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2023 Florida State Position Previews: Talent infusion, returning production has FSU’s secondary in great spot

FSU’s secondary is ready to take the next step

FSU’s 2022 group had a lot of decent to above-average players but not one came close to playing at an exceptional level except Jammie Robinson.

When Mike Norvell got to Tallahassee he had to raise the floor of the program and that’s what he did with his first two recruiting classes and the transfer portal prior to 2022.

Premium defensive backs are often the hardest to get, whether it's at the HS level or in the transfer portal. It’s the position that arguably requires the most athleticism in football (CB, Edge, and OT are the top three) and that often means ruthless competition for the most premium prospects.

FSU was not going to land the high-end CB talent until it raised its perception — and now, here we are. A 10-win season and a bowl victory over Oklahoma and you’ve added Fentrell Cypress (top 3 CB and All-ACC player from the portal) and a number of high-ceiling, low-floor CB prospects. That combined with your current roster’s additional year in Adam Fuller’s system and the ceiling of this group is now higher than previously thought possible.

Florida State Seminoles football: Defensive backs

PFF Grades

Overall coverage grade: 78 (No. 54 in the country)

  • Fentrell Cypress: 87.6 coverage, 87.7 overall
  • Greedy Vance: 73 coverage, 74.7 overall
  • Renardo Green: 70.3 coverage, 73.5 overall
  • Jarrian Jones: 73.6 coverage, 70.4 overall
  • Shyheim Brown: 69.3 coverage, 72.7 overall
  • Akeem Dent: 68.4 coverage, 66.3 overall
  • Azareye’h Thomas: 63.8 coverage, 65.2 overall
  • Kevin Knowles II: 54.4 coverage, 53.9 overall

2022 Stats

  • Renardo Green: 58 tackles, five pass deflections
  • Akeem Dent: 53 tackles, four pass deflections
  • Shyheim Brown: 36 tackles, 2 pass deflections, one fumble recovery
  • Jarrian Jones: 19 tackles, four pass deflections, one interception
  • Greedy Vance Jr.: 16 tackles, two pass deflections, three interceptions
  • Azareye’h Thomas: 14 tackles, one pass deflection, one interception
  • Omarion Cooper: 14 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble
  • Sidney Williams: 12 tackles

Main name to know

This is a tough one because they’re so many new faces that can make a serious impact on this year’s secondary. The easiest answer is Fentrell Cypress; so I’ll go with the not easy answer and choose Shyheim Brown.

By all reports, this was the best offseason Brown has had in his career and he has a real shot at replacing the important hole left by Jammie Robinson’s departure to the Carolina Panthers.

He lost 12 lbs this offseason as he transitions from a primary alley defender in the box to a more well-rounded, free-ranging safety capable of replacing Robinson’s production. The player behind the game-winning block of the extra point last season vs. LSU, Brown is capable of making plays at all three levels of FSU’s defense.

Returning Players

  • Redshirt senior Renardo Green

The senior has played a lot of football for Florida State with his best season coming in 2022 that saw him net an All-ACC honorable mention. 6’0 186lbs and a tough and eager run defender; FSU knows what it has in it senior cornerback

  • Redshirt senior Akeem Dent

The safety from Pahokee, Florida came to FSU as a cornerback but found his home in Adam Fuller’s defense at safety. A Stallworth at the position for the last two years; he’s FSU’s active career in pass breakups with 15 stops.

  • Redshirt senior Jarrian Jones

The 6’0’ 191lb transfer from Mississippi State looked like FSU’s best cornerback down the stretch in 2022. 5 past breakups and an interception of Florida’s Anthony Richardson did wonders for his confidence as he continues to build on game and looks like a possible starter this fall for FSU. He’ll be competing with Renardo Green, and Fentrell Cypress for starter snaps.

  • Junior Kevin Knowles II

The 5’11 187lb cornerback from Hollywood, FL is a solid option as a reserve cornerback. His ability to play multiple spots in FSU’s secondary makes him the perfect swingman; ready to step-up in a pinch if needed. He has five career pass break-ups.

  • Redshirt junior Greedy Vance

The Louisiana transfer from Louisville last year has an excellent nose for the ball with three interceptions. A bit smaller than FSU’s other corners at 5’11 170lbs; he has an innate sense for the ball and has proven to be an excellent baiter of quarterbacks in the slot for FSU. Greedy is like his name suggest; greedy for turnovers.

  • Sophomore A’zareyeh Thomas

As a true freshman out of Niceville, the former top 100 recruit played in 11 games last fall, logging one PBU and one interception. Exceptionally talented with the size needed to match up with big receivers and the athleticism to cover smaller receivers, a sophomore jump could lead to him being in contention for All-ACC honors.

New Faces:

  • Redshirt junior Fentrell Cypress II

FSU’s prized defensive recruit from the portal this offseason. An All-ACC transfer from Virginia; he is a welcome addition to FSU’s secondary that was occasionally victimized on the outside in 2022.

  • Freshman Conrad Hussey

A four-star true freshman from St. Thomas Aquinas. STA has always produced high-level recruits that can contribute early; most notably Lamarcus Joyner and Rashad Greene. Now it would be unfair to expect that level of production but there’s a real opportunity for early playing time at safety. Unlike his classmate, Hussey did not enroll early so while talented expecting day-one contributions is a tall order.

  • Freshman KJ Kirkland

An early enrollee out of Jacksonville; Kirkland made quite the impression on the staff this spring and has continued that strong impression into offseason workouts. If there’s a true freshman that you’re going to see on the field in Orlando vs. LSU, KJ Kirkland is a good bet. At 6’1, 200lbs, KJ Kirkland is already as physically big as FSU’s safeties were last season.

  • Freshman Edwin Joseph

A three-star CB from Hollywood, Fl. FSU had to beat out LSU for his signature. Another early enrollee the staff was very high on him as HS prospect feeling that he was one of the more underrated recruits in the southeast. At 6’0 190lbs he’s physically ready to contribute this fall.

  • Freshman Quindarrius Jones

A 6’2 190lb three-star CB from Meridian, Mississippi FSU offered him after at a camp in Tallahassee, he committed and he never wavered. FSU loves his length and athleticism and is very much looking forward to him developing as a big cornerback. A 22-second 200m and a 22-foot long-jumper; he’s raw but the tools are clearly there.

  • Freshman Ja’Bril Rawls

The final true freshman on this list, the 6’1, 170lb cornerback from Pensacola Florida played WR, CB, and was a do-it-all man for his high school with 1550 all-purpose yards. A likely redshirt, his best shot at contributing this fall will be on special teams where the loss of Mycah Pittman is currently being felt.

  • Redshirt freshman Ashlynd Barker

The portal era has seen a dramatic drop in JUCO recruiting but that didn’t stop FSU from signing Barker from the junior college ranks and having him enroll on June 1st. At 6’3 and well over 200lbs with good movement skills, it wouldn’t shock me if Barker grows into a hybrid S/LB now that he’s lifting in a full-time power five strength and conditioning program.