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Spring Preview: Defensive Backs

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Building back to front.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Syracuse at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 Florida State Football team was disappointing on the defensive side of the ball, even given personnel limitations. Our spring previews on Tomahawk Nation have echoed this at both the defensive line and linebacker position previews (make sure to read those as well).

Defensive backs fared no better.

Adam Fuller’s scheme is fairly straightforward, as far as defensive backs are concerned. The front rarely changes, so the coverage behind it has dedicated positions. For Tomahawk Nation readers, especially those who listen to/watch Seminole Wrap and Triple Option, these will be familiar. Let’s review them quickly:

Boundary Corner: Fuller’s emphasis on controlling the short side of the field doesn’t stop in the front 7 (6) with his Fox position. The Boundary Corner has to be a physical presence, playing press effectively and being strong in run support. Size is important here, as length can help prevent the easy throws the short side of the field offers.

Buck Safety: this role is not dissimilar to the old-school strong safety position. This player has to be able to align into the boundary with the boundary corner and Fox and provide run support.

Field Corner: on the opposite side of the formation, the field corner has to be able to handle space. Size can be sacrificed to some degree, as the throws are harder for college quarterbacks to make. The tougher throws means just being in phase makes these throws a high difficulty proposition, forcing QB’s to avoid them.

Field Safety: as with their compatriot corner on the wide side, this safety has a larger area of the field to patrol.

Star: there are many names for this fifth DB role. Fuller often uses an LB in the Stud role in a “big nickel” against larger personnel packages. In a true nickel, the fifth DB will come in for the Stud, although roles remain similar and the change is personnel driven.

2021 Florida State Seminoles Defensive Backs

Tomahawk Nation Projected Starters

Boundary Corner: Brandon Moore

Buck: Brendan Gant

Field Corner: Jarques McClellion

Field Safety: Travis Jay

Star: Jarrian Jones

Let’s start on the boundary side.

At Boundary Corner, Brandon Moore has the physical tools and film-proven ability to press and affect the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage while holding up in run support. His transfer is a critical one for Fuller’s defense. The struggles at the boundary corner position were well documented - Jarrian Jones, Jarvis Brownlee, and others rotated through the position with Jones taking most snaps. Expect to see Brownlee reprise his role as a backup to Moore here, while also likely taking a good number of rotation snaps. Keep an eye for Demorie Tate as he becomes healthy.

The Buck position was made for a healthy Hamsah Nasirildeen. Unfortunately, the 2020 team did not get much of Healthy Hamsah. Gant had a penchant for overrunning plays last season, but that was without the benefit of a spring to learn, and install and technique rarely improve rapidly during the season. Look for Gant to be the man this spring. Jadarius Green-McKnight has the size and ability to take some of those snaps as well. Jammie Robinson is an interesting name to watch here as well.

At the field corner spot, new Seminole Jarques McClellion is who I expect to take the reins this spring. But it’s not set in stone - there is a lot of athletic talent on this roster. Tate again looks like a potential option here, although his size may see him pushed elsewhere. Akeem Dent and Jarrian Jones both got snaps here too, although neither showed out. Meiko Dotson could jump in here again as well.

Travis Jay looks to continue starting at the field safety position. He and Renardo Green split snaps throughout 2020. Sidney Williams is another athletic possibility here. Again, Tate could find himself stealing snaps here (notice a theme?).

Jarrian Jones seems like the odd man out despite being listed as a starter. Not quite a great fit at boundary corner, Jones found himself playing there anyway as well as at field corner last season. Fuller trusts him more than other options, so I’d expect that to continue. Jammie Robinson could steal Jones’ job in another game of “which SEC transfer will start”. Other names to watch here include the ubiquitous Tate as well as Dent and Dotson.

Others: newcomer high three-star Kevin Knowles II enrolled early, so look for him to get in there. Caleb Blake was a scholarship player at Colorado State and comes in this spring as a walk on at FSU.

Please note this is a spring preview and only includes those who enrolled early. Recruits like Hunter Washington and Omarion Cooper will be featured more in the fall.

Who do you think will break out this spring at defensive back? Tell us in the comments.