Since the end of the Seminoles’ championship run, I’ve seen and heard a lot of people say the 2014 FSU defense will be reloading, not rebuilding. Some imply that the loss of five major contributors will mostly be felt on the leadership aspect of the team, and not the actual field. Well quite frankly, that’s just not right.
211 tackles, 43.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, 14 pass break-ups, 8 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles. That’s what will need to be replaced. Gone from the 2013 championship defense are Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, Telvin Smith, Christian Jones, and Terrence Brooks: five players who will be missed, and for more than the way they led their team.
First up is replacing Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. Both these players were leaders on and off the field, but both also had issues. Jones was a liability in pass coverage, and Telvin was sometimes overly aggressive. The ‘Noles have a plethora of options that could step up and replace these two guys on the field. I expect Ukeme Eligwe, Matt Thomas, Reggie Northrup, E.J. Levenberry and Jacob Pugh to battle it out, as all five players ooze potential, and, in the long run, could possibly be better than the departing duo. I don’t expect much drop off in on-field production here.
Replacing Joyner and Brooks is where I think the ‘Noles will begin to see some noticable drop off on the field. They lose a do-it-all corner who could cover just about anybody on the field thanks to his lengthy arms and high vertical jump, and also lose a safety whose on-field play was criminally underrated. Yes, I know the coaching staff has stock-piled this position on the recruiting trail the last few years, but you just can’t replace Lamarcus Joyner. You can’t replace the heart and determination that he had while playing. Sure, Nate Andrews, Marquez White, and Nick Waisome can try and possibly prove me wrong, but I’m confident in saying that whoever takes Joyner’s role will not be as good. The same can be said for Terrence Brooks. However, I think the Noles should be fine, as Tyler Hunter will be returning from injury and could very well get back to his 2012 playing form.
Now here is where the Noles could potentionally have a major problem: defensive tackle. Sure, they have a heap of players with potential at the position, but like Lamarcus Joyner, there is only one Timmy Jernigan. A likely first-round pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft, Jernigan was perhaps the most dominant force on the 2013 defense that was the best in college football. The good news is the abundance of talent waiting in the wings. Four former 4-star players and two incoming 4-stars will all compete to replace Jernigan. The bad news is that Derrick Mitchell and Nile Lawrence-Stample have yet to show any signs of being able to live up to their 4-star status. So that leaves Keith Bryant, Justin Shanks, Derrick Nnadi, and Demarcus Christmas to step up and give the defense enough help to make the loss of Jernigan less glaring.
Yes, there is a lot of talent behind the departing players, but no, it won’t be as easy to replace them as some are implying. However, the coaching staff has done an excellent job developing players the last few years. The defense will still be a top-10 defense, and with Jameis Winston and the most effecient offense in the country returning, that’s all it needs.
Tags: Florida State Football