NCF Nation: Jenije
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The progress Florida State's defense has made this spring could be measured statistically in Saturday's Garnet and Gold game -- five fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews called it the "best job all spring" for turnovers.
"We started slow -- couldn't get a turnover," Andrews said of the defense this spring. "Then we started getting a couple of them. We started getting a few fumbles. We got one interception in the last scrimmage and we got two this scrimmage. Not that that's enough, but it's twice as many as we had in the previous scrimmage. Turnovers, when you get the offense the ball in a short field, you've got a great chance. ... We just have to get better fundamentally and learn how to step it up a notch."
Florida State ranked 62nd nationally in turnover margin last year and 85th with only nine passes intercepted.
Tasked with replacing Myron Rolle and Tony Carter, who combined for 85 career starts, Florida State's secondary was one of the Noles' biggest questions marks this spring. Patrick Robinson and Jamie Robinson, two seniors, have been the veteran leaders of the group. Outside of Patrick Robinson, who has seven career interceptions -- six of which came in 2007, the secondary has combined for one career interception (Jamie Robinson).
Jamie Robinson, who is in his second season at safety and said he feels more comfortable out there, proved it on Saturday with two interceptions.
"We have been lacking in interceptions for the past couple of years," Robinson said. "Generally, whenever a defense doesn't have a lot of interceptions, that falls on the secondary. So, as a secondary, we've been taking that personally and really embraced that challenge and tried to step up to the plate and answer that call of making more interceptions and causing more turnovers.
"It's real important for somebody to step up and take control and take on that leadership role, be able to give the guys some enthusiasm and inspiration to look to, something to feed off of out there on the field. It was real good to embrace that role and be there for the guys and make sure they're playing up to their potential every play."
The Noles appear to have taken steps in solidifying their starting lineup in the secondary this spring, with both Robinsons, Korey Mangum, who moved to rover, and Ochuko Jenije at field field corner. (Andrews, though, said Jenije is a "sometimes player" who has to learn to play every play. "Too many times he lets the receiver or the running back win the battle," Andrews said. "He's making progress.")
Former cornerback Terrance Parks has practiced at both rover and safety this spring, but sat out two days with a medical problem. Star recruit Dionte Allen has also been in the mix.
"We've got the four best players out there," Andrews said. "We don't have many two's that are challenging them. That's not good, because we like to play a lot of players. If we play Miami right now, we could play with four people. The other guys have got to decide they're going to get to the point where we could trust them enough to put them in the ball game. Right now, we couldn't trust 'em. It's not over, we've still got four days, the entire summer, so hopefully we can find them before we have to play Miami."
Overall, Andrews said he's confident with the first-team defense. It's the depth that remains a concern heading into summer camp.
"The first group is getting closer to having a chance to become a good defense," Andrews said. "We don't have enough guys on second team right now that you can put in a football game and say 'sic 'em.' They had to learn the terminology around here. They got 'sic 'em' and 'watch 'em' mixed up. A lot of them are freshmen and they've got to quit acting like freshmen. You've got to grow up sometime. But we've got three more days to see if we can't get a little better and hopefully we can get the progress we've got to have there."