Florida State Seminoles: D.J. Eliot
With that in mind, 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.
Today, we're looking at one of FSU's most productive positions under Jimbo Fisher: Defensive end.
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About an hour before the news broke that Florida State assistant coach, and Bellamy's primary recruiter, Dameyune Craig was headed to Auburn, Bellamy got the call from the coach himself explaining the situation.
"I definitely understand, and I told him good luck," Bellamy said. "He told me that they are going to come at me hard once he gets to Auburn and gets set up."
Though Craig insists he will continue to recruit Bellamy once at Auburn, the four-star prospect said it could be a "bad fit" for him there. Five-star defensive end Carl Lawson (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) already is committed to Auburn, along with four-star Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J./Immaculata), Bellamy did cite "politics" as a hold up.
But there is some curiosity, admittedly.
"I would say it opens my eyes a little," he said, "but my heart is still at FSU."
With the departure of defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot to Kentucky, too, Bellamy's relationships with assistant coaches at Florida State are a shell of what they used to be.
New assistants Jeremy Pruitt and Sal Sunseri both knew of Bellamy while they were at Alabama and Tennessee, respectively, but neither offered. Meeting them and getting to see how he would fit is a major priority for Bellamy.
The contact period opens again on Friday, and Bellamy would like nothing more than to hear from the Seminoles coaches.
"I want to see if they really want me, or are they just happy that I am already on the roster," he said. "I would like to see how much they talk to me then, because I think that will show how much they want me. If they really wanted me still, they will try to keep me from jumping ship."
Bellamy committed to Florida State on Aug. 11, choosing the Noles over Vanderbilt. He has official visits set for Tennessee on Jan. 18 and Virginia Tech on Jan. 25.
WHO TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08) behind Baylor’s Nick Florence and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel could become just the second quarterback to win four straight bowl games, joining former West Virginia quarterback Pat White. In just his second season as a full-time starter, Manuel is FSU’s career leader for completion percentage at 66.8 percent -- which is significantly ahead of No. 2 Charlie Ward (62.3).
WHAT TO WATCH: Florida State’s defensive line vs. NIU’s offensive line. Florida State defensive line coach D.J. Eliot was hired at Kentucky as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator, but Eliot stayed in Tallahassee to help the Noles prepare for Lynch. FSU’s defensive line has been one of the best in the country, despite season-ending injuries to star defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine, who tore his ACL in the loss to Florida. FSU is No. 26 in the country with 2.54 sacks per game. NIU is tied for No. 16 in the country in sacks allowed with 1.08 per game, a total of 14 all season. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally with 13 sacks this season.
WHY TO WATCH: Because No. 13 FSU might actually lose. The Noles are the more talented team, but the No. 15 Huskies will be playing to prove they belong in a BCS bowl. This will be the first BCS bowl game for a member of the Mid-American Conference. It is also the first bowl game between the ACC and MAC. NIU is the only program in the country to win 21 of its past 22 games, and joins Oregon as the only schools with three straight 11-win seasons. The Huskies' seniors are the winningest class in school history with 41 victories. FSU is 1-5 all-time in BCS bowls since playing in the first-ever BCS national championship game (1999 Fiesta Bowl).
PREDICTION: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 17: The Huskies will come out fired up and ready to prove they deserved their title as BCS Busters, and they’ll keep it uncomfortably close in the first half. FSU fans will prematurely panic, an upset watch will look possible, but then reality will set in. Florida State has too much talent and speed, and the gap will continue to widen in the third quarter. The Noles will win the battle up front, and the defense will fare well in its first game without former coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will finish with 12 wins, including an ACC title and a BCS bowl win -- not a bad consolation prize for a team that had hoped to win a national title.
Florida State’s defense began life without former coordinator Mark Stoops one day early.
In preparation for the ACC championship game against Georgia Tech on Dec. 1, defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot was in charge of the game plan and called most of the plays because of his knowledge and familiarity with the Jackets’ spread option, according to FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.
“It’s been very easy,” Fisher said. “D.J. has been back running the defense and doing everything. … He’s been back here, the staffs are in place, they’ve been intact and we’ve announced Sal Sunseri was hired as defensive ends coach. He’s been out there with us, so we feel very comfortable with where we’re going.”
FSU safety Karlos Williams said Eliot was a tremendous help in the game plan for Northern Illinois, and that he and Stoops have traded text messages a few times. Williams said that instead of lamenting Stoops’ departure, the Seminoles have celebrated the hire with him.
“We were very proud of him,” Williams said, “very happy he’s moving on, getting that head coaching job he’s been working so hard to get. He’s still been talking to a couple of us, keeping in contact, making sure things are getting handled the way they’re supposed to be getting handled down here. Overall we’re just happy for him.”
Under Stoops, FSU’s defense was one of the best in the nation. This year, FSU was No. 5 in the country in rushing defense, No. 6 in scoring defense, No. 2 in total defense and No. 3 in pass defense. The Seminoles’ main priority will be containing Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, who leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in yards per game (364.08).
Williams said the defense has already been prepared to handle a quarterback like Lynch.
“We’ve played quarterbacks like him already this season, the quarterback from Virginia Tech [Logan Thomas], Tajh Boyd, [Stephen] Morris from Miami,” Williams said. “A lot of quarterbacks we’ve played this year can run around, move, scramble in the pocket and throw the ball in the run. It’s just another one of those games. We’re going to have to lock in, be prepared to play the zone read, option read and the pass and the run. It’s going to be a challenge, of course. But like we always do, we lock in and play good football.”
They have to do it one more time, this time without Stoops.
Now Eliot is trying to pay Fisher back for that opportunity with a win against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl, the last game Eliot will coach with the Seminoles before joining former FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ staff at Kentucky.
