By Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
Throughout their Florida State careers, Myron Rolle and Tony Carter were constants in the defensive secondary.
Now that Carter has graduated and is working for a roster spot with the Denver Broncos and Rolle is preparing to study overseas as a Rhodes Scholar, the Seminoles must replace two players who combined for 346 tackles and 10 interceptions while playing in a combined 88 games over the course of their careers.
It’s no simple task to replace that type of production – especially at a position that is full of inexperienced players – but that was and still is a priority on defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews’ off-season to-do list.
With starting positions at rover and at cornerback wide open, Andrews had hoped to find clear-cut favorites to win those jobs by spring’s end.
But because of an overall unspectacular spring session by the defensive secondary, the Seminoles’ longtime defensive boss is still searching for the heir apparent to both Rolle and Carter.
Redshirt senior Korey Mangum made the move from cornerback to rover during the spring with the hopes of locking down the position in his final year in the garnet and gold. That proved to be easier said than done right away, however, as any type of position-switch requires a great deal of time and patience while getting acclimated.
Like Mangum, sophomore Terrance Parks has made the move from cornerback and worked at both rover and free safety in the spring. But unfortunately, he too struggled with the transition and didn’t yet grab hold of the starter’s reins.
At Carter’s vacated cornerback spot, redshirt junior Ochuko Jenije and redshirt sophomore Dionte Allen battled all spring for the right to man the position but both struggled with consistency. Redshirt freshman A.J. Alexander, who is expected to be a prominent figure on special teams in the return game this year, also got some work on the corner but he is still getting acclimated to the college game.
With all this talk about inconsistency and inexperience, what about the positives?
There are two very good defensive-secondary stories from the spring and both go by the name of Robinson.
Both Patrick Robinson and Jamie Robinson used the spring to show that they are certainly the defensive backfield’s primary playmakers in 2009. Both seniors, Patrick Robinson proved to be nearly impossible to throw against each and every practice and scrimmage at cornerback and as FSU’s starting free safety, Jamie Robinson capped off his impressive spring with two interceptions in the Garnet & Gold game.
Make no mistake about it; there were some issues in the secondary all spring. But the performance by both Robinsons and what could be a stellar final season for both could serve for as the catalyst for a position of players that have the talent to be productive in 2009.
What to watch for:
Obviously, the most important thing to watch in the summer months and into two-a-days will be the competition at rover and cornerback.
Mangum and Parks will continue to fight for the role of starting rover but a couple of highly-recruited freshmen will join the competition in the coming months as safeties Justin Bright and Gerald Demps will enroll at FSU in June.
Like Parks, both Bright and Demps could earn playing time at either of the safety positions although it’s likely that Bright will start his Seminole career at rover and Demps at the free safety spot. And because of the lack of depth, both could earn that playing time right away.
Fellow freshman Jajuan Harley from nearby Rickards High School in Tallahassee has the size and versatility to play either cornerback or one of the safety position at FSU so he may figure into the competition.
Former quarterback D’Vontrey Richardson could compete for playing time in the secondary after moving to defense this off-season. But his football future is still a mystery as he has devoted the past six months to the FSU baseball diamond.
At cornerback, Demps’ high school teammate, Greg Reid, was one of the nation’s most sought-after defensive backs as a senior a year ago. Reid’s ability to blanket receivers and then make plays if he gets his hands on the football means he could push Jenije, Allen and Alexander for a prominent role on the corner once he gets to FSU.
As for FSU’s senior playmakers in the secondary, the question is can Jamie Robinson continue to show the progress that made him stand out in the spring?
Following the switch from cornerback to free safety prior to the start of the 2008 season, Jamie Robinson slowly but surely got better and better with every minute of experience at his new position. With an entire spring practice period under his belt as the Seminoles’ No. 1 player at the position, there’s no reason not to believe that 2009 couldn’t be a memorable one.
And what about Patrick Robinson? If the spring is any indication, he may have regained his form as a player that in 2007 burst onto the scene as a sophomore when he achieved an interception in an FSU record-tying five-straight games.
After a junior campaign slowed by suspension and injuries, Patrick Robinson could be one of the top defensive backs in the conference this season – and perhaps all of college football.
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