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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
State of the Noles: Cornerback

By David Hale & Corey Dowlar

NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, one of the most promising positions on the FSU roster: Cornerback.

Current scholarship cornerbacks (9): Tyler Hunter (Jr.), P.J. Williams (So.), Lamarcus Joyner (Sr.), Colin Blake (RS-Fr.), Nick Waisome (Jr.), Keelin Smith (RS-So.), Ronald Darby (So.), Jalen Ramsey (Fr.), Marquez White (Fr.)

Potential early departures: Darby made an instant impact as a freshman in 2012, and if he continues to progress throughout the next two seasons, he seems like a distinct possibility for early entry into the NFL draft. Ramsey has yet to play a college game, but his upside is considerable.

Predicted starters (Hale's picks/Dowlar's picks)
2013: Joyner, Waisome/Joyner, Darby
2014: Waisome, Darby/Waisome, Darby
2015: Ramsey, Darby/Ramsey, Darby

Lamarcus Joyner
Lamarcus Joyner could move to cornerback as a senior.
Why they'll start: There might be no position on the roster where FSU is deeper than at cornerback, and while the numbers will make competition for playing time particularly tough, the versatility of the personnel also gives new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt ample latitude in how he chooses to utilize that depth.

The two most obvious contenders for playing time are Waisome and Darby, who shared duty opposite Xavier Rhodes in 2012, both establishing themselves as exceptional corners. Waisome held his own in a series of big matchups against elite ACC receivers and Darby came on to win freshman All-America honors. Both are ready for bigger roles in 2013 -- with just one small caveat.

As first reported by Warchant.com, Florida State is planning to give Joyner a shot at playing cornerback in his senior season after three fine seasons at safety. Joyner is a two-time All-ACC safety, but he projects better at corner in the NFL. Moreover, Florida State wants to get talented safety Karlos Williams on the field more in 2013, meaning Joyner will make the move -- at least for now.

That complicates matters for Waisome and Darby, but the realities of FSU's defensive scheme should mean all three receive regular playing time. The Seminoles will employ ample nickel and dime sets, and Joyner has the versatility to move between safety, corner and nickel with ease. The player most likely to see his playing time cut because of Joyner's transition is actually Hunter, who earned the biggest chunk of snaps at nickel in 2012.

Still, Hunter, P.J. Williams, Blake and others all project well at corner, safety or nickel, which means Pruitt will have a wealth of riches to survey this spring. The big chore will be figuring out how to put so many potentially impressive pieces together into a workable puzzle.

And that, of course, isn't even mentioning Ramsey, who might have as much raw talent as any of his colleagues.

Who might FSU add: Although listed as a wide receiver, 2014 FSU pledge J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee) could be a viable option at defensive back once on campus in Tallahassee. Besides him, there aren't any other committed players at the position heading into the next cycle.

The Seminoles have been in good position for Nigel Patten (Miami/Booker T. Washington), but former assistant James Coley's move to Miami could stunt things there. D'Andre Payne (Washington, D.C./Friendship Academy) is another player high on the list in addition to Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and Darin Smalls (Summerville, S.C./Summerville). Kalvaraz Bessent (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County), the latest offer at cornerback, is a new name on the radar.

Long-term grade: A. Of all of Florida State's impressive depth in the defensive backfield, only Joyner and Terrence Brooks are seniors, and with Ramsey and White joining the fold this season, the future at cornerback looks particularly bright. FSU will continue to seek talent at the position, but even a substandard recruiting class in 2014 wouldn't do much to diminish the the depth the Seminoles already enjoy.