FSU’s secondary will get an early test against Pittsburgh

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State’s top-ranked pass defense of 2012 will get an early test from one of the nation’s best — and somewhat unknown — receivers.

Pittsburgh’s Devin Street caught 73 passes for 975 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 as a junior. While the 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior didn’t make the All-Atlantic Coast Conference preseason team, Phil Steele’s college football preview considers him one of the top 10 receivers nationally.

The matchup of Street against Florida State’s defensive backs will be one of the best in Monday night’s season opener.

“He’s a big, athletic guy,” Florida State safety Karlos Williams said. “Loves to go get the ball. Compared to our receivers, he’s not a Rashad Greene, he’s not a Kenny Shaw, he’s not a Kelvin Benjamin.

“He’s their playmaker. He’s not a great receiver but he’s a productive guy. We’re going to have to go out there and stop him.”

Florida State has had success stopping the pass — and keeping an opponent’s top receiver in check. Last season, the Seminoles allowed just 161 passing yards per game. Just one receiver in 14 games had a 100-yard game — Virginia Tech’s Corey Fuller had seven catches for 124 yards in a loss to Florida State.

And some of the ACC’s best receivers struggled against the Seminoles. Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro had just two receptions for eight yards, Maryland’s Stephon Diggs had three catches for 45 yards. Boston College’s Alex Amidon had three catches for 44 yards.

Clemson was really the only team that fared well in the air against Florida State. Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 237 yards, and he found DeAndre Hopkins five times for 88 yards (but Clemson’s other playmaker, Sammy Watkins, was held to just six receptions for 24 yards).

Florida State’s All-ACC corner, Lamarcus Joyner, is just 5-foot-8 and will yield a whopping eight inches when lined up against Street. But Joyner has often practiced against 6-foot-6, 235-pound Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin in practice.

“Match the intensity,” Joyner said. “Physicality with physicality. May the best man win. That’s what football is all about. I go against guys like that every day. Kelvin Benjamin, we got a guy that’s much bigger.”

Florida State’s deepest position is its secondary. Despite losing cornerback Xavier Rhodes (a first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings), the Seminoles return cornerbacks like Joyner, Nick Waisome, P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby and Jalen Ramsey. At safety, Florida State has Karlos Williams, Terrence Brooks and Tyler Hunter.

Ramsey, a Scout.com five-star corner from the 2013 signing class, has impressed from the start and could see playing time on Monday.

“Jalen Ramsey is playing really good football,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Big body, long, athletic.”

Ramsey is listed as a second-string corner on Florida State’s depth chart along with Waisome, and in reality both will see significant playing time in the Seminoles five-defensive-back sets.

But Florida State’s defensive depth chart did raise a few eyebrows.

Fisher has listed defensive end Dan Hicks as the starting strongside linebacker and 300-pound Eddie Goldman, a defensive tackle, as the starting left end.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Hicks is considered one of the Seminoles’ more athletic players, and Fisher expects that the senior will play a combination of linebacker, stand-up rush end and down lineman.

“Dan can run and cover,” Fisher said. “He can stand or he can get down. He can do both. It’s like what we did with Bjoern (Werner) at times last year. It’s the same things we did last year.”

Florida State will feature multiple looks on defense, using at times a traditional 4-3 front but at others utilizing a five-man defensive line. And the Seminoles will often go with nickel and dime sets in the secondary under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Contact Bob Ferrante at bobferrante17@gmail.com
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