April 19, 2007

Is there cause for concern on defense?

With the massive overhaul of the offensive coaching staff and a high profile quarterback battle in full swing, it's not surprising that very little attention was given to the defense over spring practice.

Although most of the blame for FSU's recent downturn has been focused squarely on the offense, Mickey Andrews' squad hasn't exactly lived up to its usual high standards. In fact, for the second year in a row the 'Noles ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in scoring defense. And during the recently completed spring practice scrimmages, the defense gave up more than its usual share of points and yards against a rebuilt offense that is struggling to learn a new system.

The good news is that defense had a legitimate excuse for some of its minor struggles this spring. Four projected starters - Paul Griffin, Kevin McNeil, Marcus Ball and Derek Nicholson - we were out, two other starters - Tony Carter and Geno Hayes - missed several practices and scrimmages, and three key backups - Emmanuel Dunbar, Jae Thaxton and Rodney Gallon - sat out all or a good part spring practice because of injuries. As a result, a good portion of the starting defense was manned by second and third teamers, and the second team by third teamers and walk-on players.

The unit hit the hardest was the linebacking corps. For the week or so that Geno Hayes was out, all three starters were forced to watch practices from the bench. At least for Hayes, he was able to return in time to play in the spring game. That wasn't the case for Marcus Ball and Derek Nicholson, who are both coming off ACL surgeries, as they were relegated to cheerleader status.

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