2007 Florida State Preview - Defense

Posted Jun 23, 2007

Preview 2007 Florida State Seminoles Defense Preview

Florida State Seminoles

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Florida State Preview | 2007 FSU Offense Preview 
2007 FSU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Florida State Preview 

What you need to know: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Myron Rolle, 77
Sacks: Everette Brown, Geno Hayes, Kevin McNeil, 3
Interceptions: Roger Williams, 4

Star of the defense: Sophomore SS Myron Rolle
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Alex Boston
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Everette Brown
Best pro prospect: Rolle
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Rolle, 2) DT Andre Fluellen, 3) LB Geno Hayes
Strength of the defense: Secondary
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rushing ends, healthy starting linebackers

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Noles have question marks on the line, but they have a great one to revolve around in 6-4, 286-pound senior tackle Andre Fluellen on the inside. While he's not a space-eater, he's as quick as an end and can more than hold his own against the run. He came up with 28 tackles and eight tackles for loss, but with his athleticism, he should be doing far more to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

When healthy, 6-1, 288-pound junior Paul Griffin will be back at tackle, and will likely play on the nose allowing Fluellen to move around. The former JUCO transfer got the start early on, making one tackle, and then was lost for the year with a torn ACL. One of the team's strongest players, he's a weight room monster who fills the bill as the anchor up front.

Finding a steady pass rusher on the end is job one, and the hope will be for 6-3, 264-pound senior Alex Boston to use his experience to make more of an impact. With great size for an end, he needs to do more against the run after only making eight tackles last season, and he hasn't broken out as a pass rusher. Even so, six of his eight stops were behind the line, and he had ankle problems throughout the year, so the hope will be for him to be healthy, and consistent.

On the other side, at least going into the fall, will sophomore Everette Brown, a 6-4, 240-pound speed defender who started in three games and finished with 27 tackles, three sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He was the team's most productive pass rushing lineman, and now he's expected to flourish in a full-time role. After a great spring, either the FSU offensive line has a long way to go, or Brown is going to be special.

Projected Top Reserves: Seeing plenty of action in the rotation will be 6-4 286-pound junior Letroy Guion, who came on over the second half of last year to finish with 24 stops and four tackles for loss. While he's strong enough to play on the nose, he appears to be more suited for the other tackle spot.

Helping out on the end will be 6-1, 245-pound junior Neely Moffett after coming up with 13 tackles and looking great in spring ball. He'll push Boston hard for a starting job after showing off more of a motor this spring. Talent isn't the issue, but getting him to play up to his potential has been.

6-4, 255-pound JUCO transfer Brian Coulter cranked out 13 sacks for Pearl River CC in Mississippi last season, and now he's expected to pump some life into the stagnant FSU pass rush. He'll be moved around where needed, and while he likely won't see much in the way of starting time, he'll be a pass rushing specialist.

Watch Out For ... Brown. The line needs one player who can make things happen on the outside, and Brown appears to be ready to take a step up and be the pass rusher the team sorely needs. He might be undersized, but there will be times this year when he'll be unblockable.
Strength: Tackles. Fluellen is a lock for All-ACC honors, and he could be on several All-America teams by the end of the year. If Griffin is back to 100%, or close to it, no one will be able to run up the gut.
Weakness: Proven pass rushers. All the pressure last year was generated by the linebackers. Boston has been a bust, Moffett hasn't scratched the surface on what he can do, and Coulter is an unknown. Brown needs to play like he did all spring.
Outlook: Much has been made about the lack of sacks, but the front four did a far better job than it got credit for. It held up well against the run, made plenty of plays in the backfield, and generally was solid without being flashy. Now there needs to be more pizzazz, especially from the ends. There will be several big position battles throughout the year, but if Fluellen goes down, there will be problems.


Projected Starters: 6-2, 215-pound Geno Hayes is moving to the middle, unless Derek Nicholson is there. With all the inexperience around him, Hayes has to take over the leadership role from Buster Davis and be an all-around playmaker. He had a nice year with 59 tackles, three sacks and 12 tackles for loss, but he didn't do enough against the pass on the weakside and he was the clear number three man in the linebacking corps. While he's extremely fast, he'll have to prove he can hold up against the run.

If Hayes doesn't stay in the middle, he'll move back to the weakside and 6-2, 230-pound Derek Nicholson, the brother for former Seminole star, A.J., will take over. One of the team's biggest linebackers, his toughness is a must against the run. While he has the speed to play on the outside, he has to get back to 100% after tearing his ACL midway through the season. Mostly a special teamer so far, he's one of the defense's biggest X factors.

On the strongside will likely be 6-0, 213-pound sophomore Marcus Ball, who's looking to come back from a torn ACL suffered on special teams. On his way to a nice season before getting hurt, making 13 tackles and an interception in just four games, he'll be a major factor once he's healthy again.

Projected Top Reserves: Until Ball is back, the strongside job will be manned by 6-2, 224-pound Dekoda Watson, he showed he could play with a nice freshman year making 23 tackles and two sacks in a reserve role. Strong enough to line up on the line at times, he's an intimidating tackler who'll be the first one in the mix somewhere on the outside if he's not starting.

If Hayes stays on the inside, it's possible 6-0, 200-pound junior Rodney Gallon will start on the weakside. Extremely fast and athletic, he's like a safety playing linebacker and will be a pass rushing terror with more responsibility. He made 12 tackles as a reserve and will be a star on special teams.

