Florida State football kicks off on Labor Day at Pitt. Tomahawk Nation previews the season up until that date by analyzing every player and other key issues facing the 2013 Seminoles.
No. 20 Lamarcus Joyner | 5-8, 195 | CB | Senior
School Bio (Courtesy Seminoles.com):
Explosive athlete who is considered one of the top safeties in the country. One of the top defensive candidates for the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy given to the nation's top defensive player and the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation's top defensive back. Displays tremendous range because of his great speed which allows him to cover a lot of ground in the secondary. Expected to see more time playing corner in 2013. Also is one of the team's top kick returners and top kick returners in FSU history.
Career to Date
"Coach Fisher and I aren't finished with what we started here. He said from day one I was going to be one of those guys that was going to help turn this program around."
Lamarcus Joyner uttered those words in January upon announcing that he would return to Florida State for his senior season in 2013. When Joyner -- a five-star recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale -- arrived in Tallahassee as part of a heralded 2010 recruiting class, it marked a turning point for a Florida State program on the heels of its "lost decade".
Once Joyner inked his name on an NLI for FSU, along with fellow blue-chippers Jeff Luc and Christian Jones, it gave the Seminoles huge momentum in Jimbo Fisher's first year as head coach and marked the return of the program to the mainstream with recruits. Garnet and Gold was back in style, and the spear on the side of the helmet carried major weight again.
And Joyner has indeed been "one of those guys" responsible for Fisher's turnaround effort.
Since his arrival, Joyner has played in every single game for the Seminoles (41 total in three seasons), and started the last 27 at safety. He played cornerback as a freshman in 2010, handling backup duty while contributing on special teams as a kickoff returner. In 2011, he made the switch to safety, the position he played in high school, and became a bona fide star.
Joyner was Florida State's best defensive player in '11, adding an explosive new dimension to Mark Stoops' defense while racking up 54 tackles, a sack, three pass breakups and four interceptions. No other player meant more to the FSU defense, as Joyner more than justified his lofty ranking out of high school. He would have led the ACC in kick return average as well, but his 30.5-yard per return average was not eligible because he fell just short of the requisite number of attempts.
He followed that up with a great junior year in 2012, amassing 51 stops, 11 pass breakups and a pick on his way to a first-team All-ACC distinction. Joyner was once again one of the best defensive backs in the country, helping FSU lead the nation in pass efficiency defense while also ranking as one of the top overall units nationwide.
Joyner's senior year will take on a different look. After roaming the middle of the field for two seasons, he has switched back to cornerback under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. We have speculated that the move could be an effort to help Joyner prepare for the NFL, where many see him as a corner due to his 5-foot-8 frame. By playing a year on the outside as a full-time starter, Joyner has an opportunity to display his versatility for scouts in addition to the two years of stellar film he's already provided at the safety spot. Joyner has called the move a "business decision," and insiders do not believe he would have returned for another year at safety.
The 'Noles have built up solid depth across the secondary, so moving Joyner outside gives them a chance to get an athlete like Karlos Williams on the field at safety next to Terrance Brooks and Tyler Hunter. The fact that Joyner can move to corner and lock down a starting spot immediately speaks volumes to his ability as a football player, as FSU boasts talent across the board. With studs like Hunter, Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome, P.J. Williams and Keelin Smith battling for time, the competition around Joyner will be fierce. But he will be on the field for the Seminoles no matter what, because he's that good.
While Joyner lacks the size of a corner like Xavier Rhodes, he makes up for it with long arms, great athleticism and excellent strength. Joyner's arms and strength allow him to play physical in press coverage, which he'll be doing often under Pruitt. He also has the ability to slide into the slot and provide an extreme threat as a blitzer. FSU is expected to come after the quarterback much more this season than it did under Stoops, and Joyner has made a living teeing off on opposing players.
For all of his accolades, however, Joyner is not yet a sure thing at corner, at least based on his underwhelming spring game performance. But he has played well at the spot previously. In addition to the spot duty he saw as a freshman, he has also shown his ability as a CB when the need rose out of necessity; in 2011, he moved down to corner to fill in for the injured Greg Reid against Clemson in Death Valley and again against Notre Dame in the bowl game, performing well in each instance.
If Joyner's value as a player was not high enough to the Seminoles, he also plays an invaluable role as a leader on the team. Coaches and teammates alike have sung his praises in the past, as he provides a strong source of vocal leadership while also leading by example on and off the field. Fisher has lauded him as a leader and an ambassador to the program, and he's the type of kid that coaches simply love to coach.
It will be a lot of fun to watch No. 20 play at corner this season and see what kind of year he can put together as a springboard to the next level. All indications are that it will be another good one.