TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In the back of his mind, Zaquandre White still thinks he’d like to one day play running back again.
For now, though, White is happy in his new home with Florida State’s linebackers.
“The transition has been pretty cool,” White said. “… It was an opportunity to get on the field.”
An accomplished running back in his own right, White ran for more than 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns across his last 14 games at North Fort Myers High – an alma mater he shares with former FSU great Deion Sanders.
But upon arriving at Florida State, White found himself near the bottom of a crowded running back depth chart that featured Cam Akers, Jacques Patrick and Amir Rasul, among others.
White redshirted in 2017, and, with no clear path to playing time on offense, switched sides during fall camp earlier this year.
It was a move, coach Willie Taggart said at the time, designed to get White’s speed, athleticism and physicality on the field in any way he could.
“Coach (Taggart) talked to me about it, said we need help on defense,” White said. “To help my teammates out, I said I would do it.”
White had played some cornerback and safety in high school, so playing defense wasn’t completely foreign.
But whereas his responsibilities back then were mostly centered on the passing game, White’s role at linebacker requires him to support the run defense, too.
That, he said, has been his biggest challenge. But with support from Taggart and linebackers coach Raymond Woodie, as well as from defensive graduate assistant Joe Bowen, White feels that he’s making strides.
“We knew he wasn’t necessarily going to get there at the beginning of the year,” Taggart said, “but we felt, from a talent standpoint, athletically, he’s got a chance to be really, really good at the linebacker position.”
With the Florida State’s season rounding past the midway point, White has worked his way into the linebacker rotation and last week against Wake Forest made a career-high six tackles.
He’s also emerged as a valuable member of the Seminoles’ productive kick and punt return units.
“Just every day, going through practice and getting better, it’s working out,” White said.
Swinney: ‘They are every bit as talented as we are’: Conventional wisdom and recent history both suggest that Clemson is the current class of the ACC and that, while Florida State is working toward reclaiming that title, the Seminoles aren’t there yet.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, however, isn’t buying that line of thinking.
“Florida State is a very talented football team,” Swinney said earlier this week. “I mean, they are every bit as talented as we are. No doubt about that.”
The FSU-Clemson series has been remarkably balanced since Swinney took over in 2008. The teams are 5-5 against each other during that span, both have won national championships, both have made College Football Playoff appearances and one or the other has won the ACC Atlantic Division for nine consecutive years.
And even in the last three seasons, while Clemson was climbing to the top of the college football mountain, it’s games with Florida State were all close and competitive.
“This is a big challenge,” Swinney said. “This is still Florida State, one of the best programs in college football history, and a very tough place to go and win.”
Robinson to be featured on ESPN’s College Gameday: Florida State defensive end Janarius Robinson, whose family home in Panama City was destroyed by Hurricane Michael two weeks ago, will share his story with the nation during ESPN’s College Gameday pregame show on Saturday morning.
ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi and a camera crew visited with Robinson and his mother, Cherine Duncan, to conduct an interview and tour the damage left in Michael’s wake.
— Derek Satterfield (@dsatt_) October 24, 2018
An NCAA-approved Gofundme campaign helped Robinson and his family recover, and Robinson hopes to use his story and platform as a Florida State football player to bring more awareness and relief to those affected in his hometown and surrounding communities.
In his first game after the storm, Robinson posted a career-high six tackles and one sack.
“The more it can be told, the more, hopefully, folks can be helped,” Taggart said. “Not only Janarius, but everyone else in that area can be helped. It was devastating, but I’ve been very proud of Janarius and how he’s handled everything. … Very inspiring, the way he comes to work every day, knowing the trouble that his family is going through.”