Florida State’s Ramsey the ‘Star’ on defense
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey has no problem telling people they haven’t been paying close attention. The Seminoles’ Mr. Do-Everything has grabbed the spotlight recently, but he insists not much has changed.
Either way, Ramsey is breaking out of the Lamarcus Joyner’s shadow and reminding everyone that he may be the most important piece to No. 1 Florida State’s defensive puzzle.
“I just feel like everybody’s noticed me over the past few weeks, but it’s been there throughout the whole season,” Ramsey said. “Gradually, I am getting more and more comfortable with the position, but it’s just more people are noticing because I’ve gotten the opportunity to make some more plays.”
Ramsey was tabbed the heir apparent to Joyner’s “Star” position after the St. Louis Rams drafted him with the 41st overall pick. The “Star” for the Seminoles is basically the nickelback with the added responsibilities of being an extra linebacker in the run and blitz games. The player has to be physical, but also has to be able to drop in coverage.
Optimism has been high since Ramsey became the first FSU freshman since Deion Sanders to start at cornerback before moving to safety last season. At 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, Ramsey has Joyner’s speed, but is taller and longer.
Ramsey is No. 4 on the team with 68 tackles, No. 2 with 9.5 tackles for loss, tied for No. 2 with 3.0 sacks and is tied for team-highs in interceptions (2), pass breakups (9) and forced fumbles (2). The tackles for loss are the most in the ACC by a defensive back.
“People don’t realize the complication and multiplicity of playing that position and the uniqueness you have to have,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He is very rare because sometimes taller guys have a harder time believe that or not. He is so athletic and he bends. When you watch him rush that passer and he can dip that shoulder and get around that tackle like he is a defensive end, but then he can stop, jump and bat (down) the ball.”
Ramsey has made game-changing plays to keep Florida State’s win strike alive at 27.
His blocked extra point against Miami forced the Hurricanes to go for a game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter and Ramsey ended that drive with an interception to ice the game. He kept Boston College out of field goal range during the final possession of the first half with a 14-yard sack in what ended as a 3-point win.
“Jalen offers the kind of versatility that every defensive coordinator in the NFL would covet,” NFL Media Analyst and former scout Bucky Brooks said. “When you look at they’ve done with Lamarcus Joyner in the past and the success that Charles Woodson and some of the other dynamic hybrid safeties have had, I think Jalen Ramsey could fill a huge role for a defense down the road.”
Fisher said the “Star” position adds “a whole other dimension” to the defense. When played at an elite level, it puts pressure on a quarterback because the defender has no traditional every-down responsibility.
“It’s probably the most exciting job on the field,” Ramsey said. “I like to play with the quarterbacks. I like to play with the receivers too. They think they know when I’m blitzing sometimes and they think they know when I’m covering sometimes. I like to mess with them.”
Safety Tyler Hunter said there’s not much difference between Joyner and Ramsey except for their size. Joyner developed into a second-round pick as senior. Ramsey is starting to reach that level of play as a sophomore.
“I think we’ll know where he is for the most part. It’s blocking him,” Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “I mean’s he a really good tackler. Just everything he does, he’s good at it. And he plays with a good attitude and you know a fierce attitude. He just makes a bunch of plays.”
Florida State hosts Florida in the regular-season finale Saturday in a rivalry game that promises plenty of emotion from both sides, especially with Gators coach Will Muschamp coaching his final game. That’s a perfect environment for Ramsey.
“That’s how I play,” Ramsey said. “I play with a lot of emotion, my heart on my sleeve.
“I think that’s something that this team needs. Some people on this team feed off of me when I do that. When I don’t like how things are going, I express my feelings. I feel like guys on the team respond to it.”
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Florida, contributed to this report.