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2010 Florida State Preview – Defense
Florida State LB Nigel Bradham
Florida State LB Nigel Bradham
Posted Jun 2, 2010 2010 Preview - Florida State Seminole Defense

Florida State Seminoles

Preview 2010 - Defense

- 2010 Florida State Preview | 2010 Florida State Offense
- 2010 Florida State Defense | 2010 Florida State Depth Chart
- Florida State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: With all due respect to the incoming freshman class, there isn’t a more important newcomer in Tallahassee than defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Brought in to clean up the mess on this side of the ball, his job approval rating will go a long way to determining how much Florida State improves in 2010. The Seminoles were historically and uncharacteristically bad a year ago, ranking last in the ACC in rush, pass efficiency, and total D. They looked up at the likes of Duke, Virginia, and NC State, an unimaginable result. Stoops brings a new scheme from Arizona, which employs more zone coverages and blitzes. He inherits the typical supply of speed and former blue-chippers, but there’s plenty of work to be done. From the most basic standpoint, the ‘Noles must tackle and cover much better than last year. If there’s a strength, it’s the linebackers, which house potential all-stars Nigel Bradham and Kendall Smith. At corner, young Greg Reid is a human dynamo, with All-American talent. Progress is a certainty, but a complete turnaround with this group is asking too much.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Nigel Bradham, 93
Sacks: Mister Alexander, 5
Interceptions: Ochuko Jenije, 4

Star of the defense: Junior LB Nigel Bradham
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DE Brandon Jenkins
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NG Jacobbi McDaniel
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Markus White
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bradham, 2) Sophomore CB Greg Reid, 3) White
Strength of the defense: Team speed, creating turnovers, linebackers
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense, run defense, pass rush, interior size, third down defense, red zone defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Seminoles will be looking to rebuild a defensive line that too often got bullied a year ago, and loses three key players from the rotation. One of the stalwarts up front will be 6-4, 262-pound senior DE Markus White, who is just now coming into his own. A late-bloomer, with his best days ahead of him, he started 12 games and made 38 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. He has a great motor and plays with a contagious energy, but needs to bottle up all of his quickness and do a better job of finishing plays. If he does, the table is set for him to be the team’s best pass rusher in 2010.

White is going to need help on the other side, which means 6-3, 234-pound sophomore Brandon Jenkins will be asked to build on his first season on campus. The rare true freshman to contribute right away, he appeared as a reserve in 12 games, making 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a team-best four quarterback hurries. A bit of a ‘tweener because of his size, he’s quick out of the blocks, uses his hands very well, and plays with an ample supply of intensity.

Another second-year player looking to build on his debut is 6-0, 287-pound sophomore NG Jacobbi McDaniel. As good as advertised, when he was considered one of the nation’s top recruits of 2009, he played in 13 games, chipping in 25 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, and two forced fumbles. Forget the fact that he doesn’t possess ideal size for the position. He’s a prototypical three-tech tackle, with the speed, balance, and agility to slice through and disrupt plays in the backfield.

Slated to start at defensive tackle is 6-2, 269-pound sophomore Everett Dawkins, who is just now beginning to blossom. After beginning his career as an end and missing most of his debut with an injury, he put down the ground floor of Seminole career in 2009, starting seven games and making 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. Like McDaniel, he relies more on his speed and quickness to make plays instead of his girth and raw power.

Projected Top Reserves: The first end off the bench is likely to be 6-5, 225-pound sophomore Toshmon Stevens. He got his feet wet in 2009, posting a couple of stops and mostly appearing on special teams. An all-around dynamic athlete, he has the speed and bounce in his step to be no worse than a disruptive presence as a situational pass rusher.

Junior Moses McCray is behind Dawkins at defensive tackle for now, but is hoping to change that over the summer. He fell behind a bit after missing the spring to recover from elbow surgery, an injury that’s expected to be fully healed by the start of the season. At 6-2 and 302 pounds, he gives the line some much-needed bulk, yet has the quickness and technique to also make stops in the backfield. A nine-game starter in 2009, he was hampered by the elbow problem, making just a dozen stops and a tackle for loss.

One of the pleasant surprises of the offseason has been 6-2, 303-pound sophomore Anthony McCloud, a first-year transfer from Itwamba (Miss.) Community College. It took a few practices, but once he got comfortable, he provided the presence and run-stopping ability that the Seminoles are looking for behind McDaniel at the nose.

