Running back Dalvin Cook’s introduction to the college football world last season didn’t come until week six at Syracuse.
Nobody knew who offensive tackle Rod Johnson was until mid-November when he made his first start against Miami.
Now, FSU has a pair of freshmen defensive backs — Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis — who could be the next young players to shed that anonymity midway through the season.
“We got some young guys that are emerging in practice I think you will start to see,” coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. “Getting those two freshmen in the mix will be very critical for us.”
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The Seminoles are digging deep into the secondary depth chart after injuries to Trey Marshall and Nate Andrews. Marshall tore his left biceps during Saturday’s game against Louisville and will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the regular season. Andrews bruised a bone in his knee two weeks ago at Wake Forest and has played sparingly since.
FSU was so thin in the secondary during last Saturday’s 41-21 victory over Louisville that former walk-on Javien Elliott was called upon after Tyler Hunter was beat on several plays.
Fisher said losing Marshall and Andrews is “like losing quarterbacks.” Marshall, especially, was having a solid season playing the star, or nickel back, position, a hybrid safety/linebacker. Andrews is improving and should play more Saturday at Georgia Tech.
“This guy was doing everything right,” Fisher said about Marshall. “He was putting in the preparation, the hard work in practice, the conditioning, everything he had to do to be a good football player.”
Marshall was injured in the first quarter. Louisville then completed two straight passes covering 66 yards, the final an 18-yard touchdown over Hunter. Fisher said two different players blew assignments.
No. 9 Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC) will unveil a new nickel back against Georgia Tech (2-5, 0-4). Fisher mentioned several candidates, including Hunter, who continues to be listed on the depth chart as Marshall’s backup; Jalen Ramsey, who played the position a year ago, Elliott and the two true freshmen.
The only certainty in the secondary at this moment is that Marquez White will be at one corner and Lamarcus Brutus will start at one safety. Ramsey and freshman Derwin James could be used in multiple spots.
The other variable is the responsibilities are much different when going against a triple option team like Georgia Tech, which has the 122th passing offense in the country and the No. 8 rushing offense.
“There’s a multiple of things we can do and will do at that position,” Fisher said.
McFadden, a 6-foot-2, 197-pounder from Fort Lauderdale American Heritage, and Lewis (6-1, 192) were among the top 5 at their positions (Lewis at safety) in last year’s class. Both, though, fell behind early, missing time during preseason camp and at the start of the season because of injuries, McFadden a hamstring and Lewis a bone bruise.
Fisher said both turned the corner about three weeks ago.
“When they got here, you could tell they were very talented,” White said. “They’re just anxious to play. I know they’re ready for this. They’re going to make plays.”