Friday, August 2, 2013
FSU Countdown: No. 1 Lamarcus Joyner
By David M. Hale
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation counted down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart. Even since the list debuted with Mario Pender at No. 40, we've seen some shake-ups, and certainly a lot more can change before the season heats up. But when it comes to identifying Florida State's most impactful player in 2013, there's a nearly unanimous opinion at the moment.
Moving to cornerback could give 5-foot-8 Lamarcus Joyner a better shot at an NFL career.
What he's done: It's hard to really quantify the impact Joyner has made on Florida State's defense through his first three years with the program. Certainly his numbers from 2012 -- 51 tackles, 1 INT, six passes defended -- don't do justice to the manner in which he dictated games. He's a two-time All-ACC safety, whose physical presence on the field is as intimidating as any defensive back in the conference, in spite of his small stature. Opposing offenses avoided throwing his way, and as such, he helped shrink the field his fellow DBs had to cover and Florida State finished last year as the nation's top pass defense. He's been a vocal and mature leader on a team that lost its biggest voice in Greg Reid just before fall camp. His confidence, leadership and experience helped smooth the transition when former coordinator Mark Stoops announced he was leaving just before the ACC title game. And, as if all that wasn't enough, Joyner has flourished on special teams, where he's been one of the top kick returners in school history. His 90-yard return against Clemson was the defining play in Florida State's biggest win of the year.
Where he's at: If Joyner was three inches taller, odds are he'd have been a first-round draft pick after the 2012 season, and he'd currently be lacing up his cleats in an NFL training camp. Instead, his 5-foot-8 frame pegged him as a mid-round selection from NFL scouts, and Joyner decided that, rather than roll the dice in the draft, he'd return to school and further burnish his credentials. That's meant a major shake-up in the secondary, with Joyner moving from safety to corner this spring. The move was his choice, but a decision that Jimbo Fisher and new DC Jeremy Pruitt happily approved. Still, questions remain. Joyner has been such an impact player at safety, and Florida State has such depth at corner, there are concerns that the move disrupts the entire secondary and was made more for Joyner's personal benefit than the team's overall success. Moreover, his performance in the spring game didn't exactly energize fans as he was on the wrong side of both of freshman QB Jameis Winston's long touchdown throws. Of course, Joyner also arrived at FSU as a corner, and its a position that he probably fits best at given his skill set. And perhaps as important, there's a reasonable chance he might've bolted for the NFL if the move wasn't made.
What's to come: It wouldn't be a complete surprise if Joyner's performance at corner didn't match the success he had at safety, but that's an awfully high bar to exceed. But what the critics of the move miss is how influential and versatile Joyner is on the field. Yes, he'll be getting more reps at corner this season, but he figures to spend a significant amount of time at safety and nickel, too. Given some of FSU's struggles in coverage against slot receivers and tight ends last season, his presence in those roles could mark a significant improvement. Additionally, with the massive shake-up in both personnel and coaching for FSU's defense this year, Joyner represents a calming influence. He's as up-tempo a player as there is in college football, and he's embraced his role as a leader, helping to mentor potential stars like Nick Waisome, Ronald Darby and Karlos Williams. Had Joyner departed for the NFL, the Seminoles certainly would've had the talent to still fill out its secondary, but it wouldn't have had the personality. What Joyner does for the Seminoles on defense, on special teams and in the locker room is irreplaceable, and his return for 2013 was perhaps the single biggest positive Florida State enjoyed this offseason.