Florida State Seminoles: Marquez White

FSU depth chart breakdown: Defense

January, 31, 2014
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Last week, we previewed Florida State’s offensive depth chart for the spring. This week, we’ll dig into the defense.

The biggest question might be how similar the 2014 defensive scheme will look to 2013. Yes, promoting Charles Kelly certainly offers stability, but he’s also likely to want to put his own stamp on the unit rather than offering a shot-for-shot remake of Jeremy Pruitt’s system. With some significant transition in personnel and some major losses of talent, there’s room to tinker this spring. Here’s what we’ll be watching:

Defensive line

[+] EnlargeNick Marshall
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsExpect Mario Edwards to have a bigger hand in things this fall on the Florida State defensive line.
Projected starters: Mario Edwards Jr. (Jr.), Nile Lawrence-Stample (RSJr.), Eddie Goldman (Jr.)
Backups: Desmond Hollin (Sr.), Chris Casher (RSSo.), DeMarcus Walker (So.), Derrick Mitchell (RSJr.), Keith Bryant (RSFr.), Justin Shanks (RSSo.)

Storylines: Replacing Timmy Jernigan is an impossible task, but expect plenty of hype for Lawrence-Stample this spring. He was one of Jimbo Fisher’s favorites last spring, and he’ll be counted on to step up even more this time around. The loss of Christian Jones as a hybrid rusher impacts the D line, too, and how Kelly plans to handle that role now should be interesting to watch. Edwards and Goldman are both five-star players with two years of experience under their belt, but now they’ll be looked to as leaders -- both on and off the field.

Status: B
If you want to include Jones as a defensive lineman, FSU is set to lose seven DLs to the NFL in a two-year span -- including two first-rounders in Bjoern Werner and, likely, Jernigan. That’s sapped some depth from the position, but Goldman and Edwards are as good as any D-linemen in the ACC and there’s plenty of talent behind them, too.

Linebacker

Projected starters: Reggie Northrup (Jr.), Terrance Smith (RSJr.), Matthew Thomas (So.)
Backups: E.J. Levenberry (So.), Ro'Derrick Hoskins (RSFr.), Nigel Terrell (RSSr.), Ukeme Eligwe (RSSo.), Kain Daub (Fr.)

Storylines: Smith is the only lock for a starting job here -- and even that might depend on your definition of “lock.” But while the unit is short on experience, it’s high on talent. The battle to replace Jones in the hybrid LB/DE position should be an interesting one, with Thomas offering perhaps the most upside, but Casher and Eligwe certainly in the mix, too. Northrup is the most experienced option to replace Telvin Smith, and he’s certainly capable of blossoming into a disruptive force, but Fisher raved about Levenberry throughout 2013, and that figures to be one of the more intriguing battles of spring camp. Add Daub to the mix as an early enrollee, and Kelly’s biggest problem here might be figuring out how to get enough snaps for all his talented linebackers.

Status: B
There’s plenty of talent here, but it’s impossible to replace the veteran savvy of Smith and Jones. By year’s end, this should be a terrific group, but there’s lots to be learned this spring.

Safety

[+] EnlargeJalen Ramsey
Jeremy McKnight/Icon SMISafety Jalen Ramsey will play a big role in the Seminoles secondary, which will be among the best in the nation.
Projected starters: Jalen Ramsey (So.), Nate Andrews (So.), Tyler Hunter (RSJr.)
Backups: Lamarcus Brutus (RSJr.), Keelin Smith (RSJr.), Tyrell Lyons (RSFr.)

Storylines: Ramsey and Andrews were exceptional as true freshmen, but the job now is to build on that progress under a new position coach. There’s little reason to believe that won’t happen. The bigger question mark at the moment is the health of Hunter, who is recovering from a neck injury that nearly ended his career. He was the leader of the secondary last spring and summer, and his impact on a young group could be huge again in 2014.

Status: A
Terrence Brooks was always undervalued, and he’ll be missed, but Hunter, Ramsey and Andrews projects as potentially the best trio of safeties in the nation.

Cornerback

Projected starters: P.J. Williams (Jr.), Ronald Darby (Jr.)
Backups: Marquez White (So.), Nick Waisome (Sr.), Colin Blake (RSSo.)

