5 Days and Counting... Sizing up the Secondary
During the Seminole's rise to power in the late '80s and early '90s Florida State became known as "Cornerback U", and for good reason. For seven straight seasons the 'Noles produced an All-American defensive back, including all-time great Deion Sanders and Heisman candidate Terrell Buckley. Even after the string of All-Americans ended in the mid-'90s FSU continued to produce standout CBs like Samari Rolle, Mario Edwards, and Tay Cody. However FSU comes into the 2006 season perilously thin in the secondary. The loss of starting safeties Pat Watkins and Kyler Hall has elevated freshmen and former walk-ons into prominent roles. Antonio Cromartie's early departure to the NFL left a collection of underclassmen to handle the CB duties. So who will step up to fill the void left by the departed stars? Fortunately there is some experience returning on the corners and an intriguing freshman ready to write a new chapter in the long story of star safeties at Florida State.
When Clemson fans have nightmares this is what they see
Field Corner - Tony Carter was a big surprise last year despit his diminutive size. The scrappy corner made a number of big plays against Miami's much-hyped receivers in the season opener, then played through shoulder troubles to post an impressive first season. This year he returns bigger, stronger, and ready to assume the role of lock-down corner. He will be asked to handle standouts such as Lance Leggett and Rendrick Taylor one-on-one, and judging from last year he should be equal to the task. Fellow sophomore Michael Ray Garvin, another impressive freshman last year, will back-up Carter and will likely serve as nickle corner.
Rover - Ever since he spurned Penn State and Florida to sign with the 'Noles FSU fans have been salivating to get a glimpse of Myron Rolle. Although former walk-on Anthony Houllis is the nominal starter it is widely assumed that Rolle will take over the starting role at some point...maybe during the Miami game. His outstanding performance in pre-season practices has only whetted a hungry fanbase's appetite, but the 'Canes are a mighty tough initiation to college football. Any freshman, no matter how gifted, is sure to experience some difficulties making the transition to callege ball and Roll will probably be no exception. Still, he offers a mix of size, speed, and power that Kyler Hall simply didn't possess. Should Rolle come even remotely close to meeting the massive expectations we all have for him he'll be a nice upgrade at rover.
ACC receivers beware...this is Myron being NICE!
Free Safety - Pat Watkins was one of our favorite 'Noles for the last four years, and we watched on with a mix of pride and sadness when he was drafted by the loathsome Dallas Cowboys. Now his understudy Roger Willimas moves into the role of starter, and while Williams doesn't possess Watkins' freakish measurables he does bring a steady presence to the offense and an intimdating reputation as a fierce tackler. Williams forced two fumbles in the epic ACCCG victory over Virginia Tech and performed well in relief last year. There shouldn't be a big drop-off from Watkins to Williams, but depth is still an issue. Kenny Ingram is still ineligible and Clarence Ward left the team so the back-up free safety is still a question mark. Will Darius McClure move over from rover full-time or will another player be moved to the position. Such a glaring hole is unsettling so close to the season.
Boundary Corner - Incumbent starter JR Bryant returns to man the boundary side. No disrespect to Bryant, but The Chop Shop gets lost at times daydreaming about how unholy the secondary could have been if Cromartie and his 6'3", 200 lbs of badass were starting here. Bryant was inconsistent last year, but then again he was only a sophomore. If he can continue to improve FSU will have two great starters at CB. Depth could be an issue her as well though, since redshirt freshmen Jaime Robinson and Korey Mangum will battle for the back-up spot.
Excuse me while I weep on my keyboard and dream of what might have been
While the 'Noles may not regain their reputation as Cornerback U this year there is plenty of young talent in the pipeline. At this time next year we may be talking about this group as one of the best in the nation, and then the secondary - like the rest of the program - may be ready to reestablish itself as the best in the nation.
Coming tomorrow: Will the running game be resurrected?