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Spring Position Previews: Defensive backs

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Who will lead the packed DB room?

Ahead of Florida State football beginning spring football practice, Tomahawk Nation is diving in and breaking down the roster position group by position group. Today, we look at the defensive backs.

The Seminoles are returning 10 defensive backs who started at least one game, including All-ACC first-team safety Jammie Robinson. Despite losing the No.1 player in the country on ESD they brought in two blue-chip freshmen, Sam McCall and Azareye’h Thomas who will look to make an immediate impact in their first season. Head coach Mike Norvell and staff also added Louisville transfer Greedy Vance who started for the Cardinals last year.

Although the Noles saw some much-needed improvement in 2021, they’ll need to keep their foot on the gas in order to press opposing quarterbacks and give more time to a defensive line that has some question marks heading into next season.

Returning players

Jammie Robinson (RS Jr): Robinson transferred to Tallahassee from the South Carolina Gamecocks, displaying his best collegiate season in the 2021 campaign. He finished the season with a team-high two forced fumbles, three pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, and 85 total tackles while leading the ACC with four interceptions. The Georgia native will be a key contributor to the Seminoles' defense as he leads a crowded secondary.

Jarrian Jones (RS Jr): Jones was another bright spot for the Noles, appearing in 12 games with six starts under his belt. The redshirt junior played two seasons at Mississippi State prior to making the transition in the 2020 transfer portal, seeing more action as a uniformed starter in 2021. Last season Jones had one interception, two passes defended, and 22 total tackles. As one of the more seasoned players in the DB room, he’ll likely have a bigger role in 2022 and serve as a leader for this young group.

Jarvis Brownlee Jr. (RS So): Despite some ups and downs, Brownlee showed immense improvement in his third season with the Noles. The former three-star cornerback posted one touchdown, one forced fumble, two interceptions, three passes defended, and 51 total tackles in 11 starts for Florida State. He’ll enter the 2022 season as an accustomed starter who made significant plays for the Seminoles last season.

Omarion Cooper (So): Cooper served as a significant part of the Seminoles secondary in his true freshman campaign, playing in eight of 12 games, starting in three of them. He earned the Devaughn Darling Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year award after racking up two interceptions, four passes defended, and 16 total tackles last season. He will likely carve a bigger role in 2022 after seeing increased snaps later in the season.

Travis Jay (RS So): Jay was another questionable part of the Seminoles system, starting the season opener vs. Notre Dame then seeing his snaps slowly shift downward. The 6’2 corner saw snaps as the Noles kick returner but that role will also take a hard hit to his snap count with the addition of Winston Wright. Jay recorded two interceptions, four passes defended, and 17 total tackles in his third year with the Noles.

Kevin Knowles II (So): Knowles was on the same train as Omarion Cooper, making an immediate impact with some splash plays in key moments. The true freshman started seven games for the Noles, while being the Devaughn Darling Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year. He came into collegiate football with some questions about his size and overall build but his coverage skills truly outweighed the cons. The explosive cornerback ended the season with two passes defended and 26 total tackles.

Akeem Dent (RS Jr): Dent was considered to be a fundamental piece to the Seminoles secondary after starting all 13 games while leading the ACC in pass breakups in his true freshman 2019 season. He hit a speed bump in 2020 but got back into rhythm in 2021, showing small signs of why he was a five-star cornerback out of high school. The redshirt junior finished the 2021 season with half a sack, one interception, four passes defended, and 44 total tackles.

Brendan Gant (RS Jr): Gant was a member of the 2019 recruiting class, playing every single game in his first two seasons with the Noles. He’s considered to be a S/LB blend that seems to have better luck closer to the line of scrimmage with a 6’2 frame. This offseason will be very important for the redshirt junior to find out where he fits into the system and how he’ll accompany the rest of the secondary.

Shyheim Brown (RS Fr): Brown was recruited as a 6’2 S/LB hybrid who played a ton of snaps on special teams in high school. He saw the field in three games, while registering two tackles v.s JSU and one against UMass. Brown will most likely see more action next season but he’ll be sitting behind the likes of Robinson and Gant.

Hunter Washington (RS Fr): Washington was FSU’s Special Teams Scout Player of the Year, redshirting his freshman season after making his college debut against UMass. The four-star cornerback was the Seminoles top prospect in the class of 2021. Just like most of the people in this room, it’ll be vital for him to show some clear improvement in a packed position. Washingtons a patient, physical back but he’s unable to move into different positional schemes with a small frame.

Jarques McClellion (RS Sr): McClellion joined the Noles after two seasons with the Arkansas Razorbacks where he notched one interception, 11 passes defended, and 59 total tackles. In his sole season with Florida State, he logged one pass defended and 29 total tackles in 11 games. He made his FSU debut against JSU and is considered more of a physical, tackling back than a pass breakup contributor.

Sideney Williams (RS So): Williams appeared in six games for the Seminoles while starting four of those matches in the 2021 season. He recorded one interception, three passes defended and 32 total tackles. The Alabama native must show the staff improvement in coverage since he’s been known as a hard-hitting tackler in the middle.

Demorie Tate (RS So): Tate was a member of FSU’s scout team in 2020 and made his division one debut against UMass in 2021. He committed to the Noles in 2018 as a four-star cornerback and the No.35 player in the nation. Tate will look to compete for minutes in one of FSU’s most crowded rooms heading into next season.

Renardo Green (RS Jr): Green started two games for the Seminoles while playing in nine total matchups in the 2021 season. He recorded one pass defended and 14 total sacks last season. This will be Green’s fourth year as he looks to fight for more minutes, showing streakiness in his time with Florida State.

Jaden Floyd (RS Fr): Floyd worked with FSU’s scout team while redshirting the 2021 season. The 5’11, 204-pound defensive back will more than likely not see the field in his second season with the Noles. He is the son of former Seminole William Floyd who is in the FSU Athletics Hall of Fame and a member of 1993 National Championship team.


Newcomers

Sam McCall (Fr): McCall comes into Tallahassee as the No.4 safety in the country in the class of 2022. He’s got great size and incredible footwork as a defensive back, starting at three positions in high school: Wide receiver, Safety, and Cornerback. The true freshman will likely see an ample amount of playing time whether he’s lining up at the safety position or joining special teams. The 6’1 prospect ran a 100-meter dash at 11.10 and he’s been known to be very physical while he feels out what the receiver's next move will be.

Azareye’h Thomas (Fr): Another defensive back with phenomenal size, Thomas could find minutes at cornerback or safety being one of the most versatile prospects the Noles added in the 2022 class. While his speed isn’t his best asset Thomas has a long reach that should prevent any wide gaps in the breakout between the receiver. He’s been known as an intelligent defender while reading the quarterback with great ball skills and a knack for reading the receiver's first step.

Greedy Vance (RS So): Vance’s biggest issue while he was being recruited in 2019 was a lack of size and power. In his time with the Cardinals, he put on some muscle but scouts have seen that his pure athleticism and aggressive efforts overweigh him standing at 5’10. In 2021 Vance recorded one fumble recovery, seven passes defended, and 36 total tackles.