Sophomore linebacker Jacob Pugh was brought in to do one thing for the Seminoles, and that was rush the passer. As a true freshman he wasn't able to do that very much, but made an impact in different ways, specifically in the Notre Dame game where he had two interceptions.
The Florida State defense as a whole was not able to rush the passer well last season producing only 17 sacks. Since then Florida State has replaced Sal Sunseri, who left to coach the Oakland Raiders defensive line, with Brad Lawing, a noted pass rushing specialist.
The change in coaches has really helped out Pugh, who has learned that it takes more than just raw talent to succeed at this level.
"There’s a lot more to it. Coach Lawing brought that to us," Pugh said."...He’s teaching us more stuff. More technique. More working our hands and getting off the ball versus last year. Last year we did the same thing but this year it’s just a lot better. It’s all going to come together."
Pugh hasn't just been working on his pass rushing ability though. He's also been working to become a more complete linebacker as well as some other things.
"First of all my work ethic," Pugh said. "I wanted to be better. I also wanted to learn all the positions. Last year they had the jack and the buck and all that. Coach told us we have to learn to play from left to right. If I get called in a situation on the field I want to know any spot and also pass rushing. I feel comfortable pass rushing now thanks to coach Lawing."
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has also noticed that Pugh is much more versatile this year than last.
"Jacob played well," Fisher said. "Physical. Plays the run really well. He can get there. Hopefully he can do that. He can stand up and cover. Jacob's a very versatile player, very versatile player."
Pugh admits that he's not quite there yet, but says he's going to keep working until he gets to that point.
"Not quite," Pugh said. "I’ve got a lot to work on, but that’s why we practice every day. To get better."
Coach Fisher is not the only one that has noticed how well Pugh has been playing. One of his fellow teammates had some interesting praise for the sophomore linebacker.
"[He's looking] good," defensive end Demarcus Walker said. "Jacob is the Tasmanian devil out there."
Florida State will need Pugh to step up and have a big year if they want to improve upon last year's disappointing numbers. The ability for him to make that kind of an impact is there, and it seems as if he's put in the work to do so.