As schools’ academic years are wrapping up, last season’s juniors are about to become this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
In total, 11 ‘Noles were drafted last month — a staggering number and a program record. Lamarcus Joyner would have been one of them, but he had other goals in mind. As he told the Orlando Sentinel back in January:
“Coach Fisher and I aren’t finished with what we started here. He said from Day 1 I was going to be one of those guys that was going to help turn the program around. We’ve started down the right path so far, but we’re still not finished.”
… And it’s going to be that type of fire this very young team needs if they hope to come close to last year’s 12-2 finish. With so much turnover with the roster and coaching staff, Joyner’s presence will be one of the few familiar faces on the Seminoles this year and one of the only remaining veteran leaders. But it’s a role he’s completely comfortable in, and in fact, thrives upon. Joyner considers himself not just the “quarterback of the secondary” anymore, but the “quarterback” for the entire defense; something that carries equal amounts of pressure and reward with it.
Earning first-team All-ACC honors last year, Joyner pulled in 51 tackles and an interception last year. Those numbers may not seem all that impressive, but that completely misses the impact this tireless worker has on each and every game he plays. FSU had the top-ranked passing defense in the entire country. Teams only amassed a little over 2,200 yards against them through the air, along with just 13 touchdowns, in 14 games. Joyner, one of the better shutdown corners in the game, was simply not targeted in many contests, which — along with playing safety last season — makes it awful hard to put up gaudy statistics. Ten different times, Florida State opponents failed to amass more than 150 yards passing in one game. No team every hit three hundred yards. Though it’s a credit to the entire Seminoles defense that they were so staunch against the pass, again, the praise and pressure starts with their leader, Joyner. And yet, his main goal is respect, over anything else:
“I didn’t have five or seven picks or 100 tackles, but I showed opponents that I’m a good ballplayer, and I will make you pay on the football field. Guys respect that, and they’ll game-plan around that. That’s a big honor for me.”
So while Joyner and FSU both respectively have a lot of work to do, this almost seems to be playing out as it’s supposed to. Joyner, so many times doubted for his lack of size (just 5’8″), has continually worked to prove everyone wrong, and now as a senior, he possesses an opportunity to put an entire defense (and possibly, team) on his shoulders. For anyone who’s watched him play, there’s little doubt he’s up to the challenge.