Watch Out For … a lot of different looks from the defensive ends. Unlike the past, when this group was essentially asked to pin its ears back and bull rush, the outside rushers will do a fair amount of freelancing, even dropping back into pass coverage from time to time. If nothing else, the line will be a lot less predictable than in the past.
Strength: Athleticism. The way the line is currently constructed, it should be able to get penetration from the outside or the inside. Basically, the ends move like outside linebackers and the tackles are as quick as some ends, which should result in more plays for minus yards this fall.
Weakness: Run defense. The ‘Noles were gashed repeatedly in 2009, ranking last in the ACC versus the run and allowing a whopping 5.38 yards per carry. The root of the problem was a defensive line that got whipped at the point of attack, lacked adequate muscle on the interior, and got burned regularly on sweeps. Even if the situation improves, Florida State will still give up a bunch of yards to quality ground games.
Outlook: While the only direction is up for this unit, it’ll still be far from vintage Florida State in 2010. Obviously, the defensive line has talent. It always does. However, there are existing holes in run defense and a need for a scary edge rusher, indications these guys might still be a year away.
Unit Rating:


Projected Starters: Though Dekoda Watson needs to be replaced, the core of the linebackers is back. The new leader will be 6-2, 241-pound junior Nigel Bradham, who’s coming off a breakthrough year at weakside. A gem from the 2008 class, he led the team with 93 tackles, including 61 solos, adding 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. Blessed with an ideal combination of speed, power, and crushing hits, he has an exciting second half of his career ahead of him.

The other returning starter will be 6-0, 235-pound senior Kendall Smith, coming off a solid first season as a full-timer. A rock in the middle of the second unit, he was just behind Bradham in tackles, making 85 stops, seven tackles for loss, and a couple of sacks. A quality read-and-react defender, he’s a steady force for the Seminoles, filling running lanes quickly and wrapping up in the open field.

At strongside, the newcomer of the starting unit is expected to be 6-2, 231-pound junior Nigel Carr, a two-time letterwinner on the brink of a significant promotion. More than just a terrific athlete, he also brings leadership and a positive attitude to the defense. Mixing good size with excellent closing speed, he picked up a career-high 26 tackles as a member of the defense and special teams.

Projected Top Reserves: At weakside, the staff is excited to be getting back 6-0, 252-pound sophomore Vince Williams, who missed all of last season because of a back injury. A punishing hitter, with the solid base needed to defend the run, he showed flashes of his potential as a reserve two years ago, making 10 tackles and adapting to his role on the defense.

Over at strongside, 6-3, 227-pound senior Mister Alexander begins his final season with high hopes. Saddled with injuries for much of his college career, he was finally healthy in 2009 and showed his upside as a disruptive defender. Despite coming off the bench, he had 17 tackles, six tackles for loss, and five sacks to finish second on the team. If he can remain at full-strength, he has the athleticism to be a versatile role player for the coaches.

Watch Out For … incoming freshman Jeff Luc. A year away from starting in the middle, he is the future at linebacker in Tallahassee. A classic 6-0, 249-pound run-stuffer, he has tremendous closing speed and absolutely explodes upon on impact. Having already participated in spring drills, he’s starting to flatten the learning curve and will have a significant role in the rotation this fall.
Strength: Intimidation. From top to bottom, these Seminole linebackers revel at the opportunity to light up the man with the ball. Just about everyone is north of 230 pounds, fast, and dangerous when he zeroes in on a target. Don’t be surprised if these guys have a bunch KOs and forced turnovers during the season.
Weakness: Consistency. While youth certainly might have played a factor, the linebackers did their part to contribute to one of the worst defenses in school history. There were too many missed tackles and poor reads, which the coaches have aimed to address in the offseason.
Outlook: Although Bradham and Smith have been good, neither has been otherworldly by Florida State standards. Both must elevate their overall level play, while getting more support from the others, like Carr, Williams, and Alexander. The raw talent in place, it’s just a matter of transforming this group into a bunch of playmakers.
Unit Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: As if things can’t get much worse for the ‘Noles battered secondary, it must now retool without three of last year’s regulars, Patrick Robinson, Jamie Robinson, and Korey Mangum. The good news is that sophomore CB Greg Reid might be on the lip of the superstar cup. Though just 5-8 and 174 yards, he is a dynamite athlete, with the speed, cover skills, and jumping ability to play much bigger than his frame. While best known for his highlight reel bursts on special teams, he also managed to make 23 tackles, pick off two passes, and break up six others.

The team’s veteran at cornerback will be 5-11, 195-pound senior Ochuko Jenije. A three-time letterman and second-year starter, he figures to be as comfortable as he’s ever been in the defensive backfield. Inconsistent in pass coverage, he needs to transform all of his speed and physical gifts into tighter defense. In 2009, his 31 tackles and team-high four picks don’t reveal the number of times a receiver got behind him.