On the way to help out will be true freshman Kendall Smith, who made 156 tackles in his senior year. Another defensive back sized linebacker who can fly, he's a middle linebacker who'll likely play on the outside early on if he doesn't redshirt.

Watch Out For ... a lot of shuffling. Hayes is the one sure thing to find a starting spot somewhere. The other two jobs are up for grabs and might not be decided until just before the opener.
Strength: Speed and athleticism. That's always a given at Florida State, and it'll once again mean plenty of good hitters flying all over the place, getting into the backfield like a bolt of lightning, and being disruptive.
Weakness: Size. If Nicholson isn't back, this will be one of the ACC's lightest linebacking corps. Injuries have been an issue for many of the key players the defense will be counting on, and holding up for a full season could be a problem.
Outlook: Florida State is a linebacker factory. Lose Ernie Sims, Sam McGrew and A.J. Nicholson, and Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons blow up. Lose Davis and Timmons, and hope for Watson and Ball to step up while needing Hayes to blow up. It's asking too much for Nicholson and Ball to be back and as good as new on their injured knees, so the overall depth could suffer if they're not a big part of the defense right off the bat.

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
6-2, 218-pound sophomore Myron Rolle was supposed to be good, but he lived up to the impressive hype and more as a true freshman with 77 tackles, an interception, five broken up passes and 5.5 tackles for loss. He's big, strong, fast, and handled himself well at strong safety. A prototype for the position, he's one of the ACC's biggest hitters with enough speed to be great at free safety if needed. He'll be a multi-millionaire very soon.

Next to Rolle at free safety will be 6-0, 200-pound senior Roger Williams, who finished fourth on the team with 67 stops and led the was with four interceptions. He might not be an all-star, but he's a good veteran who'll make plenty of plays against the run and will hold his own against the pass.

While Rolle gets all the attention in the secondary, 5-9, 160-pound junior Tony Carter is almost as effective. He's not all that big, but he's physical for his size making 27 tackles with two interceptions and five broken up passes. After taking his lumps as a freshman, and coming through with a nice sophomore year, he should now blossom into an all-star.

Listed as a starter coming out of spring ball, 6-2, 187-pound sophomore Jamie Robinson will likely rotate with Michael Ray Garvin at the spot opposite of Carter. With his size, speed, and hitting ability, he's the total package. Now he'll play a bigger role after making 26 tackles with four broken up passes.

Projected Top Reserves: There's speed at Florida State, and then there's Michael Ray Garvin. The 5-8, 181-pound junior is a sprinter on the Seminole track team and has been a solid kickoff returner. He probed to be more than just a track guy last year with 35 tackles (30 of them solo) with an interception and three broken up passes, and now he has to use his elite speed to make more big plays. 

Junior Darius McClure had a nice year as backup safety making 16 stops and breaking up two passes. Able to play either spot, and see time on special teams, he'll start out the year behind Williams at free safety and will move around where needed.

On the way is Dionte Allen, one of the nation's top cornerback recruits with 4.4 speed and good tackling skills. The Noles were able to get the Michigan native away from several major Midwest schools, as well as Miami, and he could end up playing a big role right away.

Watch Out For ... Robinson. In a secondary full of pro prospects, Robinson is below Rolle and ahead of Carter in the NFL pecking order. That'll still probably make him a top 100 pick if he can hold off Garvin for the starting job.
Strength: Experience. With four starters returning, along with a slew of good backups, the Seminole secondary has more than enough veteran talent to rely on. If there's more of a pass rush, as expected, this group should be even better.
Weakness: Big plays. For a secondary this good, there needs to be more than the eight interceptions it came up with. Williams, the least talented of the bunch, did his part, and now the corners have to start making quarterbacks pay.
Outlook: This is the strength of the team. Rolle is an All-American, Carter will be All-ACC, and Robinson and Garvin will get long looks from the NFL. As Rolle gets more experienced, the more he'll dominate and the more the rest of the secondary can focus on just doing their jobs. It'll be a shock if this isn't among the nation's best secondaries.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Is junior Graham Gano going to handle all the kicking duties? A solid punter who averaged 40.8 yards per kick and put 17 inside the 20, he might be the placekicker if he can be consistent. With a huge leg, he's strong on kickoffs and could possibly handle more long range field goal attempts. For now, senior Gary Cismesia will continue to handle the placekicking job after a decent year hitting 14 of 20 attempts. He doesn't have big leg, and he struggled late in the season, opening the door for Gano.

Watch Out For ... Gano to make a serious push for the placekicking job. Cismesia is a veteran, but he didn't exactly inspire confidence this spring. The job is there for the taking.
Strength: Gano on kickoffs. With the ball being moved back to the 30, Gano should help the overall cause. He'll come up with more blasts on his punts from all over the field.
Weakness: Coverage units. FSU allowed 11.6 yards per punt return and 24.4 yards on kickoff returns. This can't be a problem again.
Outlook: Considering the Noles played in seven games decided by seven points or fewer and can't afford to be so lousy on special teams again. Cismesia has been serviceable, but he needs to be better. It'll be asking a lot for true freshman Bert Reed to add more pup to the punt return game, while Michael Ray Garvin, who averaged 22.6 yards per kickoff return, has to do even more. Gano will come up with a big year in one way or another.


Related Stories
2007 Florida State Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 23, 2007
2007 Florida State Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 23, 2007
2007 Florida State Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 23, 2007

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