FSU vs. Miami: The Defenses

Florida State has their second big test of the season on the road this Saturday night in Miami. Over the last 30 years no rivalry has produced the drama and epic games that the two in-state rivals have. Today NoleDigest.com takes a look at the defense's.

DEFENSIVE END

FSU

Brandon Jenkins: 23 tackles, 4.5 sacks

Markus White: 17 tackles, 2 sacks

Bjorn Werner: 7 tackles, 3 sacks

Dan Hicks: 4 tackles, 2 sacks

Miami

Olivier Vernon: 19 tackles, 4 sacks

Allen Bailey: 17 tackles, 1 sack

Adewale Ojomo: 10 tackles, 2 sacks

Marcus Robinson: 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Andrew Smith: 5 tackles, 3 sacks

Miami entered the season with the DEs being considered one of the best groups in the country. For the most part they have performed that way. Bailey is a physical freak and certain player to play on Sunday's. He has the versatility to play inside or out. Vernon will be a rare three and out DE- explosive first step and just a stud. Ojomo has returned from missing an entire season with a broken jaw, he is starting to come around. Robinson has been subpar thus far based on his performance his first two years. He is an elite athlete. Smith continues to get no credit, but all he does is make plays.

There is no question that Coach D.J. Eliot has done a tremendous job thus far at FSU. The 'Noles are not as talented, but arguably have gotten more out of the DEs than Miami. Jenkins is starting to become a force and White has been much improved the past two weeks. Werner might be FSU's version of Vernon--a player who will be three and out. Hicks provides depth and is gaining valuable experience.

Miami is deeper and more talented here and FSU OTs will have their work cut out for them. Vernon and Bailey have the potential to be the best duo in the country by the end of the year. Miami does not have great OTs, the opportunity will be there for the Nole DEs to have another big game. Werner has been quiet for a few weeks, he needs to step up.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Florida State

Everette Dawkins: 17 tackles, 2 sacks

Demonte McAllister: 11 tackles, 3 sacks

Amp McCloud: 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Jacobbi McDaniel: 9 tackles

Miami

Marcus Forston: 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Josh Holmes: 4 tackles, 1 sack

Micanor Regis: 3 tackles, 1 sack

Luther Robinson: 1 tackle

The first thing you notice is the lack of production by the Miami DTs. However when you see the tackle totals for the LBs you realize that it is part of their scheme(keep linemen off the LBs). Forston has all the talent in the world and Regis is not far behind. Holmes is a veteran, but is not a difference maker, although he provides quality snaps because of effort. Robinson was not slated to play this year, but injuries to Curtis Porter and Jeremy Lewis have forced the redshirt frosh into action.

The four sophomore's for FSU keep getting better and better. Quietly they are becoming one of the better, deeper units in the country. They are close enough in talent to think that if you asked four people "who is going to be the best", you likely will get four different answers. McAllister and Dawkins can get after the QB pass rushing, while McCloud and McDaniel are more space eaters inside.

FSU is clearly in better shape here. This might have come as a surprise in pre-season, but they have performed to a high level. The upside of this group is tremendous. Miami misses Porter as he is the big space eater inside. Robinson is not ready to play on this type of stage, so it is likely that his snaps are limited.

LINEBACKER

FSU

Nigel Bradham: 31 tackles, 2 sacks

Kendall Smith: 28 tackles

Mister Alexander: 17 tackles

Christian Jones: 10 tackles, 2 sacks

Miami

Sean Spence: 38 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Colin McCarthy: 27 tackles, .5 sacks

Ramon Buchanan: 17 tackles

Kylan Robinson: 9 tackles

Spence is a tackling machine and he makes plenty of big plays. Not the biggest or fastest, he has an excellent feel for the game and finds the football better than anyone. Buchanan is a freak athlete with elite speed. He is a junior, but this is really his first playing time and tends to freelance. He makes up for it by just being such a special athlete. The problems reside in the middle where McCarthy is "solid", but not spectacular. He seems to have been better on the outside. There is no depth at Miami, the only player not listed who could help is Jordan Futch(1 tackles), they turn to true freshmen after that.

Alexander is expected to play, but concussions can be tricky and he likely will be limited in some way. Jones is a big-time talent and FSU will not lose much when he is in. Smith has been much better as a senior, he is making more plays and less mistakes. Bradham is a next level talent, but has been a little hot and cold thus far. This is just the type of game where the junior could shine.

FSU is deeper. Jeff Luc, Telvin Smith, and Vincent Williams provide that quality depth. Spence is probably the best, most consistent Linebacker on either team, but the edge goes to FSU because there are just more options.

DEFENSIVE BACK

Florida State

Greg Reid: 28 tackles, 2 Interceptions

Xavier Rhodes: 19 tackles, 1 Interception

Nick Moody: 14 tackles

Terrance Parks: 15 tackles

Mike Harris: 15 tackles, 1 interception

Miami

Ray Ray Armstrong: 22 tackles, 2 interceptions

Brandon Harris: 20 sacks

Vaughn Telemaque: 16 tackles

Ryan Hill: 11 tackles, 2 interceptions

Demarcus Van Dyke: 8 tackles, 1 interception

Harris is one of the top CBs in the country. He does everything well as he is smart player with instincts. Hill has stepped up on the other side and brings a physical presence with his size. DVD is a burner, but is slight physically, he has settled into the nickel role. Armstrong and Telemaque are both much better against the run, neither possess great ball skills and they will give up some longer passing plays.

Reid has the talent, but he will face his stiffest test with the size that Miami has at WR. Rhodes does not have that problem at 6'1, 200, he is just what the doctor ordered against those physical wideouts. Harris is really coming along and showing the type of versatility that is coveted by DB coaches. Like Miami, Moody and Parks are better against the run, particularly Moody who loves to hit. Miami has thrown deep plenty this year, so they will need to be on their "A" game in this one.

Slight edge here to Miami as Harris is the most proven commodity and is capable of taking a WR out of the game. Hill and DVD are seniors which provide valuable experience. Reid has the potential to impact the game the most because of his return skills.

Overall

Heading into the season most would have thought that this was a "no brainer" that Miami's defense was better. Here in early October it is a lot closer than many would have thought. In fact, there is a strong case for FSU here. There is more experience for Miami and they will have the home crowd, so we give them the slight edge, but this could be the game where FSU really answers the questions about their defense. Another standout performance and it would be hard to not look at the numbers this defense has produced and be impressed.

The 'Noles need to force Jacory Harris into mistakes down the field. The 'Canes need to take away the strong running game of FSU and contain the scrambling Christian Ponder(something they have struggled with).

It should be a great one.


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