Can Florida State DC Charles Kelly make Seminoles defense elite?


Can Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly get the Seminoles playing to the level they did under former coordinator Jeremy Pruitt?

Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly had some large shoes to fill in 2014 when he took over after Jeremy Pruitt’s sudden departure to take the same job at Georgia. Needless to say, Kelly’s defense struggled to match the same level of success as his predecessor despite a wealth of NFL talent.

Related: 30 Best College Football Stadiums

Pruitt built a champion immediately after he was hired. As soon as he stepped foot in Tallahassee, he changed the structure of Florida State’s defense, electing to go with a 3-4 scheme. Along with that, he employed a more aggressive approach to encourage the defense to capitalize on opposing teams mistakes.

And capitalize they did.

The results were historic. That year, the ‘Noles led the nation in interceptions, passing defense, and scoring defense. The Seminoles defense only allowed 156.6 yards passing per game, and only gave up 124.8 yards on the ground per game. Their defense was suffocating en route to winning the national championship.

A year later, one would be stunned at the difference. Florida State finished 50th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 25.6 point per game. They allowed 12.1 the year before. The nation’s top pass defense also dropped to 57th in the country and the ranked 68th against the run.

More from ACC

This year, Kelly is looking to improve upon what was an average defense. Florida State will need to improve in pass defense, namely the pass rush, as they finished 108th in the nation in sacks last year. The ‘Noles will be looking to shore up their defensive line to provide a solid, consistent pressure game, especially on third down, where FSU often struggled.

Lorenzo Featherston needs to generate a pass rush from the Buck position and be one of the team’s biggest breakout players this year. At 6-7, 230-pounds he looks the part of the next great pass rusher from Florida State.

Players like Derick Nnadi and Reggie Northrup will be strong up the middle at nose guard and middle linebacker, but replacing Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr. will be tough.

The ony player who can mask any holes in the front seven and make Kelly’s defense get back to the one we saw in 2013 under Pruitt is defensive back Jalen Ramsey, the leader of the Seminoles defense.

He’s played everywhere in the secondary but will be expected to be a shutdown corner this year after making 80 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, second only to Edwards. He also had three sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, 12 passes broken up and even blocked a kick. He has generational talent.

With Ramsey capable of being the best defensive player in the nation, Florida State can be a lot closer to the unit from 2013 than the one from 2014. However, Ramsey can’t be expected to do it alone, so if they don’t get a pass rush and replace the players who left for the NFL, the defense could cost them the ACC championship.

Next: Top 30 College Mascots of All-Time

More from Saturday Blitz