TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Even the best cornerbacks get beat sometimes.
From Deion Sanders to Terrell Buckley, and Xavier Rhodes to Jalen Ramsey, every cornerback gives up completions – and, sometimes, touchdowns – throughout their careers.
It’s just the nature of the job, which is why every cornerback to ever play the game believes in the same maxim:
“You have to have a short memory,” as FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said recently.
Meaning that if you get beat, forget about it, move on and get ready for the next play.
That’s been sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden’s motto as he navigates his first season as a starter at Florida State.
A former prep All-American at American Heritage School in Fort Lauderdale, McFadden entered this season with a world of promise whole also facing two distinct challenges.
One, he was the first in line to replace Ramsey, one of the top cornerbacks in recent FSU history and a top-five draft pick earlier this year.
And two, he would be lining up opposite of Marquez White, an All-America candidate who allowed completions on just 32.1 percent of passes thrown his way a year ago.
Which meant that McFadden could expect to see opponents looking to challenge the new guy early and often.
“I know that I’m young still,” McFadden said. “So things are going to happen, but you’ve got to just play the next play.”
McFadden has certainly had an eventful season so far, with some outstanding highs mixed with a few growing pains as well.
Through seven games, McFadden has five interceptions, which are tied for the most in the country and already the most for any Seminole defender since Patrick Robinson grabbed six in 2007.
McFadden’s interceptions came in some big moments, too: He picked off a pass in the end zone against Miami that flipped momentum and sparked FSU to a 20-19 victory over the Hurricanes.
And he intercepted Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly late in the fourth quarter to preserve the Seminoles’ win over the Rebels in their season opener.
“When you do your job, (good) things happen to you,” McFadden said.
McFadden has seen the other side of the job, too.
Per Pro Football Focus, opponents have targeted McFadden 30 times this season. Fifteen of those targets went for completions. Six of them were for touchdowns.
Tough times are part of the job as a cornerback. But, then, that’s where the short memory comes in.
“It’s not always easy when things don’t go your way,” McFadden said. “I think it’s natural to (get down) a little bit, but you’ve just got to play the next play. It’s college football, so things are going to happen. You’ve just got to know how to bounce back.”
It’s that last point that impresses McFadden’s teammates and coaches the most. Far more than his interception total.
“He’s matured a lot, in a lot of different aspects,” White said. “Whether it’s taking coaching, moving on to the next play, understanding the guys you’re going against are good players – they’ve got a good team, good quarterbacks and they’re going to make players – but the thing you’ve got to do as a corner is just be able to move on to the next one.
“And I think he’s getting better and better at that and just accepting the pressure that we’ve got om him to be able to go out and play man-to-man and lock his guy down.”
Added Fisher, “You’re going to get attacked all the time, and you’ve got to play with great confidence and you can’t take a play off because, out there, a play (off) is usually six points on the board. And he’s had some he’s given up and he’s rebounded very well and played very well, and he’s getting better and better.”
Up next is what will likely be McFadden’s toughest test of the year – a Clemson passing attack that averages more than 300 yards per game and features some of the top receivers in the ACC.
Clemson’s Mike Williams, who missed most of last season with an injury, has 39 catches for 578 yards, and he’s averaging 82.6 yards per contest.
At 6-3, 225 pounds, Williams will be a handful for whichever Seminole draws him in coverage.
“There’s no special formula for (defending Williams),” McFadden said. “I just have to go out there and play my game with my technique, play through his hands and, when the ball comes our way, just make a play.”
And if a play doesn’t go his way, McFadden is confident that he can move on, line up again and go make the next one.
After all, a short memory is part of the job.