As you're now well aware-- and should have been anticipating for quite some time, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey has decided to forego his final year of eligibility with the Seminoles to pursue his professional career. It's a tough, though, again, heavily expected loss. But just how will it shape the 'Nole defense in 2016?
First, let's recap where FSU returns likely starters. That begins with Marquez White, who recently tweeted his intention to come back for his senior season after starting the entire year opposite Ramsey (who played the challenging boundary corner spot) at field corner. There's no reason to think that White won't once again start in the secondary for Florida State, and the same applies to now-sophomore Derwin James, who excelled at the strong safety position in his first year in Tallahassee.
Another highly probable starter is Trey Marshall, who played well at the Star position before suffering a season-ending injury. It's quite safe to plug Marshall back into the starting defensive backfield as well, presumably at the same position. But that still leaves Ramsey's vacated corner spot, along with the free safety position previously occupied by FSU graduate Lamarcus Brutus, to fill in.
The 'Noles seem to have more options at corner. To begin, White could be moved to Ramsey's boundary spot, if FSU coaches wanted to afford a little more leeway -- and support -- to a much more inexperienced player taking over on the field side. However, assuming current positions hold, 6-2 CB Tarvarus McFadden would be in line to take over for Ramsey, at least per the most recent depth chart offered by Florida State, heading into the Peach Bowl. This wouldn't be a shocking progression, as, on several occasions, I saw McFadden walking off the practice field with Ramsey, seemingly picking his brain-- that is, when the two weren't staying late together. It rather felt like Ramsey was grooming his successor.
Malique Jackson is listed as White's backup on the final two-deep roster, but he's much smaller than McFadden, and saw a lot less burn during the 2015 season. And don't forget about RB-turned-DB Ryan Green, either. Green suffered a season-ending injury before the '15 season, but nevertheless possesses outstanding burst, vert, and hips. Second-year-man Marcus Lewis also suffered an early injury that took him off the map a bit, but the Washington, D.C. product is quite diverse in where he can line up.
Plus, don't forget about the newcomers. Levonta Taylor, the nation's top cornerback recruit, is an FSU commit, and he looks entirely ready to go. Also in this year's class are the versatile Jamel Cook (6-4, 190) and Kyle Myers (6-0, 170). The former has been rumored to be destined for Star, whereas the latter is more of a true corner.
The vacancy at safety is a bit trickier. Brutus' backup vs. Houston was listed as Keelin Smith, who has exhausted his eligibility as well. And the only returning safety (save James) with any real experience is Nate Andrews, but he doesn't have the range to play free and is better playing closer to the line of scrimmage anyway. The preseason depth chart from last year had Calvin Brewton as the third-string FS, but we've not heard much from him-- instead, there have been some whispers about A.J. Westbrook being in coaches' better graces.
The bigger question, of course, and one that cannot be explained through any kind of depth chart, concerns Ramsey's uncanny leadership ability. Who, among the aforementioned defensive backs, could step in and even attempt to replace Ramsey leading the 'Noles out of the tunnel?