“A man with no sauce is lost, but a man can also get lost in the sauce!” – Gucci Mane
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There is no lack of “sauce” with the Florida State defense this spring. Hats are flying around. The energy is clear, and if FSU is to get back to where it wants to be, the adage that needs to be true is “defense wins championships!”
Reports this week are that the defense has the edge in development to this point in the spring. All three segments have been dominant from reports I’ve heard as well as what I’ve witnessed. Confidence is clearly not lacking, and to quote defensive line coach Odell Haggins, “James, we just getting started. It’s not all the way learned yet!” That’s both exciting and a bit scary.
There’s still a lot of relative youth but tons of talent on that side of the ball. The defense might have the right combination of experience and hunger. FSU hasn’t lacked talent; it has lacked accountability, both from a technical and execution standpoint. To be blunt, if there’s a weak defense, it cannot be a great FSU team.
A lot has to do with attitude, and attitude reflects leadership. New coordinator Harlon Barnett (pictured above) is a guy who still walks like an old ballplayer known for knocking heads off when he played. He’s very Mickey Andrews-esque in his demeanor and just as vocal, though in a different way. All of that causes players to respond.
One of the things different about this defense is that from a coaching standpoint, you have guys who’ve been a head coach or a coordinator and can coach their respective positions with the authority and respect that comes with that. They also have a better understanding of what it takes to make this defense work. Players respond better when they feel they are in better positions to make plays through technique and play-calling.
It’s been made clear since even before pads were put on that to fit in on this defense, one will need to be aggressive and physical. I saw every play contested. The defense is trying to strip the ball on every play. On every pass, defenders are trying to intercept or bat the ball down. The skeptic says, “Well, duh – that’s how defenses should operate!”
The key word there is “should.” That wasn’t necessarily the case the past few seasons; big plays were lacking in key moments last season.
If we are being honest, a stop against NC State, Miami and Louisville (or getting off the bus at Boston College) might have made things different last season. With a schedule that isn’t any easier this season, this defense is going to need to be saucier. It’s going to need energy, and that energy is going to need to be set early in games. And more than likely, in the beginning of the season, the team is going to have to be led by the defense.
Many have performed well. Levonta Taylor and Stanford Samuels III are living up to the billing of being physical and having great footwork. Newcomer Jaiden Woodbey has made plays that have energized the entire defense in drills.
The secondary is doing something in practices that reminds me of past FSU defenses: Players are getting the turnover, and it then turns into a track meet of everyone running toward the end zone. Nothing is more disheartening to an offense than turnovers, and what’s worse is a caravan of pissed-off defenders trying to get into the end zone, all the while decleating everyone in their path.
The offense is showing flashes. At this point in the spring, you can expect the defense to be ahead of the offense. In a way, it makes you more excited about what the offense will be able to do as it gets better against a defense that has the potential to be damn good.
Things seem to have become simpler for the defense and that might make them lethal.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/florida-state-defense-combination-experience-hunger/