No player had a better spring at corner than Greg Reid. There is little debate that heading into spring Greg was the player most felt was ready to lock down a starting role. After being a standout on special teams and contributing mostly on passing downs in 2009 Greg needed this spring to show he was ready to take that next step. While Reid isn't the biggest guy he uses instinct, toughness and smarts, all characteristics that make him the top cover corner on the roster. This spring Greg was a leader, and he showed that he's taken in Coach Stoops coaching and schemes in order to make the needed impact on this team. FSU needed Reid to make that leap after last year, and he needs to keep up the hard work. Working on technique and learning when and when not use his aggression are thing Greg will work on this summer.
Last fall fans started hearing about Xavier Rhodes and the progress he was making after moving to corner. Rhodes, who at 6'1" and 210 lbs has elite size, showed this spring what all of the hype was about. Xavier is the big, physical corner the coaches are looking for with the new direction the defense is going. While Xavier was up and down early in spring he had an excellent close to practice, showing that he's learning technique and the proper ways to play defense. Coming in Xavier had a lot of natural ability, and now he's getting the coaching to make that a reality. Based of spring alone Rhodes has to be considered the favorite to start opposite Reid. The coaches are extremely high on Xavier. Rhodes needs to continue to learn the defense. He is great at turning and running, he has the strength to cover bigger guys, and he shows excellent make-up speed.
Ochuko Jenije simply didn't have the end to spring that the coaches wanted to see in our opinion due to the expectation of locking down a starting role. As the most experienced guy at corner in terms of playing time and starts, Jenije needed to break those bad habits we saw last year: bad technique, too many chances, and often getting down on himself. During practice Ochuko looked great in the zone scheme, but when it came to scrimmages and the spring game he reverted back to his old ways. Jenije played himself into a back-up role towards the end of spring, especially with the emergence of Rhodes.
Dionte Allen was a part-time starter last fall, and entering camp he was a guy fans and coaches had an eye on to see how he'd perform over the spring. Allen had an okay spring, but it looks like he was out-played overall by the others on the roster. Dionte looks like he'll be a back-up and possible nickel back in 2010 unless he turns it up the summer and into the fall.
NoleDigest take on the corners:
This was a weak spot in 2009 but over the spring this unit improved as a whole. Reid looks like an elite playmaker, and Rhodes looks like a future star. Jenije and Allen could earn a lot of minutes and would be excellent back-ups. In the fall a lot of talent arrives in Michael Harris, Lamarcus Joyner and a host of others. This unit could have a different look once fall camp starts.
Terrance Parks emerged this spring as the team's best safety. After missing a lot of time during conditioning some wondered what impact Parks would make in the spring. At 6'1" 195 pounds Terrance is a former corner that has decent ball skills, and he has the ability to come up and make the tackle in run support. For Parks it's been about staying healthy and getting reps. He made plays this spring, and he garnered high praise from Coach Fisher and Coach Stoops. Terrance needs to continue to put it together, meaning working hard in the off-season and doing the things he's supposed to do. There was a renewed focus by Parks as he has finally come to terms with the fact his future is at safety.
Nick is the lone returning starter at safety and he is the most experienced of the group. Moody had a good spring overall. He is the most dependable in run support, but he needs to continue improving his cover skills. That is something that he got better at spring went on. There is little doubt heading out of spring that Moody will be starting opposite Parks.
Gerald Demps showed flashes this spring of being a decent back-up in 2010. Gerald was the primary back-up to Parks throughout the spring. Demps can play either spot at safety which makes him someone to watch moving forward. At this stage he's more of a strong safety type as he is a solid tackler, but he also is quick enough to cover backs and tight ends.
Justin Bright is like Demps in that both saw time at each safety position over the spring. Fans give Justin a lot of flack, wondering if he will ever contribute. Coach Stoops likes Bright due to his ability to learn the scheme and be in the right places. Bright ended spring as Moody's primary back-up and he saw action in dime packages throughout the spring. Reports say Justin was up and down in the spring game as he was in the right place, but he didn't make the plays he should have. Bright needs to focus on getting bigger this summer. He is still in the 185 pound range, and that will help his durability for the long haul.
Ja'Juan Harley is an enigma at this stage. Athletically there isn't a safety on the roster that possesses the combination of size and speed Harley brings to the table. Harley came close to supplanting Moody as the "rover" last fall thus many expected him to have a better spring than he had. Ja'Juan simply needs to get confident again.
NoleDigest take on the safeties:
Safety was the "weak spot" on the defense heading into spring and questions still linger. There isn't a lot of playing experience at safety and there are a lot of "ifs" and "hopes" right now. We know Parks and Moody will probably start but what is there after them? There is talent, but is it good enough to shore up the secondary. Like corner, there will be an infusion of talent in the fall coming in that will fight for playing time. NoleDigest feels Demps and Bright can be solid back-ups in 2010, and that Harley is the wild card. If the light turns on for him the Seminoles will have 3 quality starters in 2010.