March 15, 2013

Spring Storylines: No. 3 How does Joyner's move affect the secondary?

Spring Practice Hot Topics

No. 3 - How does Joyner's move affect the secondary?

Hot topic overview: After starring as a two-year starter at safety, Lamarcus Joyner is moving back to cornerback this spring, opening the door for Karlos Williams to earn a starting spot.

Why this is a hot topic

When Joyner elected to return for his senior season it was huge boost for the Seminoles’ defense. The last two seasons Joyner has been a difference maker with four interceptions in 2011, and one interception and five passes defended last year when teams mostly stayed away from him.

Joyner was named first-team All-ACC last season and second-team in 2011. Despite his production as a safety, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and head coach Jimbo Fisher have elected to use Joyner more at corner this season.

Player to Watch
Karlos Williams
Stats: Karlos Williams saw action in all 14 games last season, mostly as the safety in Dime packages. He had 32 tackles and one interception.

Looking ahead: Looking to grab a hold of the starting safety job opposite of Terrence Brooks.

With Joyner at safety, FSU ranked best in the nation in passing efficiency defense with opponents averaging a rating of just 95.42 per game. Opponents were also held to a nation-low 48.79 completion percentage (admittedly the pass rush had a lot to do with this as well as the secondary).

The move opens the door for former five-star prospect Karlos Williams to finally crack the starting lineup at safety opposite of Terrence Brooks. Last season Williams played in all 14 games, mostly in dime packages as Brooks slid to the dime role, recording 32 tackles and defending three passes. His lone interception came as he lined up as a linebacker in place of the injured Nick Moody in the ACC Championship game.

Because of his size, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, many thought that Williams’ future could be as an outside linebacker rather than defensive back.

In addition to replacing Joyner at safety, FSU must also find a new starting cornerback with Xavier Rhodes headed to the NFL. Last season Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby split time opposite of Rhodes, but both will miss the spring with injuries and are expected to be ready by the fall. Tyler Hunter, who played nickel back last season and tied Rhodes for the team lead in interceptions with three, is also out for the spring.

Those injuries open the door for a host of young defensive backs like P.J. Williams, Keelin Smith and Colin Blake to make their cases this spring.

What to watch for this spring

If his future truly is as a safety, this spring will be huge for Williams to show the coaching staff that he’s ready to be a full-time player.

In addition to Williams, Fisher praised Lamarcus Brutus for the strides he’s made this offseason and he could carve out some playing time this fall with a good spring.

A trio of young defensive backs will also need to make an impression this spring. Williams, a sophomore, played in all 14 games, mostly on special teams, recording 14 tackles, one for loss and broke up one pass. Fisher said he’s excited to see what Williams does with the additional reps.

Smith had a terrific spring last year as he filled in for Rhodes, but the redshirt sophomore played in just 13 games last season, mostly on just special teams. He recorded nine tackles, 0.5 for loss and broke up one pass.

Blake took a redshirt last fall during his freshman season with a shoulder injury, but Fisher said he looks to be back to full speed after fourth quarter drills. All three young defensive backs need to have a good spring to prove to Pruitt and Fisher they can provide quality depth when the spring rolls around.

Looking ahead to this fall

In the fall Waisome, Darby and Hunter will all be back to full speed and looking to resume the roles they had in 2012. Waisome and Darby will likely continue to battle for the starting corner job opposite of Joyner.

Hunter will likely still be the nickel back, but could also factor in for playing time at safety or corner. Five-star signee Jalen Ramsey will also look to earn his way onto the filed in the fall.

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