Big-hitting sophomore Nick Moody is set to take over at free safety now that Jamie Robinson is gone. At 6-2 and 226 pounds, he’s a potential enforcer, starting a pair of games at rover and making 33 tackles on defense and special teams. While he’ll defend the run with the ferocity of a linebacker, he still needs to prove he can cover receivers and tight ends, an unknown up to this point.

Over at strong safety, the coaching staff is cautiously optimistic that 6-2, 212-pound junior Terrance Parks is finally about to hit his stride. A cornerback when he arrived, he’s added considerable muscle to go along with an aggressive demeanor. In two seasons, he’s appeared in 16 games, yet has made just eight tackles, hardly an indication of how good he might be once the snaps starts coming regularly.

Projected Top Reserves: A key veteran in the rotation at cornerback will be 5-11, 183-pound junior Dionte Allen. After recovering from a thumb injury, he saw the field for nine games, chipping in 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and three passes defended. A key recruit from 2007 and one of the fastest Seminoles, he needs to start playing up to his ability and expectations.

At free safety, 6-0, 185-pound rookie Justin Bright is looking to work his way into the rotation after redshirting last season. While he may not match the other defensive backs on an athletic level, he is a terrific all-around player, with the field awareness and intensity to start contributing before very long. He has a very bright future in Tallahassee, especially once he adds another 10-15 pounds of muscle.

Watch Out For … Reid to take his first big step toward becoming an ACC star. The sophomore has certain qualities that just jump off the fill, such as his knack for the big play and explosive athleticism. He makes things happen and plays with non-stop energy, which will make him a household name before long.
Strength: Open field tackling. Moody and Parks may not have a ton of experience, but both will deliver the payload like a linebacker. Oh, and underestimate Reid at your own risk. He may be only 5-8 and 174 pounds, but he will light up ballcarriers, who don’t travel with their head on a swivel.
Weakness: Yielding the big play. For the second straight season, Florida State wasn’t just soft in coverage—it was downright awful. In a stark contrast to its personality, the Seminoles ranked last in the ACC in pass efficiency D, giving up 26 touchdown passes and a whopping 14.59 yards a completion.
Outlook: There’s little debate that the secondary is the single greatest concern heading into the 2010 season. Not only was the Seminole pass defense shredded a year ago, but top cover corner Patrick Robinson was a first round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints. While improvement is inevitable, don’t expect a dramatic turnaround with a group that’s still going to be marginal at containing receivers.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Sophomore Dustin Hopkins showed in his debut why he was considered the premier prep placekicker of 2009. He won the job in the summer and went on to lead the team in scoring, going 19-of-27 on field goals, while sporting a booming right leg. The next in a long line of Groza-contending Seminole kickers, he’ll be in line for national recognition as soon as he tightens up his accuracy outside 40 yards.

In his first full season of action, junior Shawn Powell averaged 41.6 yards on punts and was second in the ACC in league games. At 6-4 and 227 pounds, he looks more like a linebacker, driving his leg into the ball with power and sporting enough athletic ability to excel on rugby punts as well.

In the return game, Florida State has a bona fine gamebreaker in 5-8, 174-pound sophomore Greg Reid. Explosive in space, he led the nation in punt returns at over 18 yards a return, and ranked fourth in the ACC on kickoffs. So dangerous, he’ll force the opposition to kick away from him this fall.

Watch Out For … Hopkins’ accuracy to improve markedly. With a year behind him, he’s going to settle down and start nailing a higher percentage of those kicks beyond 40 yards. Leg strength and fundamentals will never be a concern, so it’s just a matter of him getting more comfortable and gaining more confidence.
Strength: Reid. In a quality unit, he’s already top-shelf, altering the way the other team handles its special teams. Frighteningly quick and fast, he’s lethal once he starts navigating the field on punts and kickoffs.
Weakness: Coverage units. While not a glaring problem, the ‘Noles were a little softer than usual in coverage last season. It’s nothing a tweak or two can’t solve, but assistant Eddie Gran will expect better results considering the caliber of athletes he has on the field.
Outlook: Few holes and loads of potential characterize this year’s special teams unit. Hopkins and Reid are emerging stars in just their second seasons on campus, and Powell is an asset punter. If the cover teams can plug a few holes, Florida State can vie for the ACC’s premier group, giving a major boost to the offense and defense.
Unit Rating: 8.5

- 2010 Florida State Preview | 2010 Florida State Offense
- 2010 Florida State Defense | 2010 Florida State Depth Chart
- Florida State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006