This week, Nole Nation is digging into the most hotly debated topics of the summer at Florida State in an effort to separate fact from fiction as the Seminoles get set for the 2013 season.
Next up: The secondary
Fact or Fiction: Lamarcus Joyner's decision to move from safety to cornerback was the right choice for Florida State's secondary.
The case for: From a personal standpoint, there's virtually no argument against this move for Joyner. For the past two years, he's been among the most productive and feared safeties in the ACC, but even after consecutive all-conference nods, the NFL viewed him as little more than a mid-round draft pick due to his size. The move to corner opens up options, giving Joyner a chance to showcase his skills -- and impressive speed -- in a position where his stature won't be viewed as nearly such a liability at the next level.
All of that made it easy for Joyner to request the switch, and Jimbo Fisher and Jeremy Pruitt were apparently happy to agree. But the bigger question was whether the ripple effects on the secondary will be beneficial for the team.
Those discussions can largely begin and end with a simple premise: If the move hadn't been made, there was a reasonable chance Joyner would've jumped at the NFL after the 2012 season, and regardless of where he lines up on the field, having him beats not having him in 2013 for FSU.
But while Joyner's presence on the field is clearly a boon for FSU, some fans have expressed concerns that the move creates a logjam at corner that will keep talented players like Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome or P.J. Williams off it.
That's likely less of an issue than most think. For one, Joyner hasn't forgotten how to play safety, and he'll likely get a handful of reps there each week, while also serving as a cover man in the slot and playing some nickel. Given the high percentage of reps FSU spends with extra DBs on the field, there's every reason to believe Darby and Williams will see even more snaps than they got a year ago.
Moreover, while Joyner's move may muddy the waters a bit at corner, it opens up a spot for Karlos Williams at safety, allowing perhaps FSU's most talented overall athlete a chance to test his mettle in a full-time job. Williams' role grew as 2012 progressed, culminating with a spectacular ACC title game at linebacker, but safety is his home and he was blocked by veterans Joyner and Terrence Brooks. With Joyner moving to corner, Williams will be given free reign to grow as a defender -- and perhaps develop into an even better safety than Joyner was.
The case against: In a spring filled with chaos on defense, there would've been something to be said for consistency, and FSU's secondary was the one place the Seminoles may have found some of it.
On the D line, four new starters will be stepping in this season. At linebacker, only Telvin Smith and Christian Jones have any significant experience. Even the coaching staff underwent a dramatic makeover, with three new assistants on the job, including Pruitt as the new coordinator.
But in the secondary, things might've been stable. Sure, Xavier Rhodes departed, but Darby proved last season he was ready to step in and take over the job. It appeared a smooth transition for a unit that finished as the best pass defense in the country last year. But Joyner's move shakes things up dramatically.
What if Williams doesn't live up to the hype? What if Joyner's presence really does keep talented players like Darby, Williams or nickel Tyler Hunter off the field? What if Joyner isn't nearly as effective at corner as he was at safety? Certainly his performance in the spring game didn't engender a ton of enthusiasm.
FSU has a luxury of a wealth of talent in the secondary, so mixing and matching shouldn't be that difficult, but Darby is too talented to watch from the sideline, and Hunter -- perhaps the player with the most to lose in this scenario -- tied for the team lead in INTs last year. Moreover, while Hunter and Williams certainly could work in at safety, that's not where their experience lies, and FSU has virtually no established depth behind Williams and Brooks this year.
It's entirely possible Joyner doesn't up his draft stock all that much this season, and it's perhaps likely that he'll surrender a few big plays here and there, but the net benefit of the move should still be a positive one for FSU.
Williams has waited in the wings for two years as fans drooled at his potential. Florida State needed to find a job for him, and this move accomplished that. Darby, Waisome, Williams and Hunter are all good enough to see regular reps, but odds are Pruitt can find a way to work them all in, and at the very least, the added competition can only help the overall product. And then there's Joyner, who might've been fighting for a job in an NFL camp this summer if not for this change. He was a five-star recruit as a corner coming out of high school, and there's no reason to assume he can't still get the job done now. More importantly, he's as much a leader on the defense as anyone, and his voice is crucial during this season of transition.
There are questions, of course, but that's on Pruitt and his defensive coaching staff to work out. For Joyner and for the rest of the talent on FSU's D, the move makes a ton of sense.