This is the eighth in a multi-part series covering Florida State Spring football practice. Previously, we looked at quarterback, receiver, running back, offensive line, defensive end, defensive tackle, and linebackers. Today, a look at the cornerbacks.
Do Florida State fans know how lucky they are? Seriously. Is there another team in the country with a better set of cornerbacks? Not likely. FSU has a wealth of talent at the position. No, the pass defense for the 41st-best defense last season was not spectacular. But that is universally accepted as being mostly the fault of the safeties; a group we'll see tomorrow.
Usually, you find the "out for Spring" designation at the end of the article. But when arguably the best player on the team is out, it goes here. Xavier Rhodes, the 6'2" 207 lb red-shirt sophomore made the all-conference team last year. He'll again man the boundary this season, but for now he's recovering from surgery to fix a nagging groin surgery that at times limited his play to just good, rather than spectacular.
2010 saw improvement for Greg Reid. He won the field corner spot and his play was good overall. But that "good" was a product of both great and awful games. At times, he was the best player on the field. Then he'd be the worst player on the field.
The talent is there for Greg Reid. He has excellent quickness and instincts. His hands are decent as well. But mostly Reid offers quickness. He's a natural playmaker.
However, Reid lacks size and speed. Some might confuse his quickness with speed, but that would be an error. Greg's quickness allows him to reach top speed quickly, but that top speed just isn't all that fast. And with that playmaker mentality, he brings risky play. To his credit, however, once he received some coaching Reid did drastically cut down on the freelancing he exhibited in his freshman season.
This year Reid needs to continue to improve his technique, and most importantly his consistency. To expect him to play like he did in the Chick-Fil-A bowl in every game is unrealistic, but it's not unrealistic to expect no repeat performances like the Oklahoma game last season. The coaches always compliment his work ethic, which is encouraging for his continued development. And he'll continue to be one of the best punt returners in the country.
What a find Michael Harris was for the Seminoles in 2010. Originally committed to Alabama, he switched to Florida State after Saban realized he wasn't going to graduate and get in to school in January for camp. Florida State was willing to wait. And it was well worth it. Maybe Mark Stoops knew how talented Harris was, having scouted him at Arizona.
Harris was instrumental in Florida State's tremendous defensive turnaround (88th to 41st in defensive efficiency). Florida State often used him in the slot for its nickel packages, and his experience playing in a zone defense was particular relief because the rest of the FSU defense has essentially none under the previous regime.
Harris isn't a blazer, but he is physical and instinctive and doesn't freelance too much. He seems bigger than his 188-pound listing, and is a very solid tackler. It's difficult to pinpoint what he needs to work and improve on, because he is stuck behind Xavier Rhodes. While unlikely to unseat Rhodes, Harris is still likely to be an NFL player, and, in a display of FSU's cornerback talent, could even go in the draft. He'll see more time this year at the boundary slot, according to coach Fisher. It's difficult to tell if that is a tip o' the cap to Harris for all his hard work and team-first attitude, or if Stoops really believes he can help the team there. There's no doubt he can play the position, rather, the question is what happens to Xavier Rhodes when Harris is playing the boundary? Given Rhodes injury troubles, perhaps it is a move to further depth.
Through his first three years at Florida State, this next sentence would have been best served in a comedy piece. The coaches are high on Avis Commack at corner, and he may be the best of the First Coast Trio. Seriously.
The first-coast trio of Avis Commack, Jermaine Thomas, and Nigel Carr has been a total bust to date. Nigel Carr was charged with multiple felonies and expelled. Jermaine Thomas never grew up and took football seriously, and added two minor arrests of his own. And up until this point, Avis Commack was best known for his long hair.
But how things change. Commack was not good at receiver. He never saw the field. Then while running track, a sport at which he is pretty good, he snapped his femur. Throw on a long rehab, a change in defensive philosophy, an influx of receiver talent that quickly passed up the injured Commack, and Avis was left without a position. The coaches thought he should try cornerback.
It worked. The 6'3" Commack can do things in the new scheme that just weren't done in the old scheme. He has decent speed and very long arms. Jimbo Fisher recently praised his ability to play press coverage. Can he tackle? How much of the scheme does he have down? Those are questions to be answered this Spring. But with Xavier Rhodes a candidate to leave early for the NFL, Greg Reid always a threat to mess up, and Mike Harris graduating, Commack will at worst be asked to be an important reserve in 2012, and at best, a surprising starter.
Waisome was one of the top corner recruits in the country. He's quick and very good in coverage, but doesn't have track speed. He's very small and won't be asked to play much in important situations this year. Enrolling early should help him a lot with both the scheme and the much needed weight program experience. Haven't heard any complaints about his attitude either, which is good for a freshman just stepping into the mix. Profiles as a two-year starter on the field side in 2013 and 2014, replacing Greg Reid.
Moved To Safety (At Least Temporarily)
Lamarcus Joyner & Terrence Brooks