By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the start of spring football just two days away, Seminoles.com’s position-by-position preview of the 2015 Florida State football team continues with a look at the defensive backs.
Defensive backs coach: Charles Kelly (Auburn ’90, third year at Florida State)
Who’s in: Jalen Ramsey (6-1, 204; JR), Trey Marshall (6-0, 192; SO), Tyrell Lyons (6-0, 215; RS SO), Marquez White (6-0, 172; JR), Malique Jackson (6-1, 165; RS FR), Nate Andrews (5-11, 210; JR), Colin Blake (6-3, 205; RS JR), Keelin Smith (6-3, 187; RS SR), Lamarcus Brutus (6-0, 208; RS SR), Tyler Hunter (5-11, 200; RS SR), Ryan Green (5-10, 195; JR), Derwin James (6-2, 201; FR), Calvin Brewton (5-11, 172; FR)
Who’s out: Ronald Darby (Third-team All-ACC), Nick Waisome (three tackles in 2014), P.J. Williams (First-team All-ACC)
See ya this summer: Tarvarus McFadden (6-2, 198); A.J. Westbrook (6-0, 173; FR), Marcus Lewis (6-1, 187; FR)
The buzz: Like they have at defensive line, the Seminoles in recent years have built a steady pipeline of defensive backs to the NFL.
Since 2012, FSU has sent four DBs into the professional ranks, including first-rounder Xavier Rhodes in 2013.
That trend is set to continue in a few weeks, as former FSU cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby are among the top DB prospects in this year’s draft.
But Williams’ and Darby’s absences have left two big holes at the cornerback position, and the competition to fill them should be pretty wide open.
Thankfully for the Seminoles, there might not be another position group on the roster more loaded than the secondary, where FSU has consistently recruited the nation’s top talent.
Junior Jalen Ramsey is the wild card. He can play any position in the secondary and, while he played primarily at the “star” nickel back position last year, coaches could be tempted to move him back outside, where he played some as a freshman.
The emergence of sophomore Trey Marshall would make that scenario more feasible. He took a turn at the star in last year’s ACC Championship Game at Georgia Tech and played well, posting five tackles and a tackle for loss.
Other candidates at cornerback include Marquez White, who played in 12 games as a reserve last year, and Ryan Green.
Green is making the move to defense after two years as a running back, but he has some familiarity with the position after playing it in high school.
Coach Jimbo Fisher said recently that he thought Green would make a fine defensive back.
“I think he’s going to be special,” Fisher said. “The fast-twitch (muscles), the ball skills, the way his hips change direction, his explosion, his play-off, but then he’s really strong guy. He’ll put his hands up and jam you and he can jump.”
FSU should also have some intrigue at its two safety spots, despite returning both starters from last year. Fifth-year senior Tyler Hunter and junior Nate Andrews will likely get the lion’s share of the snaps, but coaches are also very excited about freshman Derwin James.
A 6-2, 201-pound early-enrollee, James ranked as the No. 4 overall recruit in the country and No. 1 defensive back. And, like Ramsey did two years ago, James could force coaches to simply find a way to get him on the field, regardless of where it is.
“That guy,” Fisher said, “is as good a player as there is anywhere, any place, any time.”
Spring will of course provide a clearer picture of FSU’s defensive back situation heading into the 2015 season, but some significant reinforcements are coming this summer, too.
Tarvarus McFadden, a five-star cornerback from Fort Lauderdale, and four-star athlete Marcus Lewis will arrive in Tallahassee this summer, and each could have a say in how things play out before the season kicks off in September.
Number of note: Five. Of FSU’s top-10 tacklers in 2014, five were defensive backs. Andrews finished with 93 and Ramsey posted 79 (including 9.5 tackles for loss).