The linebacker position at Florida State has produced some of the greatest players in Seminole history. Two names that Nole fans will no doubt remember are Marvin “Shade Tree” Jones and Derrick Brooks. Jones was a terror during his time at Florida State, and was widely considered one of the greatest linebackers in college football history. Jones was a two-time All-American, winning the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and the Lombardi Award signifying the nation’s top lineman. Jones also finished fourth overall in voting for the 1992 Heisman Trophy. n the 1993 NFL Draft, Jones was selected fourth overall by the New York Jets, where he would go on to play his entire 10 year career.
Derrick Brooks was not only one of the greatest linebackers in FSU history, but in NFL history as well. Brooks, like Jones, was also a two-time All-American and played his entire professional career with one team. Brooks was a key piece of the 1993 Seminole defense, one which allowed only 14 points in their first five games and pitched four shutouts en route to winning the 1993 national championship. Brooks would of course go on to be drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1995 NFL Draft, where he would play 14 seasons for the Bucs. From 1995 to 2008, Brooks started 221 of 224 games, recording 1,698 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 25 interceptions, and six touchdowns. He was an 11-time Pro Bowler, 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and during the 2002-03 season, led the Bucs to the their first Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XXXVII. Not too shabby.
The linebacker position has a deep tradition and history at Florida State, and the 2012 group has the potential to add to the legacy that has been set before them. Times may have changed, but the expectations in Tallahassee remain the same.
The Noles return four of their top six linebackers from the 2011 season, having to replace defensive leader Nigel Bradham (4th Round pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL Draft) and junior Jeff Luc (transfer to Cincinnati). Bradham led the Noles in tackles in each of the last three seasons, something that hadn’t been done since Marvin Jones nearly 20 years earlier. Another Jones, junior Christian Jones (6’4″/232), steps in to lead a fast and punishing LB unit. After starting in all 13 games last season, he returns as the top tackler for the Seminoles, compiling 56 total tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles during his 2011 sophomore campaign. Jones was born to be a Seminole, as both his father and older brother lined up on defense for the Garnet and Gold.
Starting on the outside opposite Jones will be senior Nick Moody (see key newcomer, below). The Noles are young but extremely talented behind Jones and Moody at outside linebacker. Shoring up the depth on the outside are sophomore Nigel Terrell (6’1″/223), redshirt freshman Terrance Smith (6’4″/214) and true freshman Reggie Northrup (6’1″/221). Coach Jimbo Fisher and Defensive Coordinator Mark Stoops are building a defense where the linebackers can be more versatile, maintaining speed while adding size and strength.
The middle linebacker is essentially the quarterback of the defense, and the Noles return an experienced senior in Vince Williams. Williams (6’1″/250), started in 12 of 13 games last season, piling up 54 tackles, two sacks and one interception. Looking to rotate in behind Williams and see plenty of playing time this year is junior Telvin Smith. Smith (6’3″/215) had a great spring and was a standout in the annual Garnet and Gold spring game back in April. Last season Smith racked up 42 tackles, three sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries. Adding even more depth to the position is true freshman Ukeme Eligwe (6’3″/228). Eligwe was the #2 ranked linebacker in the nation by Rivals.com, #3 ranked lineback in the country by ESPN and was named a U.S. Army All American during his senior season at Stone Mountain High School in Georgia.
Nick Moody is “technically” a newcomer, considering the fact that although he is senior, this is his first year at the linebacker position after playing safety for the past three seasons. Moody (6’2″/237) is hard hitting, physical and fast, and he has shown no problems adjusting to his new position. His pure athleticism and football instincts have earned him a starting outside linebacker spot opposite of junior Christian Jones. Moody wears the #10 as a tribute to his favorite Seminole, FSU legend Derrick Brooks.
Next Up on 8/29: Secondary & Special Teams