July 2, 2011

Trends: Pass Defense improves

Heading into the 2010 season, Florida State fans were looking for improvement from one segment of the team more than anywhere else-Pass defense.

The Seminole faithful weren't disappointed. After an abysmal 2009, the FSU pass defense improved in every category in the first year under new Defensive Coordinator Mark Stoops.

In 2009 FSU's opponents averaged 14.6 yards per catch, and scored 26 times through the air. In 2010 those numbers improved to 11.3 yards per catch and just 17 touchdown passes.

The 11.3 YPC was the lowest for an FSU defense since 2005 when FSU only allowed 10.9 yards per grab. While the total yards passing didn't improve greatly, down to just 225 per game from 230, no one would argue that the FSU pass defense didn't improve in 2010.

There were bumps in the road, like allowing 394 yards and four touchdowns to Oklahoma, and 439 yards and three touchdowns to North Carolina through the air. But for the most part the FSU pass defense was much improved, thanks in large part to not just an vastly improved pass rush, but improved play by the defensive backs as well.

Starting corners Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes were both impressive in their first full seasons as starters. Rhodes, playing as a redshirt freshman, was named a Freshman All-American and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The 6'2, 205-pound Miami native broke up 12 passes, deflected another 16, and had a team-high four interceptions. Reid broke up 14 passes, deflected 17, and picked off three.

Junior College transfer Mike Harris, a former high school quarterback, also contributed heavily to the secondary. Playing mostly as the nickel back, Harris tied Rhodes for the team lead with four interceptions, broke up five passes, and deflected nine.

New stating safeties, Nick Moody, and Terrance Parks combined had just one pick, eight break-ups, and nine deflections.

With so much depth at cornerback, former St. Thomas Aquinas standout Lamarcus Joyner switched to safety this spring.

"He's at 193 pounds now, he's just as fast or faster than he was, he hits, he tackles well and can play in the deep part of the field covering the ball in the half," Fisher said of the move before the spring. "He's also an excellent tackler, a very good tackler and Terrence Brooks (who also moved to safety) is the same way."

One of the reasons Fisher said he liked the moved was because of how many teams spread the field with multiple receiver sets now.

"With all these three and four wideout (sets) now people don't realize that safeties have to cover like corners," said Fisher. "All the blitzing stuff, all the man stuff and with all the spread teams you have got to go play and that's what we did against South Carolina. We played nickel and dime with Joyner and Mike Harris in the game - we were playing four corners all the time.... Those guys are becoming interchangeable in the way football is being played now in space."

All four starting defensive backs will return next season, plus FSU has already added corner Nick Waisome in the spring, and five-start safety Karlos Williams is on campus now.

With the wealth of secondary talent returning, and another full year in Coach Stoops' system under the defense's belt, FSU fans should again look for improvement from the pass defense this upcoming season.

A look at the FSU pass defense the last six seasons


Pass Yards Allowed Per Game: 200.8

Yards Allowed Per Catch: 10.9

Touchdown passes allowed: 15

Interceptions: 12


Pass Yards Allowed Per Game: 198.3

Yard. Allowed Per Catch: 11.4

Touchdown passes allowed: 17

Interceptions: 12


Pass Yards Allowed Per Game: 245.4

Yards Allowed Per Catch: 12.1

Touchdown passes allowed: 24

Interceptions: 17


Pass Yards Allowed Per Game: 162.4

Yards Allowed Per Catch: 12.1

Touchdown passes allowed: 15

Interceptions: 9


Pass Yards Allowed Per Game: 230.0

Yards Allowed Per Catch: 14.6

Touchdown passes allowed: 26

Interceptions: 14


Pass Yards Allowed per Game: 225.0

Yards Per Catch: 11.3

Touchdown passes allowed: 17

Interceptions: 14

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