Storylines: Losing Lamarcus Joyner is a big blow, but there’s little to be concerned with here. Williams and Darby are both exceptional and figure to get even better in 2014. Darby was limited all season with a groin injury, so some downtime may be the priority for him. Waisome saw a ton of action in 2012 but largely disappeared in 2013. How he responds this spring might tell a lot about his future.

Status: A
It says a lot about the work Fisher, Pruitt and Mark Stoops have done over the past few years that FSU can lose a player of Joyner’s caliber and still likely have the best secondary -- and best pair of starting corners -- in the country.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 17, 2014
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Can't wait 'til offseason coaching carousel comes to a stop ...

What we learned: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
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Even if Florida State’s offense had never taken the field Saturday, the Seminoles still would have cruised to an easy win. And in truth, the offense really didn’t see much of the field anyway. But as the Seminoles continue to dominate overmatched ACC opposition, there were a few key takeaways from Saturday’s 59-3 victory over Wake Forest.

[+] EnlargeFSU/Wake Forest
AP Photo/Nell RedmondIn his first start, Florida State freshman Nate Andrews picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown.
The defense has a lot of depth: Most weeks, if a team’s two senior starting safeties were out and two true freshmen were forced to step in, it would be a problem. For Florida State on Saturday, it was a revelation. Jalen Ramsey has been exceptional all season in place of injured Tyler Hunter, and he added to his resume against Wake Forest by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown. Nate Andrews, making his first start in place of Terrence Brooks (concussion), was even better. He picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and forced the fumble Ramsey recovered. The two freshmen had more first-half takeaways (3) than Wake Forest had completions (2). Freshman Marquez White added another interception. FSU finished with seven takeaways in the game.

Winston not finishing strong: Perhaps it’s nitpicking after a 59-3 blowout, but Jameis Winston wasn’t exactly sharp. It was similar to his game against NC State: Winston looked good enough on early drives but struggled to maintain the same focus after Florida State built a big lead. For the third time this season, his last pass was an interception. Overall, Winston has thrown four picks in his last 58 attempts after throwing just three in his first 182 passes of the year. Again, it’s hardly any indication that Winston is slipping. It’s more about the pace of the game. FSU has built big leads, the defensive scores have limited offensive possessions and Winston has struggled to get into a groove. The problem, however, is that trend figures to continue in coming weeks, with FSU expected to be a heavy favorite in each of its three remaining regular-season games.

The mindset hasn’t changed: Yes, the Seminoles crowded into hotel rooms Thursday night to watch the end of Oregon’s loss to Stanford. Yes, they were excited about the outcome. Yes, they’re enjoying their place in the driver’s seat for a trip to the BCS title game. But no, nothing’s changed other than the standings. If anything, the strong start and dominant victory over Wake Forest underscored how focused Florida State is on its own agenda, rather than worrying about what might await at season’s end. On a chilly afternoon before a sparse crowd with little expectation of anything other than an easy win, Florida State did what it was supposed to do. That might not seem like much, but when evaluating the maturity of this FSU team against the program’s recent history, it’s an enormous test to pass.


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- There’s family history here, Mario Edwards Jr. said. In fact, his father had reminded him just hours before Florida State kicked off against Wake Forest on Saturday.

It was 1998 when Mario Edwards Sr., currently a member of FSU’s support staff, picked off four passes against Wake Forest, tying an ACC record.

“He said we were walking into his house,” the younger Edwards said of his father's pregame speech.

On Saturday, 15 years after his father’s record-setting performance, Edwards added to the legacy.

[+] EnlargeJalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews
AP Photo/Nell RedmondJalen Ramsey, left, and Nate Andrews, both freshmen, returned Wake Forest turnovers for scores Saturday.
Edwards was one of five Florida State players with an interception Saturday, a game in which the Seminoles tallied seven takeaways and two defensive touchdowns in a 59-3 rout of Wake Forest.

Demon Deacons starting quarterback Tanner Price threw just four passes before being pulled. Three were intercepted. His backup, Tyler Cameron, didn’t fare much better. In all, Florida State’s defense and special teams accounted for 224 yards and 21 points, dwarfing Wake’s offensive output for the game.

The dominant defensive performance was a tribute to Florida State’s depth. With senior safety Terrence Brooks out with a concussion and junior Tyler Hunter done for the year with a neck injury, the Seminoles started two true freshmen as the defensive backstops Saturday. Jalen Ramsey has been starting the entire season and was joined Saturday by Nate Andrews. The pair accounted for two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two touchdowns. By the time the starters were all on the bench in the fourth quarter, Wake had just 16 yards through the air.

