Mark Stoops has seen a great safety or two in his day. After all, he coached two of the best in UM history in the early 2000s.
Stoops was coaching defensive back for the University of Miami when the Hurricanes last took their title shots, when Ed Reed and the late Sean Taylor patrolled the secondary.
A decade later he stands on the other sideline, the Florida State defensive coordinator and defensive-backs coach, and in the Seminoles secondary he’s starting to see glimmers of greatness.
“Lamarcus Joyner has that [potential] — and people will shoot me for saying this — he’s like Ed Reed,” said Stoops. “He has great instincts, he has great range and maybe physically there’s better guys, but when you put it all together [you’ve got] pretty darn good football players with the passion, the instincts, that ability to be coached and the ability to make big plays.”
Joyner grew up in South Florida as a Seminoles fan. His older brother — 11 years his senior — ingrained in him from an early age a love of Florida State. But Joyner admits, as much as he hates it, that he also grew up looking up to and modeling his game after Ed Reed.
When it came decision time for Joyner at Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High, there was never any doubt — it was always Florida State. That Reed’s old coach would be mentoring Joyner at FSU was just icing on the cake.
Now a junior in his second year starting, Reed’s former coach sees many of the same qualities in the 5-9 195-pound safety as he once saw in Reed.
“When I first heard that, it was shocking,” admitted Joyner. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a guy I looked up to, that’s a guy I try to imitate my style off of,’ and for my coach, Coach Stoops — who has coached him before — to coach me and say we have the same intangibles. That’s amazing.”
But both are quick to caution that potential amounts to very little.
“He has not done what Ed Reed has, he is not Ed Reed,” said Stoops. “I’m saying he reminds me of Ed in that he has those same qualities of instincts and passion and energy and a feel for the game.”
Said Joyner: “That man is great and I haven’t done anything that he has done yet, but to have that potential he had, that’s great to know.”
So what does Joyner need to do to reach that elite level?
“Just playing, just experience, playing, coaching,” said Stoops. “I see him, he’s one of those guys that when I turn around he’s on the edge of his seat eating it all up. He wants to be great.”
Joyner has already started to make good on some of his lofty potential this season. For instance, a few weeks ago Joyner quelled No. 14 Clemson’s momentum after a touchdown by delivering a 90-yard kick return on the next play.
He also has six career interceptions and is one of the Seminoles’ biggest hitters.
But perhaps Joyner’s most important asset is his coachability.
“It’s something that he pretty much instilled in me,” said Joyner. “Because you know coming out of high school and just doing everything off of ability, not knowing that you have to be an intelligent player from here on out in football, and Coach Stoops is a very intelligent man, everything he tells me that I do, it always works.
“So it’s like, ‘OK, I want to be great, he can get me there so coach keep feeding me that information.”
Joyner has never met the man he’s being compared to, never crossed paths with Reed.
“Never. I’d love to one day,” said Joyner. “I’m pretty sure he’s a busy man and he has a lot going on in his life, but if an opportunity presents itself, I’d love to.”
The direction Joyner seems headed, that opportunity may come soon — likely out on the on the football field some Sunday.