Three things to know about Lamarcus Joyner, FSU's Swiss Army knife

Al Messerschmidt

Learn more about one of the key seniors on the Seminole defense.

1. Joyner moved from strong safety to cornerback before this year.

Along with backfield mate Xavier Rhodes, Lamarcus Joyner was expected to leave for the NFL Draft following his junior season in 2012, but to the surprise of many, he decided to remain in Tallahassee. He cited a desire to lead the program all the way back to greatness and to compete for a national championship.

A year later, Joyner's decision looks prophetic, as the Seminoles will be playing for the crystal football come Monday night.

As part of his return, though, Joyner -- who had previously played strong safety -- insisted on moving to cornerback, a move that would better showcase his versatility to the NFL and allow him to replace Rhodes.

His old safety instincts may be a factor come Monday. Joyner will be tasked with remaining disciplined outside on each snap, holding outside containment against the Auburn run game, rather than trying to make every tackle.

2. That positional switch has paid off tremendously.

In each of the last two seasons, Florida State has finished first in the nation in pass defense -- one with Joyner at strong safety, one with Joyner at his new cornerback position. That tidbit alone would appear to indicate that he has had no effect, but a closer examination of the statistics will suggests otherwise.

Comp. % allowed

Yards allowed

Opponent YPA

TD/INT

Rating

2012

48.8 (32.4 attempts per game)

2266 (161.9 per game)

5.0

13/11

95.42

2013

52.0 (30.8 attempts per game)

1976 (152.0 per game)

4.9

12/25

90.90

This year's secondary is even better, slightly superior in nearly every major category, whether that is yards allowed, opponent YPA or rating. More impressively, the 2013 Seminoles -- with several new starters at cornerback and safety, even after including the returning Joyner -- have racked up twice as many interceptions as their 2012 counterparts despite facing fewer pass opportunities per game.

The advanced metrics available at Football Outsiders also back up this conclusion, as the Seminoles rank first overall in defensive F/+, compared to fifth overall last season.

As for Joyner himself, being moved outside has allowed him to become more of a pass rush threat off the edge, and the result has been the best of his four years in garnet and gold, at least statistically. The Thorpe Award finalist recorded 64 tackles (6.5 for loss), five sacks, six passes defensed and three forced fumbles this season, all career highs. He also was named to the All-ACC First Team.

3. Joyner's versatility goes beyond defense.

His ability to play strong safety or cornerback has been a tremendous boon for the Seminoles, but Joyner's contributions extend down to special teams as well. The 5'8, 180-pound senior was a preseason Paul Hornung Award nominee partly due to his kick returning prowess, and although his numbers have dipped due to reduced opportunity, he is still plenty dangerous when taking one back. In 2011, Joyner would have ranked sixth in the country with an average return of 30.54 yards per kick.

All he needs is the chance. Watch out, Auburn.

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