Is Joyner the best safety in the country?
This is the 43rd in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 15 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order
Lamarcus Joyner | 5'8, 195 | Junior | Safety
Background (via media guide)
One of the nation's top prospects overall out of powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas...became the fourth USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year to sign with Florida State, joining Derrick Brooks, David Warren and Antonio Cromartie...earned a five-star rating from both Rivals and Scout.com...Rivals ranked him No. 1 prospect in Florida and No. 1 cornerback nationally (No. 14 player overall)...Scout ranked him as the No. 2 cornerback prospect in the country...No. 1 cornerback nationally according to ESPN and No. 6 prospect overall...MaxPreps ranked Joyner No. 15 overall...helped his team to a 13-1 record with the lone blemish coming to Bradenton Manatee in 5A state semifinal...selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game...rolled up 1,090 all-purpose yards on just 79 touches as a senior...accounted for 11 touchdowns, highlighted by three kickoff returns for scores, where he averaged 39.6 yards per return...had four rushing and four receiving touchdowns...had only 14 tackles (12 solo) from his cornerback position as opponents stayed away from his side of the field...played three seasons at Miami Southwest, piling up 112 tackles, four sacks and an interception as a junior...also scored five touchdowns on special teams (four kickoffs, one punt return)...offensively had 17 receptions for 482 yards and seven TDs...had more than 100 tackles as a sophomore linebacker and accounted for more than 1,000 yards on offense...SuperPrep ranked Joyner No. 10 in its Florida 115...No. 15 player nationally on Sporting News' Top 100...member of Times-Union's Florida Super 75 where he was rated No. 1 cornerback...No. 2 overall prospect in Bill Buchalter's Florida Top 100 where he ranked as No. 2 "athlete"... selected the Seminoles over Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State, Notre Dame and USC...born November 27, 1990.
Career to Date
Joyner was a huge recruit for the Seminoles. Along with Jeff Luc, his commitment signaled that it was again cool to come to Florida State after the 'Noles had lost six games in 2006, '07 and '09.
As a freshman, Joyner played mostly a reserve cornerback role. He tallied 23 tackles, two pass breakups and had an interception against his hometown Miami hurricanes.
Then came the off-season. Florida State got a real strength and nutrition program, and Joyner exploded to around 200 pounds on his 5'8 frame, and moved to safety. Safety is what he played in high school, and Joyner picked up the position immediately.
So well, in fact, that our insiders told us that Joyner, a true sophomore without a snap to his name at the safety position, was the best player on the team. Offense included.
We didn't go that far, but it was clear to us that Joyner was Florida State's most important defensive player. So what's what we wrote.
Our insiders were right. Mark Stoops' defense is a lot better with great safety play, and Joyner played about as well as any other safety in the country in 2011.
This spring we said:
The star of this group is Lamarcus Joyner. The 5'8, 193 pound beast is one of the best safeties in the country. Joyner has incredible range, great instincts, perhaps the best closing speed in the country, is a sure tackler, etc. If not for his size, he'd be a surefire first round pick as an early entry. I wrote last year, before the season started, that Joyner is the most valuable player to Florida State's defense. And I was definitely right. I'm not so sure that is the case any more. It has nothing to do with Joyner's play, but rather depth at other positions and the increased depth at the safety position. Joyner's ability and versatility take this defense to another level.
Joyner is the best safety Florida State has had in a long, long time. If he duplicates his 2011 in 2012 and 2013, he could go down as the best ever.
His incredible range allows Florida State's defense to effectively play more coverages than it would otherwise be able to do. He covers so much ground so quickly that he often fools opposing quarterbacks, despite their coaches sitting in the film room and stressing his range during the week. His range is better than most cornerbacks in the country, yet at ~200 pounds with very long arms, he's able to be a force against the run as well. He's like a better Bob Sanders (Iowa Hawkeyes/Indianapolis Colts)
Joyner also had an excellent year as a kick returner in 2011. And though we've argued in the past that FSU should not use him in that capacity due to the chance of an injury, those calls are quieter this year, as the new kickoff rules will lessen his opportunities, and the depth at safety is much better. Joyner is a better player now than he was in 2011, but the drop off from him to his reserve is far less steep.
Oh, and did I mention that he dropped down to corner in the bowl game when Florida State lost Xavier Rhodes and Greg Reid to injury? And that he did a fine job there? Ridiculous.
How can Joyner be better in 2012? Aside from a greater understanding of the defense and better players around him, how about leadership?
Joyner has become much more of a vocal leader over the offseason, and that's become even more important with the recent dismissal of Greg Reid.
"When I was first told that I needed to be more vocal, it was kind of scary because I had never been a leader at a prestigious program like Florida State," Joyner said. "At first it was a real big challenge, but after seeing that those guys feed of you and really believe in you, that just boosts the monster and gives you that edge and drive to do it and that motivation."
"I love coaching Lamarcus, we do have a great relationship and you have to love coaching someone who plays with that kind of passion and energy," Stoops said. "That's how we try to coach and it means an awful lot to us and it means a lot to Lamarcus. The biggest thing is that passion, that desire, that energy that he can relay to the young guys and the rest of our defense."
"He's more vocal, and then when you have one guy who steps up and says we need to do this the right way, you have five more guys that back him and say that we're going to do this the right way," senior linebacker Vince Williams said.
"A lot of young guys are trying to fill big shoes, and being a new leader and veteran on this team, it's been tough but it's getting better and I'm more at ease with it," Joyner said.
"You know what I've been proud of him about is that he's been disciplined," Stoops said. "He's not just out there playing and doing whatever he wants, he's disciplined within our program and within our defense. He's working hard to refine his skills and become more precise."
"We understand that it's about a bond and we have to be a team and a family to get where we need to get," cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. "We have to set the same goals and do the same thing at the same time, we have to think as one and move as one."
"Now we now that we have to get better as a team, offense and defense," Joyner said. "We have to be one unit if we're going to take this thing to a whole new level."
Florida State's defense has a chance to be the best in the country. Joyner's a big part of that.