As Florida State fans from far and wide made their way into Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday for the annual Garnet and Gold Game, anticipation built from a long and eventful spring. A quarterback competition on everyone's mind, a practically brand new coaching staff in the mix, and with that, a new-look defense. But fans didn't get to see much of that, if any, on Saturday.
Defensive stats were accumulated. Tackles were made, "sacks" occurred, and we even got to see a few interceptions. But the truth is, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Jeremy Pruitt is preparing an extremely aggressive defense. One that blitzes from a number of angles, creates turnovers, and one that seems to put a smile on every players face when asked the question: "how aggressive is this defense going to be?" Why, in an exhibition game, would the new defensive coordinator want to show the world what he's been cooking up - the kind of cooking that brings smiles to all of the guys that are apparently eating it up? The answer is, he wouldn't -- particularly when, having never coordinated a defense at the college level, opposing coaches have no tape to study of his scheme.
"Man, you guys haven't seen nothin' yet," Lamarcus Joyner said with a cheesing smile. "It's hard though. We're ready to show everybody what we've been working on, but you guys will just have to wait for the season to start. We won't be sitting back come fall, we'll be getting after everybody."
With all the promises of a blitz heavy defense, most of which I've witnessed with my own eyes, it's easy, especially as a fan, to be eager for the sight of such a defense. Just have a little patience. Let Pruitt and his guys perfect their scheme. Let the players continue to buy into everything they're being fed. Let them get better, and then you'll see this defense. It wasn't easy from the beginning with Pruitt coming in, but the guys now believe in what he's doing, and they recognize the effectiveness.
"When the light turned on, it shined," Karlos Williams said about Pruitt's defense. "It wasn't easy at first for a lot of us, but now we understand it. We gotta keep cranking, keep working hard throughout the summer, every day. We want to work to being the number one defense, and that's what our goal is. We want to be the number one defense when it's all said and done."
For a first team defense that recorded six sacks and three interceptions on Saturday, it's hard to imagine what they could have accomplished had they not dialed back so much, though some of those sacks were of the "touch" variety. Jimbo Fisher laughed about it at the podium after the game saying, "you think you saw blitzing today? Y'a'll ain't seen nothing." And this seems to be the theme when talking to anybody associated with the defense, too. It's all smiles when they talk about what they'll be doing come fall.
"We're just excited about the season," Christian Jones said. "It was great to get out there today in front of the fans, but we just ran the basic stuff today. It's going to look completely different once the season comes around."
On top of the defense dialing it back so much during the Spring Game, people still seem underwhelmed by the play of the defensive ends. I'm not sure I agree with this criticism. Are there three extremely talented defensive ends entering into the NFL draft in Jenkins, Werner, and Carradine? Yeah. Can you just replace those guys? No. But these guys still have time to build up to that legacy, and the athleticism is there. Now, in reference to Saturday, it's hard to judge their play during an exhibition game where they can't get after the quarterback. I asked Fisher about it after the game and he says they're going just as hard as any other game off the edge, but I don't buy that. They go hardest when they're looking to get to the quarterback. When you have the fear in the back of your head, that if you hit the quarterback you're screwed, then you're first thought is to not hit the quarterback. Plain and simple. Sal Sunseri seems to be having an impact on these guys and doesn't settle for anything less than their best.
"It was fun to get out there and I thought we had a good day," Mario Edwards Jr. said. "But we still have to get better and we're getting better every day. Coach Sunseri has really helped me and a lot of the other guys get better. We want to work hard for him and that's what we're gonna do."
So, while fans didn't get much of a glimpse at the new-look defense during Saturday's Spring Game, they don't have to give up on the idea. It's evident in the way the players talk about, smile about it. They're excited, and I believe the fans should be, too.
Spring Game Defensive Stats
Nile Lawrence-Stample: 9 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4 TFLs.
Karlos Williams: 8 tackles, 1 INT
Lamarcus Brutus: 7 tackles, 1 INT
Christian Jones: 7 tackles, 1 broken up pass
P.J. Williams: 5 tackles, 1 INT, 1 broken up pass
Lamarcus Joyner: 5 tackles, 2 broken up passes
Dan Hicks: 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Terrence Brooks: 4 tackles
Telvin Smith: 2 tackles
Mario Edwards Jr.: 2 tackles
Jacobbi McDaniel: 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Terrance Smith: 2 tackles, 0.5 sack, 0.5 TFL
Reggie Northrup: 6 tackles
Kory Burnett: 5 tackles
Gerald Demps: 5 tackles
Freddie Stevenson: 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Colin Blake: 5 tackles, 1 TFL
Kendall Fullington: 4 tackles, 1 FR, 1 broken up pass
Eddie Goldman: 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Chris Casher: 1 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Nigel Terrell, Gio Newberry, and Ukeme Eligwe also recorded a solo tackle.