“Two true freshman safeties and both scored touchdowns,” Jimbo Fisher said. “I mean, they can play the ball, they can tackle, they can run, they can play multiple potions. They’re very good football players.”

Edwards, Terrance Smith and Christian Jones had picks too, while another true freshman, Marquez White, added the game’s final takeaway. Thirty-eight of Florida State’s 59 points followed Wake Forest turnovers.

But if the defense dominated, the offense never quite found its rhythm. Chalk that up to another blowout. Jameis Winston threw for just 159 yards, and for a 15-minute span midway through the first half, he threw just one pass. For the third time this season, Winston’s final pass of the game was an interception, and for the second time in three weeks, he saw just one drive’s worth of action in the third quarter.

None of that mattered much, Winston said. The defense set the tone, and Florida State rolled to another easy win. It’s become habit, and that’s the idea -- particularly with the Seminoles now comfortably in command of their destiny in the BCS title picture.

“The way we’re playing right now, we’re playing like a championship team,” Winston said.

Indeed, it was a championship moment for Florida State on Saturday, though few realized it.

When the game was over, the Seminoles filtered into their locker room and found a trophy waiting. With Saturday’s win, FSU clinched the ACC’s Atlantic Division title and a trip to the conference championship game.

“We saw the trophy, and we were like, ‘OK, this is nice,’” Jones said.

The accomplishment, however, had been a complete afterthought. Florida State’s goals are set so much higher.

After Saturday’s big win, coupled with Oregon’s loss Thursday, those goals are well within reach. Now, Edwards said, it’s simply a matter of following Fisher’s one-day-at-a-time mantra and continuing the dominance.

“Everything is falling into place now,” Edwards said, “just like Jimbo said it would.”

Redshirt watch for FSU's freshmen

August, 28, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State lost 11 starters to the NFL draft this spring, but that didn't necessarily turn the depth chart into a gold mine for the Seminoles' incoming freshmen. Of Jimbo Fisher's biggest accomplishments during his first four years on the job, none loom larger that the immense influx of talent on the roster -- meaning depth isn't a concern in most areas.

Of the 14 non-specialists Florida State added in 2012, only six saw action last year. Mario Edwards Jr. was the only freshman to start a game, and Ronald Darby and Eddie Goldman were the only others to see regular playing time.

The situation may not be dramatically different this year. Twenty-one freshmen were added to the roster, but aside from a small minority, there doesn't appear to be regular reps awaiting the bulk of the group. FSU's initial depth chart lists nine freshmen on the two-deep, though the playing time for each may be limited, and the roles for a few others may yet develop. As it stands though, here's our projections for early playing time for the Class of 2013.

The likely redshirts (4): QB John Franklin, OT Ira Denson, C Ryan Hoefeld, TE Jeremy Kerr

Fisher is never shy with praise for his players -- even those with virtually no shot at seeing a moment of playing time. That's been the case for Franklin, whom Fisher said has looked very good in practice throughout fall camp. Chalk it up to Fisher's desire to talk about any quarterback other than Jameis Winston, but it's nevertheless encouraging given that so many college coaches wanted Franklin as a receiver, not a QB.

Denson arrived overweight, and Hoefeld is still a touch lighter than line coach Rick Trickett would like, which means both are likely to spend the year prepping for the future. Kerr might have been a lock for early playing time given FSU's utter lack of depth at tight end, but a knee injury has kept him off the practice field for weeks.

The victims of numbers (4): DT Keith Bryant, OG Wilson Bell, DB Marquez White, S Nate Andrews

The reports on these four have been generally positive -- particularly Bell, who was well ahead of the other young linemen, according to Trickett -- but barring injuries, there's probably not much playing time to be had. It's possible one or two will find a role -- Andrews and White could make a special-teams impact -- but none are guaranteed to see action at all.

Matthew Thomas
Courtesy of Florida StateAfter considering transferring to USC before ever playing a snap for FSU, LB Matthew Thomas has settled into the Seminoles' defense.
The linebackers (5): Ro'Derrick Hoskins, Tyrell Lyons, E.J. Levenberry, Matthew Thomas, Freddie Stevenson

Levenberry and Thomas headline the current depth chart, where both are listed as the primary backups at the Mike and Will linebacker spots, respectively. Both offer immense promise. Thomas is the star of the group, and after an on-again, off-again spring in which he considered transferring to USC, the five-star recruit seems to be happy and comfortable in FSU's defense. Levenberry has also been a big hit with his coaches, and his size -- 6-3, 240 pounds -- has had Fisher drooling.

