Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
The annual Garnet and Gold game lacked the excitement from the scrimmages of the past, but it didn’t fail to captivate my full attention. Championship hangovers are not uncommon for teams seeking to defend their crystal ball, but Jimbo Fisher’s team showed its competitive spirit through their hustle and energetic jive. The first team defense set the tone for the game and pushed the offense to either turn up the heat, or get embarrassed on national television.
After the lackluster start to the game, Jameis Winston realized his defensive counterparts were not going to be showing him any mercy. Winston and the first team receivers found out from the first series of the game that the best secondary in college football wasn’t giving up any easy yards. Yes, even with the departure of safety Terrance Brooks and Jim Thorpe finalist Lamarcus Joyner, I think this secondary will top the production from the number 1 ranked pass defense in the country last season.
With cornerback Ronald Darby and safety Nate Andrews out for the spring game with injury, the Seminoles were able to show their superior depth and talent despite their absences. Opposite of Darby at the other starting corner spot is P.J. Williams, who is a very talented defensive back in his own right. He lined up across from Florida State’s best wide out, Rashad Greene, throughout the entire first half, and more than held his own. Williams blanketed Greene and it wasn’t until later in the game when the defense started rotating heavily that Greene would start racking up the catches. Replacing Andrews was the tandem of Lamarcus Brutus and true freshman early enrollee, Trey Marshall. Brutus surprised me with his consistency in coverage and run support, and after minimal playing time last season (besides special teams) it is important that he provides critical depth in case of injury at safety. Marshall showed his high ceiling, flying around like he has been around this defense for years. Expect Marshall to impress when he is called upon this upcoming season. When Darby and Andrews return to the line-up, you can expect abnormally impressive numbers from this secondary and opposing offenses to become one-dimensional. New defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly, must be salivating over the thought of talent he has in the secondary with the return of safety Tyler Hunter and Freshman All-American Jalen Ramsey, who recorded an interception on Winston early in the first quarter.
Replacing Christian Jones as a pass-rusher was something I mentioned last week as a goal that needed to be achieved in the spring game. Although one single player might not complete this task, a few guys showed the ability to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. First I have to mention Roderrick Hoskins for his outstanding performance with two sacks and one interception that he took to the house. He put on some weight in order to play with his hand in the dirt more, but still has the athletic ability to drop back into coverage at times. Chris Casher showed a quick twitch and exceptional burst off of the line of scrimmage and opposite of potential first rounder, Mario Edwards Jr., I expect Hoskins and Casher to rack up their fair share of sacks.
This defense has a chance to put up gaudy numbers, and people don’t want to believe this because they will be a much younger unit than last year’s squad, but they are bigger and deeper. As evidenced by the Steelers Steel Curtain of the 1970’s, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 2002 (to name a few), defense wins championships. With Winston losing his top two receivers, the defense could be the difference in Florida State’s chances of repeating.
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