Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A healthy Derwin James could be FSU's biggest addition next season

TALLAHASSEE — As coach Jimbo Fisher walked into Florida State's first practice of the spring Monday, he paused to talk to the player getting ready behind the white truck by the sod cemetery.

Fisher had to check on Derwin James.

Of all the reasons Fisher has to be optimistic about his Seminoles' championship hopes in 2017, none are larger than the do-it-all defensive star who returned to practice from the left knee injury that sidelined him for last season's final 11 games.

"What he's done in the past, that's great," Fisher said.

But FSU is counting on what will happen in the future to be even greater.

When healthy, James is as talented as any player in the country — the defensive equivalent of a dynamic quarterback like Louisville's Lamar Jackson or Clemson's Deshaun Watson. As a true freshman in 2015, James recorded 91 tackles (9½ for a loss), 4½ sacks, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles and recoveries.

At 6 feet 3, 211 pounds, James has the size and rare versatility that will be wowing scouts at the NFL scouting combine this time next year. James can blitz as an edge rusher, drop back as a safety or cover as a cornerback. On Monday, James even worked on returning kicks.

"He can have the skill set to do anything," Fisher said.

That's why it's not a stretch to think that FSU's 2016 title hopes ended when James tore his meniscus in the Seminoles' Week 2 win over Charleston Southern.

James' absence wasn't worth 43 points (the margin of defeat in the road humiliation to Jackson's Cardinals). But would North Carolina have been able to carve up FSU's defense and set up the game-winning field goal with James roaming the secondary? Could Watson have picked apart FSU for 134 passing yards and 17 points in the fourth quarter with James flying across the field?

"I wasn't really watching it as, what would be different?" James said. "But of course there's plays in the game I feel like I can make and help my team."

If James makes them this year, FSU could be in for another championship season.

Fisher counts 17 returning starters from a 10-win team that beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles will likely start 2017 in the top 10 (if not five) before a massive showdown with Alabama in Atlanta. A national title run is a possibility.

But, as FSU learned last year, some of that promise hinges on James' surgically repaired left knee.

He passed his first test Monday, with no ill effects, and he's already eager for the next one — hitting.

"I'm waiting on that," James said, "but that'll come."

'NOLES NOTES: Defensive back Tarvarus McFadden will miss all of spring practice as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. He was tied for the national lead with eight interceptions last fall. … Dameyune Craig — the recruiter who landed Jameis Winston — rejoined FSU as an offensive quality control analyst after assistant coaching stops at LSU and Auburn.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

 (left to right) Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44), DUPLICATE***Florida State Seminoles defensive back Derwin James (3) and Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) walk onto the field before the Camping World Kickoff against the Mississippi Rebels on Monday September 5, 2016 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Final Score FSU 45, Ole Miss 34.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

(left to right) Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44), DUPLICATE***Florida State Seminoles defensive back Derwin James (3) and Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) walk onto the field before the Camping World Kickoff against the Mississippi Rebels on Monday September 5, 2016 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Final Score FSU 45, Ole Miss 34.

A healthy Derwin James could be FSU's biggest addition next season 03/06/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 7, 2017 5:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 247Sports: Berkeley Prep's Nicholas Petit-Frere top OT in nation

    Footballpreps

    Berkeley Prep offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere already is widely considered the best player in Tampa Bay.

    Berkeley Prep rising senior defensive end Nicholas Petit-Frere (78) performs a pad drill during spring football practice at Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, May 12, 2017.
  2. Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot

    Blogs

    Now that you've seen the preseason AP Top 25, here's what I submitted in my first year as a voter. The AP doesn't give us many guidelines in the preseason. I didn't try to predict how …

  3. AP Top 25: Alabama first, FSU, UF, Miami and USF all in top 20

    Blogs

    As expected, Alabama will start the season at No. 1 in the AP Top 25.

  4. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay

    Footballpreps

    Armwood High School quarterback Devin Black (7) hands the ball off to running back Larry Anderson (13) during the Spring Football Jamboree in Seffner, Fla. on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
  5. Ex-Florida Gators QB Treon Harris will start at Tennessee State

    Blogs

    Former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris is a starter again.

    At Tennessee State.