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Friday, March 15, 2013
Spring questions: Joyner on the move

By David M. Hale

Lamarcus Joyner
Coaches are feeling more and more comfortable with Lamarcus Joyner's move to cornerback, where Jimbo Fisher believes the 5-foot-8 defender belongs.
Editor’s note: Each day until the start of spring practice, we’ll pose a question facing Florida State's football team as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: Was moving FSU's best returning defender to a new position the right decision?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- During an offseason marked by news of players and coaches leaving Florida State, the biggest story might have been about one who stayed.

By December, Lamarcus Joyner seemed to have one foot out the door. He'd earned All-ACC honors for a second straight year, and while NFL scouts weren't pegging him as a first-round pick, his pro stock had likely reached its apex, given his physical limitations. Add the fact that his defensive coordinator and a slew of other coaches were leaving and there seemed to be little incentive for Joyner to return for his senior season.

As it turned out, Joyner felt differently.

By coming back for 2013, he ensures Florida State will still have its most vocal leader and biggest hitter, and, given the other departures on the unit, there's little question he's the Seminoles' best returning defender.

So, Jimbo Fisher and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt should've been excited to maintain some defensive consistency, right? Not exactly.

Joyner will be back for 2013, but not at safety, where he's starred for the past two seasons. Fisher announced the undersized Joyner (5-foot-8, 195 pounds) will move to cornerback this spring, causing a ripple effect throughout the secondary.

For Joyner, the move makes sense. Given his size limitations, he projects better as a cornerback in the NFL, and this gives him a season to show scouts he's up to the task. For FSU, there are some good reasons to switch things up, too. By sliding Joyner to corner, a job is now open for talented junior Karlos Williams. And while Joyner's position will nominally be cornerback, his versatility should allow Pruitt to explore his options with personnel, particularly in nickel and dime sets.

"He can jam, he can run, you can see him in those nickel and dime situations inside," Fisher said. "I think he'll be a great blitzer, a great slot cover guy because he's extremely quick, and I think that's something he can do at the next level."

But the question still needs to be asked: Given the immense turnover throughout the defense, was moving FSU's most established veteran to a new position a smart move?

Joyner certainly has the speed and smarts to play corner, but he doesn't exactly fit FSU's recent mold of tall, physical cover players like Xavier Rhodes. The Seminoles desperately needed to find a way to get Williams on the field, but it may come at the expense of playing time for Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby, two corners who established themselves as impact performers in 2012, or nickel Tyler Hunter.

Fisher insists Pruitt was on board for the change, too, and that's significant because, in the end, the real value of the decision likely will be determined by how Fisher and Pruitt handle this new order in the secondary.

"I think that's what best for the team," Fisher said. "Corner is what [Joyner] truly is."