Now that end Brandon Jenkins and cornerback Greg Reid have both decided to come back to Florida State in 2012 for their senior seasons, assuming draft-eligible sophomore corner Xavier Rhodes also returns, the Seminoles will only lose three players from its two-deep on the defensive side of the ball.
Jenkins, a 6-3, 265-pound pass-rushing specialist, is projected to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at the NFL level and could have snuck up into Round 1 had he tested well at the Scouting Combine in February. But with many talent evaluators believing he was more of a second-round selection, plus with his mother wanting him to finish his degree, the Tallahassee native confirmed Thursday that he will indeed be in garnet and gold again next season.
Reid, a 5-8, 186-pound big-play artist, be it in coverage on defense or as a return man on special teams, probably has a future in the pros playing inside as a nickel or dime defender and then handling punts and/or kickoffs. Rumors were running rampant that he may bolt for the draft following a frustrating junior campaign, despite the fact that he would have been a mid-round prospect at best, but Friday he put it out there on his Facebook page that he'll be a 'Nole for one more year.
How do these two pieces of good news affect coach Jimbo Fisher and Co., both now and in the future? Let's take a closer look at D-end and corner for FSU individually:
2011 starters: Jenkins, Bjoern Werner
Florida State featured one of the best three-man rotations in the country at defensive end this past season, and since Jenkins, Werner and Carradine are all returning, it has an opportunity to be even better in 2012.
Simply speaking, the enemy offensive line can't double team both ends all day long, which means one of them has a chance to defeat a man-to-man block pretty much every snap. While Jenkins' numbers might have been down a bit from his breakout sophomore year in 2010, all the attention he was commanding in the first half of the season helped pave the way for Werner's incredible start.
Hicks didn't play as much down the stretch as he did during the earlier portion of the schedule, but he has been productive when given a shot to see the field. However, the only other scholarship D-ends on the roster at this point are Toshmon Stevens and Giorgio Newberry. Stevens will be a senior next season but has never been anything more than a special-teams contributor, and with Newberry coming off a redshirt, there are grumblings that he could be in for a position switch soon since FSU was so bad this past year along the offensive line.
Recruiting will be interesting because Casher, Edwards and Fowler are all among the best prospects in the country at their position and have the ability to compete right away as freshmen, but none of them is going to take any playing time away from the likes of Jenkins, Werner, Carradine and possibly Hicks. Still, even if the 'Noles only manage to land two of them on National Signing Day, the future would be quite bright, whether or not Werner makes himself available for the 2013 draft.
Jenkins is just as hard-working as he is humble, and since it sounds like he knows he needs to get bigger and stronger before he begins playing for a paycheck, perhaps the best is yet to come for No. 49.
While Florida State was supposed to be nothing short of loaded at corner in 2011, Reid didn't perform up to expectations and Rhodes never got into much of a groove since he was constantly battling minor injuries.
Week in and week out, Harris was actually the most reliable cornerback on defense, especially from a tackling perspective, even if he can be overmatched at times on the outside and is much more suited to playing the slot in nickel and dime packages. The Seminoles only got four interceptions from the corner position all season long, and three of them came in the regular-season finale at Florida.
Depth was an issue when either Reid or Rhodes got banged up because the coaching staff didn't have enough confidence in the likes of Commack or Waisome. Commack is in the middle of a transfer and won't be a part of the team in 2012, so if Waisome or the redshirted Keelin Smith isn't ready to demand playing time, FSU may have to turn to safety Terrence Brooks as the nickel defender when the opponent puts three and four receivers on the field. One thing that won't happen is Lamarcus Joyner moving back to corner from safety, as his ability to roam from sideline to sideline like a Gold Glove center fielder simply can't be replaced.
Just like Brooks, Smith, Lamarcus Brutus and Tyler Hunter, Williams is currently listed as a "defensive back" since he has both corner and safety skills but may not be ideally suited for either. The 'Noles would love to add a classic cornerback to their recruiting class, and because Miramar (FL) High School's Tracy Howard could end up a Gator, it might be time to sell out for Oxon Hill (MD) Potomac High School's Ronald Darby, who recently de-committed from Notre Dame and has added Florida State to a list that already includes Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU and Maryland.
As for Reid, even if he's not going to grow two inches or knock two tenths of a second off his 40 time for the draftniks by returning to school, logic seems to suggest he can only be better in 2012 than he was in 2011.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Scout's Analysis: Jenkins, Reid Back
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