FSU DB preview: Position changes should help secondary bounce back

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Florida State has plenty of interchangeable pieces in the secondary. Nearly all of the veterans could play corner, nickel or safety.

The primary question is where does a player fit best? FSU coaches have tried Stanford Samuels III at corner and safety, and he’s likely back to corner for his junior season. Levonta Taylor has played corner, and did it at a high level before an injury-plagued 2018, but could be a nickel or safety this fall. Jaiden Lars-Woodbey is also back at safety following a freshman season at linebacker.

All three of the moves should deliver positive results for a pass defense that was rated 120th out of 130 FBS schools in 2018 (268 passing yards per game allowed). Let’s take a look at some key questions for the defensive backs going into 2019:

Who could the starters be in the secondary?: We reserve the right to change our minds a few times between now and the opener. But one option would be Samuels and Asante Samuel at corner with Taylor and Lars-Woodbey at safety.

Samuels, at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, matches up well with larger receivers and is an ideal corner for defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, who likes to play press man. Samuel is shorter at 5-10 but holds up well when battling taller receivers. Taylor has great instincts and should match up well on a slot receiver or converge in open space on tailbacks. Lars-Woodbey excelled in high school at safety.

How does Lars-Woodbey’s move help FSU’s secondary?: It always felt like he was playing linebacker out of necessity in 2018. And Lars-Woodbey was doing a good job, especially considering he was a true freshman and it was a new position (his Pro Football Focus grade of 79.7 against the run was quite good). There’s something to be said for game experience but also now he is playing his natural position. Lars-Woodbey should be put in a position to succeed in 2019.

What role could incoming freshmen Dent, Travis Jay, Brendan Gant and Raymond Woodie III play?: If the position weren’t so deep already, it would be easy to think any of the true freshmen could jump in and play. Coaches and veterans were impressed by Dent from the first few spring practices as the early enrollee showcased his instincts and skill set. It’s also worth noting that Dent has seen extensive playing time at corner early in his career before moving to safety in his final two high school seasons.

It’s tough to picture any of the four taking a redshirt. But with coaches being able to play someone up to four games without losing a year of eligibility, there is a path to playing time to see how they perform as well as the ability to take on special-teams roles.

What about the rest of the group?: There’s so much depth in the secondary that even a senior like Kyle Meyers, who has 10 career starts, can be overlooked. Cyrus Fagan and A.J. Lytton will also be fighting for playing time, as will Isaiah Bolden (who missed most of 2018 with a shoulder injury). Carlos Becker is another example of a defensive back who has made an impact on the field but has also lost time due to injury.

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