If you are going to talk about the Florida State defense and not just about how good they are, you are going to have to talk about their depth, especially in the front seven. Florida likes to talk about playing a lot of players, but the Seminoles use a lot of people up front which helps them stay consistent during the whole game.
That consistency has led Flori9da State to be the top defense in the country in terms of total yards allowed, rushing yards and rushing yards allowed. They are also ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards allowed and scoring on defense.
For the Noles it all starts up front.
Left end Bjoern Werner (6-4, 255, Jr.) is a game-changer at defensive end, drawing constant double-teams. He's second in the ACC in sacks (9.5) and third in tackles for loss (14.5) in 2012. With his unique skill set, he has seven pass breakups – and is only one of four DL in the NCAA with seven or more PBUs. Right end Cornellius Carradine (6-5, 265, Sr.) leads the ACC in sacks (10.5) and is ranked 10th nationally he's the team-leader in tackles with 69 and also has 11.5 TFLs, ranking seventh in the ACC.
Defensive tackle Everett Dawkins (6-3, 300, Sr.) has 22 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs and a half-sack this season. He's started 38 games in his career - the most among FSU defenders. Defensive tackle Anthony McCloud (6-2, 310, Sr.) is entering his third season as a starter but missed season-opener with a chest injury. He has 20 tackles and a sack to his name this season.
Demonte McAllister (6-2, 285, Jr.) and Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 298, So.) provide seasoned depth and new guy Eddie Goldman (6-4, 320, Fr.) brings some beef up front on defense. The trio bring 59 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss total among the bunch for the season.
SAM linebacker Nick Moody (6-2, 237, Sr.) brings his hard-hitting presence to strong side linebacker after playing safety for three years. He's a veteran and has played in 45 career games, he has 14 tackles on the season. Middle linebacker Vince Williams (6-1, 247, Sr.) has 40 total tackles in 2012. He started 12 games at middle linebacker in 2011. Weak side linebacker Christian Jones (6-4, 232, Jr.) is second on the team with 67 tackles. Jones also has six tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries in 2012.
Linebacker Telvin Smith (6-3, 212, Jr.) doesn't start, but is the third leading tackler with 47 and has an eye popping 9.5 tackles for loss. He could very well be the Noles best talent on defense. Young guys Terrance Smith (6-4, 212, Fr.) and Reggie Northrup (6-1, 220, Fr.) also add quality depth to the linebacker position.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (6-2, 217, Jr.) has elite size and is a third-year starter He's tied for 12th in ACC in passes defended in 2012 with eight and has two interceptions on the season. Cornerback Nick Waisome (5-10, 170, So.) is a familiar name to Gator fans and ranks 15th in ACC in passes defended with seven. Waisome saw action in 11 games in 2011. He has 17 tackles and an interce[ption as well this season. Ronald Darby (5-11, 189, Fr.) is the top reserve at corner and has 18 tackles and seven passes defended on the season so far. Darby is an elite speed talent.
Strong safety Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 195, Jr.) lacks the size but has great instincts and is a huge hitter. He captured 2011 All-ACC Second Team honors after leading FSU with four interceptions. This year he is fifth on the team in tackles (39) and has an interception and four passes broken up. Free safety Terrence Brooks (5-11, 197, Jr.) took over at starting free safety spot after playing primarily in dime packages in 2011. He has 38 tackles in 2012 along with one interception.
Bottom Line on FSU's Defense: the Gators need to at least try and attack the secondary. The one thing that stands out to me is that with all the speed and swarming they do on defense, FSU is just tied for 3rd in the ACC in sacks, and 7th in the league in tackles for loss. They aren't the biggest line, so you would think they would get to the backfield quickly.
The FSU defense doesn't use a lot of trickery and they just try and line up and beat the man in front of them. I think this plays in Florida's favor where the Gators don't lose one-on-one battles as much as confusion causes them to give up sacks and penetrating defenders in the backfield.
Florida State is also 11th out of 12 teams in the ACC in takeaways. They just don't get the ball back much for their offense. Again, this plays well for Florida who is a high turnover margin team both taking the ball away and not giving the ball up. Could this allow Florida to be a little more liberal with the play calling? We shall see.
It is a very talented defense, but somewhat of a paper tiger again because of the really, really poor competition they have faced. Florida's offense certainly isn't going to scare them, but could this be a team that Florida just lines up and pounds? I think the Gators have to try. I also think they have to surprise with some play action in curious places.
The FSU special teams are very good as well. Place kicker Dustin Hopkins (6-2, 190, Sr.) handles field goals and kickoffs and is one of the best in the country at both. Punter Cason Beatty (6-3, 229, Fr.) has struggled a bit in his rookie season and the Noles are currently 11th in the conference in net punting.
Punt returner Rashad Greene (6-0, 170, So.) had two punt returns for a TD in the first three games - just the seventh Nole to accomplish that feat in a season since 1973. He is a good one. Kick returners Karlos Williams (6-1, 230, So.) and Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 195, Jr.) are a diverse duo and are both capable of making the big play at any time.
Bottom Line on Special Teams: Florida may have the best kicker in the country in Caleb Sturgis, but Hopkins isn't far behind and has excellent range. The Gators get a huge edge in punting, but don't have a return man like Greene, so they need to really bottle him up. It is pretty much a wash at kick returner.