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Battle at Free Safety Could be Storyline this Fall

One of the most interesting areas of Florida State's early 2011 depth chart is the safety position, where incumbents Nick Moody and Terrance Parks are set to do battle for the starting spot at free safety alongside newly converted corner Lamarcus Joyner at the strong safety.

Joyner made the move back to his natural position this past spring and wasted no time making his presence known. With Moody out of commission due to abdominal surgery, Joyner got first team reps in the spring and impressed the coaching staff enough to be slated as the starter in the early days of fall camp. Joyner appears to have made such an impression on the coaching staff (especially Mark Stoops) that he is not entrenched in the kind of battle that is being held between two veterans for the other starting slot.

After starting together for most of last season, Moody and Parks are now competing against one another for the lone spot opposite Joyner. With Joyner—who has the elite speed to help combat the spread offense from the safety spot—roaming the middle of the field, the other safety will play lower in the box at times and have a bigger role in run support. When looking at the duo's production last season as starters, Moody appears to be better suited for this role than Parks at first glance.

In 13 games of action, Moody was third on the team in total tackles with 79 (just over 6 per game). Parks recorded 44 tackles in 14 games (3.1 per contest), but aided more in pass defense with six deflected passes to Moody's two. Also possessing an advantage in size, Moody may be a better fit to provide assistance in the run game as more of a safety/linebacker hybrid. With Parks and Moody currently listed as co-starters, their competition will be perhaps the most interesting of the fall for FSU since both were staples in the secondary a year ago. 

And even though Moody—who earned himself the nickname “Hit Stick” by violently introducing himself to opponents on a number of occasions last season—is known for his physical style, Parks has also shown that he isn’t scared of contact (0:49 mark). Expect both to see significant playing time this fall regardless of who claims the starting spot in preseason.

One good thing for FSU is that neither Parks nor Moody needs to be a star on this defense. Building off of what Bud wrote in Tuesday’s piece on the questions facing the FSU defense, there is star power elsewhere within the unit to fill the highlight reels. Both players showed that they can be solid pieces in Stoops’ scheme last season, and they need to continue to do so this season in whatever shared role they may play by staying true to their assignments and avoiding miscues. They don’t exactly have to be Troy Polamalu for this team to win.

Another intriguing note is the arrival of Under Armour All-American safety Karlos Williams this fall. Weighing 220 pounds already, the true freshman Williams is the prototype free safety in Stoops’ defense. With a rare blend of size and speed, Williams has the potential to make an impact in his first year on campus, but he wasn’t an early enrollee and will behind the 8-ball in terms of learning the defense. Williams has star potential but will have some time to get acclimated.

A year from now, the ’Noles could be looking at Williams and Joyner occupying the safety spots. For right now, FSU just needs consistent play at FS.