Things are quieter without Jalen Ramsey patrolling the Florida State secondary. That doesn’t mean the unit doesn’t still have plenty of confidence without last season’s boisterous leader.
Even with the loss of Ramsey, who is expected to be a top 10 pick in next month’s NFL draft, most of the secondary returns. Last season Florida State was 21st in the nation against the pass, allowing just 191.6 yards per game.
“He was one of those guys who let you know he was there every single play. We don’t have that now,” junior safety Nate Andrews said. “We’re fine. Jalen was a great player but we have new guys who can play just as good as him.”
Junior cornerback Marquez White went one step further saying, “I feel like we’re still the most talented secondary in the country,”
The first step in figuring out who will replace Ramsey at cornerback is going on during spring practices. Sophomores Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis have been getting most of the snaps and have established themselves as the early favorites.
McFadden played in seven games last year while Lewis played in only four. Coach Jimbo Fisher lauded both players for their work during conditioning drills and White noted that both have similar skill sets that Ramsey possessed.
“They are both big and long. They’ve just got to put it together and really believe in their craft,” White said. “What I want to do is kind of work with them. They’re really the new piece to the defense. They know they’re talented.”
Florida State is slated to return 17 starters but the secondary could be its deepest position group with White and Andrews leading the way.
White is the only returning defensive back with an interception last season. He started all 13 games and also had two passes defensed along with 25 tackles.
Andrews, who was limited most of last season after breaking his hand in the fourth game at Wake Forest, is the only remaining defensive player who recorded a tackle in the 2013 National Championship win over Auburn.
Also returning at safety are freshman Derwin James and sophomore Trey Marshall.
Marshall, who could be the most physical safety on the team, played in only six games last year after he suffered a biceps injury in an Oct. 17 win over Louisville.
The player who was the biggest surprise last year was James, who is the leading returning tackler. His 91 tackles were the third-most by a true freshman in school history.
“I learned a lot. I’m actually helping other guys in the secondary,” James said. “Like coach Kelly (defensive coordinator Charles Kelly) say, if you can teach, you know it and are learning it twice. That’s helping me a lot. The game is slowing down for me a lot.”
Another quality that the veterans shared with Ramsey is versatility. All can excel as an extra defensive back in nickel situations at the star position — which is a hybrid safety/cornerback spot. James played some defensive end last season and had 4½ sacks while Andrews and Marshall can also play closer to the line.
“Derwin’s going to be Derwin. Trey’s going to be Trey. I’m going to be me. Everybody’s going to be themselves and I feel like that’s why we’ve got a chance to be the best secondary in the nation,” White said.
Notes: Freshman wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips underwent groin surgery on Tuesday and could be ready by the start of preseason practices in August. … Junior Ryan Green is back at running back after switching to cornerback last year.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.