First year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt couldn't have asked for a better group of players to implement his system, even after Florida State lost 7 players to the draft on that side of the ball. But it wasn't the easiest transition for a group of guys that had become so comfortable in the system that Mark Stoops ran during his run as FSU's defensive coordinator.
Stoops produced dominating defenses running a 4-3 - a bend-don't-break defense. But Pruitt's is far from that. He prefers to run the 3-4 and to allow his defense to impose their will on the opposition using mixed fronts and a plethora of blitz packages to free up an extremely talented, athletic secondary allowing them to make plays.
These are all things becoming more and more evident as the weeks unfold.
"I think they're really grasping things and doing a great job, head coach Jimbo Fisher said, "keeping good leverage on the ball, making plays and really understanding that we have guys at the right spots now and you're starting to see them grow and emerge and develop their identity."
And that identity shouldn't be unfamiliar to anybody that follows college football closely. While Jeremy Pruitt may have left Nick Saban's staff at Alabama to take the job at Florida State, he brought systematic tendencies and a mentality with him,
Lamarcus Joyner talked about why he bought into Pruitt's system from the start.
"If you want to be the best, you have to imitate the best," Joyner said. "Alabama has been dominant since I've been in college and you wonder why those guys are having so much success. And if you're fortunate enough to get a piece of that, then that's how this generation goes. You gonna do what the best do. Guys like myself always wanted to blitz, a guy like Christian Jones always wanted to stick his hand in the ground, T. Brooks always wanted to come down in the slot, so we bought into it because we thought it was the best for the team."
While they were excited for the possibilities, the players had to put in the work and that's just what they did. From the beginning of spring camp there were strides to be made. After pretty much losing their defensive line to the draft, the 'Noles had to find other ways to bring pressure.
Against NC State, the Florida State defense had 9 different players with a tackle-for-loss. They recorded 3 sacks and forced a fumble. This type of pressure leads to turnovers, too, and FSU ended Saturday's game with a pair of interceptions.
"Our defense is like an offense," Terrence Brooks said. "We have so many different formations allowing us to do all kinds of things. Coach Pruitt does a great job of disguising our looks so they never know where the blitz is coming from. And we take it personal when teams step onto our field and think they can play with us. That's the kind of mentality you have to have to be great."
The patience can be seen as you watch the defense play week in and week out. The comfort level is clearly improving and you can now see guys reacting and not over-thinking. That's what Pruitt's system is all about.
The Noles have shown that they're built to stop the spread, as they have numerous time this season. But they'll have a different test against Miami's Duke Johnson next weekend. "But that's just another challenge to conquer for a group of guys settling into their new system," says Christian Jones.