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May 24, 2007

Breakout Players for 2007 - No. 2 Marcus Ball

This week Warchant.com is counting down the top five breakout players for the 2007 season. No. 1 will be released Sunday night.

No. 2 Marcus Ball (6-0/215) Stone Mountain, GA (Stephenson HS)
Position: Outside Linebacker
Class this fall: True sophomore
Injury status: Coming off of a knee injury (torn ACL) suffered in the Rice game last season.
2006 Stats: 13 tackles, 1 interception (returned 54 yards) and 3 pass break-ups in four games.
Projected 2007 Stats: 97 tackles (8 for loss) and 4 sacks
Senior Stats in High School: 150 tackles and 3 interceptions.

High School Accolades: Named a second-team EA Sports All-American and chosen as a Parade All-American. Ball also participated in the 2006 U.S. Army All-American game. In the state of Georgia he was selected as a first-team all-State selection and named Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year. Rivals.com ranked Ball as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the nation and No. 37 recruit overall for the class of 2006. A member of the Rivals100 and No. 3 ranked player in the state of Georgia.

Notable: Ball's 3.7 second pro agility run, which he turned in last summer, is reportedly the fastest ever at Florida State. Also, put in a request to have his jersey number changed from No. 44 to No. 7.
2006 Review: Despite a loaded depth chart at linebacker, Ball saw extensive playing time as a true freshman. In fact, when FSU went to a 3-4 defensive scheme, the Georgia native was a starter in the fourth linebacker spot. When Mickey Andrews decided to go to more four-linebacker sets in the second game of the season versus Troy, Ball answered by delivering a team-leading 10 tackles (six solo) and three pass deflections.

Unfortunately for the former prep All-American, he suffered a torn ACL while covering a punt in the Rice game and missed the rest of the season following knee surgery. By playing in the first four games, Ball was not eligible for a medical redshirt and will enter the 2007 season as a sophomore.

Spring Review: Ball sat out spring practice while going through rehabilitation on his surgically-repaired knee.

2007 Breakout Season: From the moment Ball became academically qualified to enroll at Florida State, most people felt he would be a breakout performer for the Seminoles. If not for an untimely injury, his "breakout" season probably would have come last year. Instead, coaches and fans are anxiously waiting to see if Ball will show the same speed, instincts and ability that he displayed last season as a true freshman. Of course, for that to happen, the former Rivals100 member must have a healthy knee. So far, his rehabilitation is right on course and he expects to be medically cleared this summer.

"The rehab is going real good, I'm about a strong 85 and almost close to 90 percent right now," Ball told Warchant.com. "By late July going into August I'll be good to go."

The speedy linebacker has never been shy about his abilities, and has much bigger goals than just racking up a lot of tackles this season.

"I have a lot to accomplish, I have to prove to myself most of all that I can go all 12 or 13 games and make big plays, be a leader and being that spark that we need," Ball said. "I told you my goal two or three years ago - to get on Mel Kiper's A-list."

When the pads come on for two-day-practices in August, Ball will have a bit of an adjustment. Last year, he played for Kevin Steele, who is now at Alabama, but this season he will have a new position coach. Because of his injury, he has not has the chance to work with Chuck Amato on the field yet but believes the transition to a new coach will be a smooth one.

"His whole coaching style, is just a 'go get em' mentality," Ball said. "I just have to do what I've got to do every play, every chance I get."

Another thing that will probably change for Ball is his jersey number. Last season as a true freshman, he wore No. 44 but requested No. 7 for this season, which just happens to be Buster Davis' old number. Although Davis was the leader of the defense and the team's leading tackler, Ball says he plans to do more than just fill his shoes when he dons his new number.

"I told all the assistant coaches and all the trainers, I told them I'm going to make that number a classic number here," Ball said. "I'm going to put that right besides No. 2 (Deion Sanders), and besides No. 16 (Chris Weinke) and No. 17 (Charlie Ward). I plan on putting that No. 7 to rest when I leave."

Breakout Player No. 3 - Paul Griffin
Breakout Player No. 4 - Preston Parker
Breakout Player No. 5 - Everette Brown

Gene WilliamsGene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. During football season, he hosts a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee on NewsRadio 1270 WFLA, and appears as a weekly guest on 1460 ESPN Radio in Jacksonville and on 1420 Sportsradio in St Augustine. Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.

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