Ermon Lane has rediscovered himself as a Florida State Seminole this season, and the timing could not be much more perfect.
The former five-star wide receiver recruit out of Florida City had seen his reps at WR dwindle with each passing season. He went from having 13 catches for 267 yards with one touchdown as a true freshman in 2014 to a slump of a sophomore year which saw him finish the 2015 season with six catches for 50 yards, with no more than two catches coming in any single game.
In spite of an unproductive sophomore year, he further dipped at the beginning of his third year with the program as he had registered no catches or targets in the first three games of the 2016 season while younger players, including true freshman wideout Keith Gavin, were getting more in-game action.
Lane could see the writing on the wall, but he was insistent that he was not going to accept being passed over on the depth chart. He knew it was time to make a change.
“After the Louisville game, I texted [FSU wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey] and said that I think I would be better on the defensive side,” Lane recently shared with the media. “It really helped because he said he would talk to [head coach Jimbo Fisher] for me.”
The following Monday, in the week leading up to the USF game, Lane was told that he would be given a shot in the secondary.
“[Lane] has been playing well. He’s an athlete, he’s a playmaker.” senior cornerback Marquez White said of Lane’s transition to the secondary. “He’s big, he’s physical, he flies around, he plays hard so that’s always a compliment.”
In fact, Lane’s transition from offense over to defense went so smoothly that less than three weeks after his first practice as a safety, he played a substantial amount of reps against Miami after senior Nate Andrews went down with an injury.
The speed with which Lane picked up playing safety, a position that he had not played since high school, impressed even the Florida State head coach.
“It kind of shocked me a little bit as far as him picking it up that quick. Not that he couldn't, I just think that can take some time,” Fisher said in his weekly press conference. “But again, very happy and very proud, and I thought he played really nice in the game. Did some really good things. Very happy with him going forward. Gives you another big body. That's a big safety.”
In the Seminoles’ victory over Miami, Lane racked up four tackles, all of the solo variety, the third most on the team. Furthermore, Lane showed natural instincts at the position, possibly beyond what he ever showed on the other side of the ball in two full years, in his first game on defense.
[Lane] has been doing a good job at safety,” Fisher said after the Miami win. “He has been doing some more natural things over there. He’s physical.”
Physicality has never been the fault in Lane’s game. He earned a reputation as one of the best blocking wide receivers and seemed happy to carry over that physicality to the defense, something he showed from his first reps at safety.
As it turns out, Lane’s completed transition to the defensive side of the ball could not be more well timed. Andrews suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Miami which will end his 2016 season. Although the loss hurts the Florida State secondary and Lane in particular, who worked closely with Andrews during his transition, it opens up more reps for Lane and a further chance for him to continue his development in his new position.