Florida State’s defense has been on the field A LOT to start the year. Through the first two games, the defense had a tendency to start slow and progressively get better as the game wore on. That pattern flipped against Syracuse when the defense was sound from the beginning, but began to wither as they were continually called upon to bail out a struggling offense. Football is a war of attrition, and any defense will eventually break if they are trotted out onto the field enough, but defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett is making no excuses for his battalion.
“I liked how we started because that’s all we were stressing last week, we wanted to start fast,” Barnett said. “That’s the best game we started in. But what I didn’t like is how we finished. We’ve got to finish. Now we’re working on start to finish. The start was pretty good, now we have to finish the game.”
When asked if exhaustion or frustration played any role in the defense finally succumbing late in the game, Barnett didn’t let up on his stance.
“Make no excuses, Barnett said. “We’ve got to finish.”
Despite the outcomes thus far, the defense is the reason Florida State has even hung around in games throughout the first three weeks. They’ve been able to get stops frequently, even in tough goal-line stand situations. Getting a stop on the goal-line is a major confidence boost and great situational practice for a defense, but Barnett hopes they don’t allow themselves to get into that position very often.
“That’s awesome. We’ve had to do that a couple times this year and guys have responded, Barnett said. “Now what happens when those situations occur, if they occur again throughout the season, they’re confident that we can get a stop and believe in what we’re trying to do. That’s a good thing, but hopefully we don’t have to do too many more of those.”
The defense headed into the 2018 with many questions regarding young players in key positions. Surprisingly, the defense’s success can be largely attributed to young players stepping up and playing well, earning the trust of their coach.
“It makes me feel real good,” Barnett said. “They obviously have to earn that through practice so my confidence was already built in them throughout practice. To put them in the game and they perform the way that they do, that’s what we expect them to do because they’ve shown that they can do it in practice. Obviously a game is a little bit different, but we feel like we put them in enough tough situations in practice that when the game does come, it’s very, very similar. Really proud of those guys for performing the way they are.”
Asante Samuel Jr. and A.J. Lytton have seen significant playing time and Barnett added another name when questioned about his impressions of his young secondary.
“It was really good,” Barnett said. Really, really encouraging to see those young guys step up and play with a confidence, and Woodbey out there is also a true freshman. That’s real encouraging.”