Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Under Pressure: CB Lamarcus Joyner
By David M. Hale
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.
2012 performance: For the second straight season, Joyner was an All-ACC selection at safety, and few defensive backs in the conference commanded more attention from opposing coaches and quarterbacks. Joyner finished with 51 tackles and five pass breakups, while anchoring a secondary that ended the season ranked tops in the nation. Add in key contributions on special teams, where he averaged nearly 24 yards per kick return, and Joyner's impact was felt often. If there's a knock on his 2012 season, however, it's that while he did all the little things well, there weren't a ton of big plays. Joyner had just one INT on the year.
Pressure point: There was cause for celebration when Joyner decided to return to Florida State for his senior season, but testing the NFL waters did have some consequences. At 5-foot-8, Joyner was undersized for a safety, according to NFL scouts, so when he returned to FSU, he asked if he could try his hand at corner. It wasn't an unreasonable request, considering that's where Joyner began his career, but it does shake up what figured to be a stable secondary. Now, Joyner finds himself as a key cog on a defense that's undergone a massive overhaul, and if he struggles in his new role, more than a few fans will wonder if he put his personal future above the team's current needs.
Moving from safety to cornerback could be the best thing for FSU's defense and Lamarcus Joyner's future at the next level.
If he succeeds: It's a win-win for everyone if things work out. Joyner's skill set certainly fits the role. He's quick and physical and won't shy away from competition against any receiver. Moreover, while FSU's linebacking corps and nickelbacks struggled at times last season, Joyner seems like a natural fit to cover slot receivers and work in traffic over the middle. His move also opens up a spot for the immensely talented Karlos Williams at safety, getting yet another talented player on the field for the Seminoles. In the end, it'd be tough for FSU's secondary to improve much on its stellar 2012 performance, but a good year from Joyner could up his draft stock considerably and offer new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt ample options when toying with his scheme.
If he fails: Plenty of criticism will fall on Joyner and Jimbo Fisher for the decision to swap positions, and those NFL concerns about his ability to physically match up as a safety will only be exacerbated if he struggles at corner. It didn't exactly help that Joyner struggled a bit in FSU's spring game, being burned on both of QB Jameis Winston's touchdown passes, leaving a bit of concern lingering through the offseason. Moreover, Joyner's move to corner could signal less playing time for Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome or Tyler Hunter -- all talented players who produced when called upon last year.
Projection: Sure, Joyner's Garnet and Gold game performance wasn't an ideal coda to the spring, but it also wasn't particularly representative of his overall body of work. Throughout the spring, Fisher praised Joyner as one of FSU's top performers, and everyone from top receiver Rashad Greene to last year's starting corner Xavier Rhodes has endorsed the move as a natural fit. In fact, the real questions shouldn't be so much about whether Joyner can play corner. He's bound to lose a battle here and there, but he seems more than prepared for the job. The bigger issue is how much FSU will miss his presence at safety, where he was among the most feared, physical players in the league. Williams can be the same, of course, but if he's not, a big chunk of the blame may fall to Joyner for making the move. But really, from Joyner to Williams, Darby to Waisome, and on down the depth chart, there's simply too much talent in FSU's secondary for this experiment not to work.