Every year college football has a few players that stand out from the rest. There are literally thousands of players but only a few each season make a distinct impression in the minds of fans. You could name most of them from the past few seasons.
I'm talking about guys like Tim Tebow, Michael Crabtree, Cam Newton, Ndamukong Suh and Rolando McClain. Their play separated them from the rest of their peers. It forced us to remember them differently.
This year, Lamarcus Joyner will be one of those players.
Lamarcus Joyner, the superb safety for the Florida State Seminoles, is another of those players that you just notice. Last year, in just his sophomore season, he was one of the best safeties in the country, posting 54 tackles and four interceptions.
Though not quite yet a household name, Joyner is poised to make an even bigger impact this year. Here's everything you need to know about the stellar junior safety.
As hard as it is to believe after watching him play, Joyner wasn't always a safety. He actually entered Florida State as the top cornerback recruit in the nation and spent his freshman year in that same capacity. In spite of a statistically solid year playing as a backup corner, Joyner felt inclined to make a change.
He told Brandon Mellor of Seminoles.com:
“As a freshman coming in everybody said I wasn't tall enough or I didn't weigh enough. But after the season I asked Coach (Mark) Stoops if I could move to safety because that's more of a natural feel to me. Coach Stoops is a great defensive coordinator and he knows what he's doing. When he moved me to safety it made life that much better.”
Let me correct that. Lamarcus Joyner is really fast. Joyner posted a 4.34 second 40-yard dash time in high school, making him one of the fastest players in the country.
This speed is a huge part of what makes him so dangerous and so versatile in the Seminoles' secondary. No matter where Joyner is positioned on defense, he's able to impact each play.
Time and time again last year, Joyner managed to stop runners at the line of scrimmage before the Florida State linebackers could even get there. He's simply always around the ball. It's uncanny. His ability to always be in the play was a big factor in making Florida State's defense so successful last year.
Joyner's legs also are vital in returning kicks, another one of his great strengths. As seen here in the Champs Sports Bowl (skip to 2:58), he has the explosiveness to outrace defenders and make the big play.
Though Joyner was originally known for his speed, he quickly became nationally recognized for another reason: his penchant for lighting up other players like Christmas trees. Despite his rather small frame (he's only 5'8''), you'll never see Joyner shying away from contact.
It's actually quite the opposite. He likes nothing more than unloading on opponents. “That's why you wear helmets and shoulder pads,” he told Brandon Mellor of Seminoles.com. “To hit people hard.”
If the stats are any indication, Joyner's helmet and shoulder pads have gotten quite a workout. The fourth-leading tackler on the team last year, he is perhaps the biggest hitter on a team chock-full of them. There aren't many guys in the nation that can deliver a hit like this, but Joyner somehow does it every week.
It's not uncommon for guys with Joyner's natural talent and athleticism to slack off a bit. As Allen Iverson's famed practice rant taught us, not everyone appreciates the value of hard work. Unfortunately for opposing teams, Joyner isn't one of those people.
He instead works tirelessly every day, killing himself in practice in the hopes that it will make him just that much better.
According to Coley Harvey of the Orlando Sentinel, coach Jimbo Fisher talked to reporters last year about Joyner's effort, saying, “He loves to play. If we practice out here for 12 hours, he'd stay here for 12 hours and play. He's playing extremely well...I wish everybody had his attitude.”
Quotes like that are all you ever hear about Joyner's attitude and work ethic. It's a rare quality that has helped him in more ways than one, whether it be through setting an example for his younger teammates or helping ease his transition from cornerback to safety.
As good as Joyner already is, it's important to remember that he's only been playing safety at the college level for a single year. He got better and better as the season went on, capping everything off with his best all-around performance of the year in the Champs Sports Bowl.
But this year was just the beginning. His progression as a player is nowhere near over. Coach Fisher spoke to the media about this very subject.
According to Adam Tolliver of the Examiner.com, Fisher said that Joyner used to concern himself with putting a big hit on receivers even if it wasn't always the right play. He explained that the game is now starting to slow down for Joyner, and that he does a much better job of understanding when to go for a big hit and when to try attacking the ball instead.
The thought that Joyner is going to be even better this coming year is a nightmare to offenses around the country. Already one of the best safeties in the country and only getting better? It's almost unfair.
I don't know what Lamarcus Joyner will be capable of this season, but it's hard to imagine that he'll leave Seminoles fans disappointed.