Both Thomas and Levenberry figure to play, but they may not be alone. Freddie Stevenson was an early enrollee and has drawn praise from teammates. Lyons and Hoskins could figure in the special-teams mix, too.

Florida State has just two established veteran linebackers, and both will be gone at year's end. The Seminoles need to start developing some depth there, which is good news for the entire group.

The special-teams stalwarts (4): DE Davarez Bryant, DE Desmond Hollin, RB Ryan Green, WR Levonte Whitfield

Fisher's history suggests skill-position players who can contribute on special teams will get a chance as freshmen, even if there isn't much of a role beyond that. FSU allowed P.J. Williams, Reggie Northrup and Christo Kourtzidis to do it last year, which means Green, Bryant and others could do the same in 2013, even if a wealth of scrimmage snaps aren't there. Hollin, a juco transfer, probably stands the best shot at a bigger role, and Bryant has actually worked in some at tight end, too. Whitfield figures to be in the mix as a kick returner early, but he is a potential weapon as a slot receiver on offense, too.

The best bets to play (4): CB Jalen Ramsey, DE DeMarcus Walker, WR Jesus Wilson, WR Isaiah Jones

Fisher was impressed with his freshman wideouts from the outset, but now it's a necessity that at least one or two contributes heavily. FSU lost three senior receivers for the season, which means there should be ample playing time to go around. Wilson has wowed teammates since the summer, and he figures to be first up, Jones also turns up on FSU's two-deep, backing up Rashad Greene at the X position.

Walker's progression was hindered a bit during the spring when NCAA compliance issues kept him off the practice field. Still, he spent long hours in the film room and coach's office, and his teammates have raved about his football IQ. Given the relative depth issues at defensive end combined with a depth chart with little or no game experience, Walker has as good a shot as anyone at getting playing time early.

Unlike the rest of this group, the numbers don't exactly favor Ramsey. The FSU secondary is stacked with talent, but that's only more of a testament to how good Ramsey has looked during fall camp. He spent the first few weeks working with the No. 1 defense while Darby nursed an injury, and he appears to have established himself as a legitimate threat to contribute. He opens the season No. 2 on the depth chart behind Lamarcus Joyner, and that's a role that could expand as the season progresses.

Weekend recruiting rewind 

April, 15, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring games are a chance for coaches and players to test what they've got in a more game-like situation. Practice is one thing, but putting on uniforms and taking to the stadium in front of fans is another.

It's also a chance to have prospects on campus in numbers.

As far as recruiting events go, it wasn't furiously busy. What happened instead was a lot of marketing and road-paving for the future.


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State of the Noles: Cornerback 

February, 27, 2013
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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.


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Noles 2013 snapshot: Marquez White 

February, 15, 2013
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With national signing day now beyond us, NoleNation takes a closer look at the next crop of Seminoles.

Vitals: Cornerback Marquez White (Dothan, Ala./Northview), 6-foot-1, 170 pounds.

Committed: May 25, 2012.

ESPN.com grade: 83, four-star prospect.

ESPN.com rankings: No. 17 cornerback in the country, No. 74 player in the Southeast region, No. 7 prospect in the state of Alabama and the No. 158 player in the ESPN 300.

Picked Florida State over: Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky.


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Florida State's recruiting class might have looked a lot different if it weren't for the hire of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Pruitt's appointment in Tallahassee directly resulted in no fewer than two commitments from top-40 players destined elsewhere that the Seminoles wouldn't have had a shot at otherwise.

Beginning with DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) on the night of the national championship, Pruitt's move orchestrated one of the headlines of the season. Minutes after Nick Saban and Alabama hoisted another national championship trophy, the Tuscaloosa-bound Walker switched his commitment to Florida State and enrolled at the school the next day.

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As it is virtually every year on national signing day, there were some big hits for Florida State, and there were a few tough misses, too. Overall, Jimbo Fisher and his new-look coaching staff have to consider the Class of 2013 a big win given the immense chaos that has ensued with six assistants leaving since Dec. 1. Most key commitments held strong, and a few late arrivals turned a solid class into one that cracked the top 10 in ESPN's national rankings.