Eliot still has a job to do -- his biggest yet -- but he has already had some on-the-job training for it.
In preparation for the ACC title game against Georgia Tech on Dec. 1, Eliot was in charge of the game plan and called most of the plays because of his knowledge and familiarity with the Jackets’ spread option.
Florida State’s defense was once again the difference down the stretch, as the Noles held off Georgia Tech for a 21-15 win and the school’s first ACC title since 2005. One day later, Stoops left to become the head coach at Kentucky, and he hired Eliot as his defensive coordinator. The Seminoles were left to prepare for Northern Illinois without their top two defensive assistants, but those within the program say it has been a smooth transition during bowl practices. Eliot came back to campus to lead the defense, and Fisher hired two new assistants, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri.
For Eliot, it was a no-brainer to stick with the Noles through the bowl game.
“My players mean a tremendous amount to me, so I want to make sure that I finish this thing off for them,” he said. “They bought in early to what we were doing, and they've been very successful, and they've always respected me and done exactly what I've told them to do. So I want them to know that I was going to be here until the end for them, as well.”
Under Stoops, FSU’s defense was one of the best in the nation. This season, FSU was No. 5 in the country in rushing defense, No. 6 in scoring defense, No. 2 in total defense, and No. 3 in pass defense. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner said the Noles won’t miss a beat with Eliot leading the defense instead of Stoops.
“I always knew he wanted to be a defensive coordinator, and I’m so happy for him that it worked out,” Werner said. “I’m so happy he didn’t go with coach Stoops, because they were really close. I’m so happy for him and I’m happy that he’s staying. He coaches exactly the same way as coach Stoops, so it wasn’t a big change for us. They play the same technique and all the same stuff. I’m happy for him, and I can see that he’s happy for us that we’re doing so good. He’s going to leave on a good note.”
That’s Eliot’s game plan, anyway.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- When Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner came to the United States, he did so with one expectation: “My expectation was to show America that Germans can play football,” he said. “I hope I did.”
As Florida State prepares to face Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl, it does so with one of the best defensive lines in the country, a deep group that has maintained its elite play in spite of injuries to NFL-caliber starting defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine. Even those within the NIU program have conceded that the Seminoles will have an advantage in speed and have said this will be the best defense they have faced all season. The speed off the edge has been a tremendous advantage for the Seminoles all season, and Werner’s presence alone will again be a key factor as FSU faces one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Jordan Lynch.
“Jordan is a great player, and we want to give him as much time as possible to make plays because if you give him enough time, he is going to make plays,” said NIU offensive lineman Jared Volk. “It is really important to us to make sure that he has plenty of time to do those things. We want to make sure that he stays safe and healthy, but I think that’s the same thing as every other game; it’s not going to change for us. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, which is protect him and make sure that he gets off the field safe.”
At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Werner is sculpted like a machine, and he has a blunt, no-nonsense personality that reflects his style of play. Of Werner’s 40 tackles this season, 18.0 are tackles for loss, including 13.0 sacks. He has seven pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. He had 3.5 sacks against Florida. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the Berlin native played just two years of high school football in the United States.
Now? His picture looms large on the side of the team buses traveling around South Florida this week.
“When we drive through Hollywood with police escorts and my face on the bus, it’s pretty funny,” he said with a chuckle. “Good publicity.”
There has been no shortage of ink on Werner, and his accomplishments continue to grow. Werner is tied for seventh in the nation in sacks per game and is tied for second in the nation for solo sacks with 11. He’s one of just four defensive linemen in the NCAA to have seven or more pass breakups. Peter Boulware is the only other player in FSU history to record more sacks (34) in his first three seasons than Werner.
“You have certain players that you can give them a certain amount of information but they can only apply so much, so you have to be careful on who and what you give to certain players,” said defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot, who is also FSU’s acting defensive coordinator for the Orange Bowl. “But Bjoern is one of those players that he can take in anything you give him. And he can apply it in the game. So he never ceases to amaze me on how much he can improve, and he's done that his whole career. Brandon Jenkins was the same way, and Tank Carradine has played well for me, as well, as well as other defensive ends. But Bjoern is one of those guys that's a student of the game and continues to improve.”
Werner said he could never have imagined being where he is now.
“No,” he said. “This is just a different world. This is everything I could dream right now, all this hype and not just about me individually. I’m so happy that we’re in the Orange Bowl. This was my goal, to be on the big stage, that’s why I came to Florida State. I’m so happy that we are here. Hopefully we can leave this thing with a win.”
Eliot coached defensive ends the past three seasons at Florida State. His work this year was simply phenomenal when you consider Bjoern Werner was selected ACC Defensive Player of the Year; and both Werner and Tank Carradine were first-team All-ACC selections. The way he was able to get Carradine to truly shine once Brandon Jenkins got hurt truly is a testament to the job he did this season.
Jenkins, by the way, won All-ACC honors in 2010 and 2011.
"D.J. is one of the brightest young minds in college football," Stoops said in a statement. "He has a relentless work ethic and is extremely detailed. I'm very pleased he has joined the Big Blue Nation."
At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Carter has a great frame in which to build upon at the college level, and that's why Florida State has already offered him.
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The 6-foot-5, 225-pound 2014 defensive end has seen some validation for putting all the time in early this season. It's not a finished product, of course, but Carter sees some improvement.
"It is good," he said of getting the season going. "We have been working real hard this summer and it just feels good to go out there and hit someone other than your teammates for once.
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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
TBD Wofford Georgia Tech TBD Clemson Georgia TBD Boston College Massachusetts TBD James Madison Maryland TBD Elon Duke TBD Georgia Southern North Carolina State TBD Liberty North Carolina TBD Delaware Pittsburgh TBD UCLA Virginia TBD William & Mary Virginia Tech 8:00 PM ET Florida State Oklahoma State