Impressive Trifecta

Florida State's defense ranks as one of the nation's best and it's due in part to the play of FSU's young linebacker core. Led by A.J. Nicholson the starting group has recorded 32 tackles. Linebacker coach Kevin Steele says he's impressed with the unit, especially considering the fact that they're all still young.

There was a time when Florida State linebacker Buster Davis could wear the same pair of uniform pants week after week without having to get them dry cleaned.

His approach to practice was stubborn, so during games he sat the sidelines, watching.

"Pretty early he would buy in, then he would go into a cycle of three days on and two days off, and those three days would put him right back to square zero," Linebacker coach Kevin Steele said.

It took him most of the season, but right around the NC State came a turning point.

"One day he said ‘coach I have to get on the field' and I said ‘you are responsible for that. You‘re pants are going to stay clean until you do it our way," Steele said.

Davis buckled down. He worked hard during the winter and spring to try and change things for the fall. Steele said his effort during practice moved him into position to compete for a starting job.

"As a staff you have to trust players. It got to a point where I trusted him to go out there and do the job," Steele said. "If you keep pointing him in the right direction he'll come around."

The dedication for Davis paid off when he was moved to first team middle linebacker against UAB, where he joined Ernie Sims, and A.J. Nicholson. As a group, they are still young, boasting a total of seven starts between the trio. But as they've said in the preseason, they believe their talent will more than compensate for a lack of experience.

Two games into the season Florida State's linebacker unit, which lost all three starters from last season to graduation, is beginning to put up numbers to back that statement. Nicholson, Davis and Sims make up three of the top four tacklers on the team.

"Ernie (Sims) is going to get better and better. Athletically, he's special and his big plays will get more and more. It's pretty obvious when you take Ray (Piquion) , Ernie (Sims) , Sam McGrew, Buster Davis and A.J. Nicholson that's a pretty good core of guys and you can trust them to play in any situation," Steele said.

Their combined effort has helped propel FSU's defense to the third best in Division I-A against the run, allowing 42.5 yards per game. The Seminoles rank ninth in total team defense


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