Preview 2007 - Defense
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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.
Myron Rolle, 77
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.