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Florida State’s 2019 defensive back preview

Can elite recruiting finally pay off on the field?

Florida State v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If there’s one position group that gives you hope for Florida State’s 2019 defense, it’s the defensive backs.

The Seminoles have recruited secondary players as well as any school in the country. Both Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart made defensive backs a priority and FSU is stocked with four and five-star players.

However, we saw last season that this secondary is prone to errors. Just look at the Clemson game, when Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers receivers lit up FSU in Tallahassee.

There’s a lot of potential with this group. Can the defensive backs step up and become a strength of this team again?

The Starters

The release of FSU’s official depth chart gives us some clarity on who will start against Boise State.

At cornerback, the tandem of Stanford Samuels III and Asante Samuel Jr. both return.

Samuels and Samuel Jr. earned starting jobs at cornerback midway through last season. At 6-foot-2, Samuels occupies the boundary cornerback spot while Samuel Jr. takes the field side.

The pair gives FSU one of the best cornerback duos in the ACC. Samuels is the bigger, more physical player, which is important for his role at the boundary. Meanwhile, Samuel Jr. is smaller at 5-foot-10, but showed last season his tenacity for fighting for the ball in the air.

Meanwhile, Levonta Taylor moves from his previous role at cornerback to a starting job at strong safety.

Taylor came to FSU with as much hype as any recruit in recent memory, having been a Top-10 recruit in the country. He started two seasons at field cornerback, but has been hampered by injuries in recent years. Taylor has said he hopes to have a Tyrann Mathieu-like impact at safety.

Hamsah Nasirildeen returns at the other safety spot. The 6-foot-4 junior played linebacker in the spring, but has since moved back to safety. Between his size and athleticism, the ceiling is high for Nasirildeen and NFL teams will be closely watching to see if he improves his game at all this season.

One player we didn’t talk about in the linebacker preview is Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, who is classified as a defensive back on FSU’s roster but is playing linebacker this year.

Lars-Woodbey played nickel back for FSU last season, showing strong ability in run support. The staff obviously feels he is the best option at inside linebacker alongside Dontavious Jackson.

The Backups

As a senior, Kyle Meyers is one of the most experienced players on the team and will be the third man off the bench in most nickel and dime packages.

While FSU lists itself as a 3-4 defense, the Seminoles face quite a few spread offenses throughout 2019. As such, players like Meyers will see a lot of snaps over the course of the season.

At safety, Cyrus Fagan and Carlos Becker are two juniors who have primarily served as backups throughout their careers. Becker was a highly regarded recruit and made the game-winning interception versus Michigan in the 2016 Orange Bowl, but has been hampered by injuries for most of his career.

A.J. Lytton and Isaiah Bolden were both blue-chip players and will continue to develop as second-year players in the program.

The Freshmen

Florida State signed a talented group of freshmen defensive backs in its latest recruiting class, many of whom have already cracked the depth chart.

Akeem Dent was FSU’s highest-rated recruit and is listed a backup to Nasirildeen at free safety. He was recruited as a cornerback and the move to safety speaks volumes about his athletic ability.

Renardo Green was a three-star recruit in the 2019 class, but he has already cracked the depth chart as Samuels’ backup at boundary cornerback.

Other names like Travis Jay, Jarvis Brownlee, Raymond Woodie III and Brendan Gant should also see the field this season in rotational or special team roles.


With four returning starters, there’s reason for optimism with this group.

If anything else, the floor for this position unit is very high. Samuels and Samuel Jr. are one of the best cornerback duos in the league. Meanwhile, Taylor and Nasirildeen both have very high athletic potential at safety.

Even better news is that the freshmen are starting to make noise in practice. Dent and Green are already listed on the depth chart, which means they’re pushing older players for snaps.

Defensive back is a strength for FSU in 2019 and the future of this position group looks bright.