There weren't many true freshman that had the type of season that Derwin James had at Florida State last season. James finished the season with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. Now James is stepping up as a leader on the team, and the other players in the secondary are responding to him.
“They look to me sometimes to bring the energy," James said. "I look to them. We all use each other, it’s like a family.”
Taking on the burden of being a leader can be challenging, but James has been up to the task according to head coach Jimbo Fisher.
"Derwin, being in the situation he’s in," Fisher said. "Derwin taking that next step. He did a lot of things, but being a leader and playing now, that takes a burden on you. You’ve got to get used to that. That’s a heck of a role, but he’s done a great job in the offseason."
James worked as a pass rusher some last season, but they haven't started training him there yet this spring. It's coming though.
“Right now I’m just at safety until we put the package where I moved down to D-end and stuff.”
He relished his chance to be a pass rusher because he loves getting after opposing quarterbacks.
“Oh yeah," James said. "Who doesn’t like tackling the quarterback, trying to get a shot on the quarterback? I love it a lot.”
Defensive ends coach Brad Lawing has been instrumental in that process, and James is looking forward to working with him some more.
“He showed me everything about pass rushing," James said. "Stuff I’ve never seen before. Stuff I didn’t even know I can do. He told me we still have a lot of stuff to do still.”
James has used what he's learned to help the other players in the secondary.
“I learned a lot," James said." I’m actually helping other guys in the secondary. Like Coach Kelly says, if you can teach, you know it and are learning it twice. That’s helping me a lot. The game is slowing down for me a lot.”
If James was playing too fast last year, and the game is slowing down for him, that is a very scary proposition for opposing quarterbacks.