As we approach the start of the 2021 football season, Tomahawk Nation is breaking down each position group on the Florida State Seminoles football team. Next up, defensive backs.
Florida State has a rich history of defensive back play. From NFL hall of famer Deion Sanders to current All Pro Jalen Ramsey, former coaches like Mickey Andrews and Jeremy Pruitt have kept All American lists, NFL locker rooms, and opposing quarterbacks nightmares full of Seminole DBs for several decades.
Current defensive coordinator Adam Fuller and defensive pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson have a task ahead of them to live up to the standards for FSU defensive back play.
Here’s a rundown on who is returning and what the outlook for FSU is.
Scheme & Fits
This writer did the preview of defensive backs prior to spring ball. While there are some new arrivals for the fall, the coaches remain the same, so below please find information on scheme and fit that is important for seeing who fits where this fall:
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.
Usually it’s easy to break a position preview into Returning Players and Newcomers. This season, with three DB signees from high school and another three transfers, Florida State’s backfield projects to be completely different from the 2020 iteration.
Coming back from 2020 are Jarvis Brownlee, Brendan Gant, Jarrian Jones, Renardo Green, Meiko Dotson, Demorie Tate, Travis Jay, Sidney Williams, Jadarius Green-McKnight, and Akeem Dent.
Departures of note include Hamsah Nasirildeen and Asante Samuel Jr. to the NFL, Jaiden Lars-Woodbey to Boston College, Raymond Woodie III to Cal, and Carlos Becker leaving the team. Samuel Jr. in particular is a significant loss, with the outstanding field cornerback playing 509 snaps in 2020, the most on the team. Nasirildeen and Lars-Woodbey, while more successful early in their careers, did not have great seasons in 2020.
The relative importance in 2020 of players who return, listed in the order of their snaps played: Brownlee (358), Jones (318), Jay (281), Gant (268), Dent (232), Green (230), Williams (123), Dotson (110).
Recruits: Kevin Knowles III (EE, 3*), Omarion Cooper (4*), Hunter Washington (4*).
Transfers: Brandon Moore (Spring, UCF), Jammie Robinson (Spring, South Carolina), Jarques McClellion (Spring, Arkansas).
Kind of new: Demorie Tate (RS Freshman) - whose 2020 never came, and projects to be a big factor in this team.
These seven, particularly the transfer three and Tate, will change the face of the defense.
My projections for starters this fall has not changed significantly since spring. While Fuller and Woodson moved many pieces around to cross-train and add versatility, I still think the 4-2-5 will feature the following players in these roles:
Boundary Corner: Brandon Moore
Buck: Brendan Gant
Field Corner: Jarques McClellion
Field Safety: Travis Jay
Star: Jarrian Jones
The importance of the boundary corner position can’t be overstated - and Moore has proven he has the physicality to press regularly, where in 2020 none of Brownlee, Jones or Dent could. Dotson may see more snaps here if he can remain healthy, too, but Moore has tape at the college level - he’s shown he can do it.
Gant did not get the benefit of a spring install prior to last fall, and his closing speed makes him a natural fit for the Buck position. Woodson and Fuller have been allowed more time to clean up his ills - let’s see if he overruns plays to the same degree as 2020.
McClellion, much like Moore, has shown the fluidity in his hips to cover in space at the college level - which is precisely what a field corner needs.
Jay won tons of praise from the coaching staff. He’s one of the more talented and athletic players in this defensive backfield, and he’ll be hard to keep off the field, especially with his play impressing the coaches so regularly in practice.
Jones is a nice fit for nickel. In the Tomahawk Nation slack chat, I’ve compared him favorably to Mike Harris, who was an unsung hero in the defensive backfield that included Xavier Rhodes and Ronald Darby in 2012.
There are some wild cards here, however. Demorie Tate is just too talented to not expect him to steal one of the above spots. Brownlee, Dent, and Green each have shown flashes over their career as well.
Who do you think will be the starting five? Who will be the next man up? Sound off in the comments.