GREENSBORO, N.C. — Florida State junior cornerback P.J. Williams believes even though his Seminoles have had the best secondary in college football statistically speaking over the last three years that this year’s version is going to be even better.
And he may be 100 percent right.
While all the attention is focused on Florida State’s Heisman Trophy quarterback James Winston, the defensive backfield has at least three probable NFL first-round draft picks, and maybe more. This after the Seminoles led the nation the last three years in pass defense.
"We’re going to show it on the field regardless if (the media) talks about us or not," said Williams, a pre-season All-ACC selection. "We’ve got the athletes. I think we’re going to be better, honestly."
With Williams and teammate Ronald Darby, Florida State has what is considered to be the best cornerback tandem in the country.
We’re talking about a defensive backfield that led the nation in interceptions last year with 26, as well as having allowed the fewest passing yards per game. Yet, there is a legitimate chance they will be markedly better this time around.
Besides Williams and Darby, a junior who may be the best cornerback in the country, Florida State boasts sophomore Jalen Ramsey, who became the first freshman since Deion Sanders in 1985 to start at corner from his nickel position. Ramsey went on to garner national acclaim on numerous All-Freshmen teams.
Add to the mix veteran strong safety Tyler Hunter, who returns after missing nearly all of last season with a neck injury, and Nate Andrews, who saw significant playing time last year and is expected to be the starting free safety.
Add it all up, and it once again looks to be the best secondary in the nation, and Williams said that’s the way it is supposed to be.
"Well, I define the Florida State defensive backs as the No. 1 defensive backfield in the country," he said. "I believe we work hard, we hold ourselves to a certain standard, and last year we were also one of the top defensive backfields in the country. Every year we look to get better, and also myself just looking to get better every day out there on the field and working hard and trying to be a leader for my team, as well as everybody else."
The odd thing is the Seminoles are on their third defensive coordinator in as many years. Even with the constant turnover, Williams said it doesn’t faze him or his teammates.
"Oh, it’s really just we’ve got the players," he said. "We’ve got some of the best players in the country, and we adapt well."
There’s also something to be said for going against one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory each day in practice. That can only make a team better … on both sides of the ball.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said because the secondary is so good it allows him to mix and match coverages and essentially take the other team’s best wide receiver out of the game. He added that it also affords him the ability to blitz as often as he wishes because he knows the secondary will be just fine playing one-on-one.
Williams said he and his teammates love the pressure of being on an island with a receiver and accepting the challenge of shutting him and the other team’s offense completely down.
"We put a lot of emphasis on that," he said. "We make sure we do our job every day. We work hard and we pride ourselves on being one of the best defenses in the country, as well as the best defensive backfields in the country. I believe we work hard, and that’s our job, to get better and hold teams to not scoring as much as our offense."