TALLAHASSEE, Fla. What Jimbo Fisher and his staff have done is recruit well and build depth. Florida State is simply loaded at defensive back, even without Greg Reid.
Reid could have been part of one of the nations top defenses, but the senior cornerback was dismissed by Florida State last week because of his multiple off-field problems.
Four years ago, losing a player like Reid would have been difficult for the Seminoles to overcome. But now Fisher feels they have plenty of options to take over Reids spot.
FSU opened up its preseason camp on Monday afternoon, and Fisher quickly named six potential cornerbacks to take Reids spot.
Thats why we recruit secondary guys like we do, Fisher said. You have plenty of options.
Fisher said that Nick Waisome, for the moment, has the No. 1 job (Xavier Rhodes has the other starting corner job). Waisome arrived at FSU as a heralded prospect, the No. 8 corner by Scout.com in the 2011 class.
Waisome is 5-foot-10, about two inches taller than Reid. And, much like Reid, Waisome is known for his instinctive play, speed and technique.
Fisher said he and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops have sought what they consider multi-dimensional players on the recruiting trail. They landed the nations top corner, Lamarcus Joyner, a few years ago but moved him to safety before the 2011 season (and Fisher said Monday that Joyner could move back to corner).
And Terrence Brooks has also played both positions for FSU. The Seminoles also signed a Scout.com five-star corner, Ronald Darby, in February. And coaches could decide to move Rhodes backup, the 6-foot-3 Keelin Smith, over to Reids spot.
While FSU has options, the players arent experienced. Waisome had just one tackle a year ago as a true freshman, and Smith took a redshirt.
Brooks, a junior, has the most experience, but he was a reserve in 2011. He had 17 tackles and saw significant playing time during FSUs bowl win over Notre Dame, sealing the victory with a fourth-quarter interception.
FSU likes to use nickel packages (five defensive backs) because the Atlantic Coast Conference has so many strong passing teams. This year, there are eight ACC teams that return a quarterback who threw for 2,600 yards or more the previous season.
And thats why Reid figured to be an essential part of that group of five. FSU was already losing corner Mike Harris and safety Terrance Parks to graduation.
While the continued development of the sophomore-laden offensive line may be the biggest key for FSU going into the season, now the task of replacing three essential positions in the secondary is just as much a challenge.
FSU opens with Murray State on Sept. 1 and then plays Savannah State a week later. The Seminoles will be able to get away with mistakes in the secondary against Football Championship Series competition.
But then the Seminoles secondary will be tested in home games against Wake Forest and Clemson. Both teams feature quarterbacks that are coming off impressive seasons Wakes Tanner Price threw for 3,017 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions, and Clemsons Tajh Boyd led the ACC in passing yards (3,838) and touchdowns (33).
After struggling against top quarterbacks, allowing big plays that in part led to losses, FSU rebounded and was 20th in the nation in 2011 against the pass (allowing 192.3 yards per game). This year, FSU may need to rely on the pressure up front from arguably the nations top defensive line to force quarterbacks to get rid of the ball faster and make life easier on the Seminoles inexperienced defensive backs.
FSU has one of the nations best defenses even without Greg Reid. He would have helped, for sure, against teams that have two or three standout receivers.
And Reid was also FSUs punt returner, a playmaker at times and at others one who was prone to fumbling. But Fisher feels FSU also has options for returners and will look to a receiver like Rashad Greene or Kenny Shaw or a new recruit like Darby or Marvin Bracy.
There is very little concern about replacing Reid the punt returner. And Fisher is right that the Seminoles have enough talent and depth at corner. But the question now becomes how quickly that talent steps in and fills Reids shoes.
If FSU is to challenge for an ACC title and be in contention for a national title, the young corners must deliver.