seven years, the Spartans finished in the top ten for total defense five of those years, including seventh in 2017. Now the former All-American defensive back is inheriting an FSU defense with huge upside in his cover four scheme that plans to entertain Doak Campbell with “badasses” and “war daddies” once again.

What To Expect

In the late 80’s Barnett played under a man with the last name of Saban, and later would go on to be a graduate assistant for him at LSU. Which of course is where the foundation of his defensive philosophy originates from.

Under ex-defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, the ‘Noles found themselves playing in a defense that oscillated frequently between odd and even man fronts such as a 4-2-5 and 4-3 due to the prevalence of spread offenses in the ACC. In return, the unique looks Kelly implemented during his tenure for FSU at times left players confused, tentative, and out of position which yielded to bizarre collapses such as Louisville in 2016 or at the Rose Bowl versus Oregon.

Barnett, on the other hand, aims to be the exact opposite. The Seminole’s transition on defense hopes to bring a more aggressive but simplistic defense where guys can think less and play faster. The cover four scheme will mainly consist of a nine-man front that allows the safeties to accompany the linebackers and defensive linemen. On paper Barnett’s scheme plays as four deep three under zone defense, but will act with man to man principles since defensive backs are asked to play on an island more than FSU fans are used to seeing.

Expect to see defensive linemen have simpler assignments as they should be asked to obtain more specific gaps on a play to play basis. Safeties and linebackers on the other will be asked to adjust on the fly. For example, if an offense runs four verticals all four db’s will be in quarters coverage while the linebackers take any offset underneath, which intensifies the empowerment on the safety’s actions for every play.

It may seem contrary to one another, but Barnett’s scheme is a simplistic but complex approach to defensive philosophy. The approach can be demanding in certain aspects of the game, but will allow for more natural play that fits the athletes that make up the Seminole’s defense. With Taggart’s new approach at offense expect to see the ‘Noles make improvements against spread and up-tempo attacks as they look to fulfil themselves as the “war daddies” that wore the garnet and gold under legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

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