Reserve cornerback Bryant McFadden is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passes defended with six - he also had two interceptions in the Seminoles' 37-10 victory at Maryland last Saturday. Starting cornerbacks Stanford Samuels and Rufus Brown each have five passes defended. B.J. Ward, who has started two games at free safety, has forced two fumbles.
The fifth-ranked Seminoles (3-0, 2-0 ACC) look to improve their numbers in Saturday's home game against Duke (1-2, 0-0). While FSU has won its first two conference games by a combined 77-29, the Blue Devils are looking to open league play on a positive note.
However, that's highly unlikely this week.
FSU has won all 10 meetings with Duke and has not been held below 40 points in any of them. The Seminoles have scored at least 50 points in each of the last five, including last season's 55-13 victory. Still, Duke coach Carl Franks says there's hope.
``We were just sloppy, but we're playing better than we did last year,'' Franks said. ``I guess we've improved to the point that it's hard to accept losing that (Northwestern) game. To me, it's a good thing. Our expectation level is much higher than it has been in a long time.''
Even so, Samuels believes the Blue Devils provide a great opportunity for FSU to sharpen its skills in preparation for an upcoming stretch that features Thursday night games against Louisville and Clemson, followed by top-ranked Miami and surging Notre Dame at home Oct. 26.
After opening the season by beating East Carolina to snap a 23-game losing streak, Duke has lost two straight. The Blue Devils played well against Northwestern on Saturday, but lost 26-21 despite Alex Wade's career-high 134 yards rushing. Duke rushed for 240 yards on 47 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry.
"Fundamentals. We game plan so much that this week we need to get back to the basics," Samuels said. "Sharpen our fundamentals back up, so when we get to the middle stretch of the season we can be sharp."
Sharp and fresh.
Four players have started at the two safety spots in three games. Six players have seen action at cornerback.
"That helps," Samuels said of the Seminoles' depth. "When those guys are in there, they've handled their business."
The Seminoles are tops in the conference against the run, allowing just 83 yards per game. Defensive end Kevin Emanuel has seven tackles for loss to rank tied for second in the league. Of course, FSU has had its troubles against the pass, ranking ninth in the ACC in pass defense (268.3)
FSU should also be able to improve in that area against the Blue Devils, who are last in the conference in pass offense (142.3) and have thrown just two touchdown passes all season. However, quarterbacks Adam Smith and Chris Dapolitio have connected with 10 different receivers. Smith also threw for 188 yards against Northwestern.
The Seminoles overwhelmed the team that took their ACC crown last year, beating Maryland. FSU jumped to a 30-0 lead and forced six turnovers. The Terps' lone touchdown came after a muffed punt by the Seminoles. Duke also ranks as the league's youngest team. Franks has just one senior -- Jamyon Small -- while 13 players have seen action for the first time this year.
"W-L column," Samuels said when asked if he was concerned about the Seminoles' defensive statistics.
"It does bother me but there's a lot more than a secondary involved in that. That's a team thing. The focus has been playing four quarters first. We've gotten the fourth-quarter thing almost handled."