A certain defensive player/lab experiment two states north is receiving all the media attention (as he should). Yet, don’t be surprised if by season’s end another #7, Florida State’s Christian Jones, is in the running for the Butkus Award given to the nation’s top linebacker.
It’s one thing for linebackers to cover both sides of the field. It’s something totally different when said linebacker covers slot receivers with ease and occasionally better than a handful of defensive backs. Returning for his senior campaign, Jones made the decision to do so following a “subpar” junior season. And by subpar, I mean a team-leading 95 tackles and being named First-Team All ACC. Many experts pinpoint C.J. as one of the best players in the country and a future first-rounder. And he’ll have to be if Florida State expects to contend both in-conference and nationally.
Here’s the funny thing, though. There may not be a way for offenses to locate him come September. Between dropping back in coverage – something head coach Jimbo Fisher says he’s one of the best he’s ever seen at doing – he may end up kneeling down pinning his ears back to stalk opposing quarterbacks. His coaching staff sees him as a freakish utility player with tools to do everything on defense except consistently play defensive back. Opponents may lose sleep game-planning for him. And certain NFL scouts have already booked their flights to Tallahassee.
Meanwhile, his teammate/bash brother Lamarcus Joyner’s reputation as one of the hardest hitting safeties in America is without question. Joyner’s role in his final year in Doak Campbell Stadium as the elder statesmen on what was one of the best secondaries in the country last year increases in importance. Like Jones, his First-Team conference honor made his return to Tallahassee a steroid shot to an already blood thirsty defense (probably a bad choice of words). The only legitimate question regarding his skill set is how he’ll transition from safety to defensive back, a decision he says was strictly business because of the questions surrounding his 5’8 frame and potential NFL future.
Only five teams allowed less points per game than Florida State last year (14.7). With the return of Jones and Joyner and the addition of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, much of the same is expected as FSU looks to compete with Clemson as the conference’s king of the hill. Personally? Joyner’s going to test the new “targeting” rule the NCAA implemented possibly like no player in the country at his position. And Jones may not be too far behind him with fellow senior backer Telvin Smith as his co-pilot.
My cousin Angela graduated from Florida State in the early ’90s and asks me every year prior to the season, “So does FSU have a shot to win a national title this year?” It’ll take an offense rounding into form quickly, the ‘Noles avoiding their yearly “trap game,” the SEC to finally decide “y’all got it” and perhaps one or two other chips to fall their way in 2013, but there’s always a shot. Watch Christian Jones and Lamarcus Joyner enough this season, however, and she may be able to use “I’m too tired” as an excuse not to go to church Sunday morning.
Avoiding anything totally off-kilter like injuries, lack of motivation or academic problems, they’ll be handing out baptisms on Saturdays all season long.
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