Will 2013 be Karlos Williams' (above) year to step up and fill the big shoes of Lamarcus Joyner?
Next up: Safety
2012 recap: For all the questions surrounding Terrence Brooks' move to safety or Karlos Williams' role in the rotation, it turned out that 2012 was a remarkably quiet and consistent season for FSU at the position. Lamarcus Joyner was once again exceptional, earning All-ACC honors, Brooks struggled a bit against Clemson but overall found solid footing in his new role, and Williams made strides but never quite cracked the starting lineup. As a unit, the secondary helped Florida State finish tops in the nation in pass defense, and the safeties were exceptional at avoiding the big play. The Seminoles allowed just 41 passing plays of 15 yards or more in 2012, the fewest in the nation.
Departures: Does Joyner count as a departure? He certainly toyed with the idea of leaving altogether, entering the NFL draft where he figured to be a mid-round selection, but ultimately the undersized safety chose to return for his senior season. As it turns out, however, he won't be returning as a safety. Joyner will move to cornerback for 2013, where his size becomes less of a question and he can take a crack at making a bigger impression on NFL scouts. Still, Fisher expects Joyner to be something of a jack of all trades in the secondary, playing some nickel and safety along the way, too.
Arrivals: There aren't exactly new faces destined for the safety position this season -- at least not yet. But because of Fisher's predilection toward well-rounded defensive backs, new coordinator and secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt has a wealth of options to play with. Williams figures to get first crack at Joyner's abdicated role, but a bevy of corner-safety hybrids could see work this season at any and all defensive back positions. That, of course, makes Pruitt perhaps the most intriguing new addition. He has just three years of collegiate coaching experience under his belt, but he comes from an Alabama team that has shown a knack for exploiting surplus talent.
Biggest question mark: There are obvious questions, from whether Joyner's move was the correct one to whether Williams can fulfill all his promise. But slightly deeper on the priority list is a legitimate concern about depth. The beauty of Fisher's penchant for hybrid DBs is that FSU has options. The concern is that none of those options appear a slam-dunk answer for future job openings at safety. Brooks' career ends after 2013, and if Williams enjoys the success many are predicting, he could be headed to the NFL, too. So who's in line to step in for 2014? Pruitt doesn't need to find an answer immediately, but now's the time to start mining for possibilities.
Breakout star: Williams wins this honor hands down, and it could be he becomes the biggest breakout star on the roster -- and perhaps in the league. From the moment he set foot on campus, Williams was projected as a future All-ACC player, but his role has been rather ambiguous. He's seen work at safety, nickel and linebacker, and he could probably play any of those well, but he's never been the starter. He'll get his chance this season, and while replacing Joyner's consistency and leadership won't be easy, Williams' ceiling is as high as any player on FSU's roster.