Of course, rankings aren't everything. A lot of the success or failure of a class is based on a team's needs, and on that front, there were also a few highlights and a few noticeable problems. Here's how it breaks down.


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2013 Spring Preview: Cornerbacks

January, 15, 2013
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From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.

With that in mind, we're going to go position-by-position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.

First up: Cornerback

[+] EnlargeRonald Darby
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesCornerback Ronald Darby stepped in and became a big contributor as a freshman.
2012 recap: Last season began with a seemingly huge setback when three-year starter Greg Reid was dismissed from the program just before the start of fall camp. As it turned out, however, FSU had plenty of in-house answers. Freshman Ronald Darby and sophomore Nick Waisome stepped in to more than adequately fill the void, and FSU's pass defense finished as one of the best units in the country.

Departures: It seemed a foregone conclusion long before the season ended, and as expected, junior Xavier Rhodes opted to pass on a fifth year in Tallahassee and will head to the NFL draft. It's a big loss, as Rhodes had blossomed into one of the best cover corners in the nation, and 2012 might have been his best season as a Seminole.

Arrivals: Redshirt freshman Colin Blake will get his first taste of action. FSU has two four-star commitments at the position in Marquez White (Dothan, Ala./Northview) and Michael Johnson (Miami/Booker T. Washington). White is the 17th-ranked corner in the nation, according to ESPN.

Biggest question mark: Replacing Rhodes is obviously the top priority, but with the impressive 2012 campaigns from both Darby and Waisome, the answers appear fairly obvious. What might be a more intriguing question is who steps in as the third man in the cornerback rotation -- a list that could include more work from nickel Tyler Hunter, early playing time for the youngsters or, perhaps most likely, an expanded role for rising sophomore Keelin Smith.

Breakout star: Darby seems the logical choice. He never quite overtook Waisome for the starting job in 2012, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Darby finished the season having appeared in all 14 games, making 22 tackles and recording eight pass breakups and one forced fumble en route to being named a freshman All-American. He's perhaps not quite as physical as Rhodes, but his speed is elite and he has the potential to quickly develop into one of the marquee defensive backs in the conference.

Projected 2013 starters: Darby and Waisome, with Hunter as the top nickel option.
Florida State will host a bunch of top visitors this weekend in what is likely their biggest and busiest of the year. Here is the breakdown of who is visiting and why it is important.


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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- ESPN 300 cornerback Marquez White (Dothan, Ala./Northview) committed to Florida State in May, but there’s been plenty of speculation surrounding his recruitment since then. Where’s he stand now?

“I’m still firm to Florida State,” White said.

Recently, the four-star took an official visit to Minnesota. It was first trip to Minneapolis.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- It hasn’t been easy for ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala./Prattville) this week at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. He’s had to go up against top defensive line prospects such as Dee Liner and Darius Paige all week at practice, but he knows it’s only making him better.

Austin Golson
Greg Ostendorf/ESPN.comAustin Golson has been committed to Florida State since April 2011, but still is taking visits.
“It has been a challenge, but it’s just competition,” Golson said. “It makes me better. I hope I make them better. We’re just getting after each other. [Liner] got me at that summer camp. I don’t think I was prepared, so I had to get him back somehow.”

On Wednesday, Florida State assistant coach Dameyune Craig came by practice to see both Golson and Marquez White, who are both committed to the Seminoles.

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FSU commitment performance watch 

November, 5, 2012
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As the prep schedule winds down, NoleNation looks at some of the top performances from players committed to Florida State regardless of class. Here are this week's top five:

Joseph Yearby (Miami/Miami Central): In a week when many of Florida State's top performances from commitments came from juniors, Yearby might have topped them all. He ran for more than 100 yards on the ground and contributed two rushing touchdowns. Yearby also found paydirt through the air to round off a complete performance. The ESPN Watch List tailback committed to Florida State's 2014 class last spring.

JoJo Robinson (Miami/Northwestern): Versatile athlete Jojo Robinson made an impact for his Miami Northwestern team this week. He racked up more than 50 all-purpose yards as a running back and receiver and also caught a touchdown pass. The junior committed to Florida State over the summer and has offers from LSU, Miami and Southern Cal.

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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