No. 3 Florida State will be without one of its top defensive weapons for the first half of its game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. Safety Trey Marshall is partly suspended thanks to his targeting penalty against Michigan in the Orange Bowl last December. The play happened in the fourth quarter during a tackle on special teams.
The NCAA’s targeting rule says that a disqualification after halftime means a suspension for part of the player’s next game, so this was expected, even though it’s now a new season. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed the news of this first-half suspension in May.
"He will," Fisher said via 247Sports when asked if Marshall would miss the first half. "And we're trying to vote on that too [at the ACC Spring Meetings]. I think that's crazy. No other sport, I don't know a sport, you have those red cards in soccer, they don't follow you year-to-year. But it is what the rule is now.”
This will be the fourth game Marshall misses part of due to targeting. A penalty against Clemson last year also cost him part of the NC State game.
As Tomahawk Nation points out, losing Marshall for a half could have dire consequences for the Noles’ defense against Alabama:
When Marshall was kicked out, Michigan quickly posted a pair of touchdowns to take the lead before FSU produced a last-minute score to regain the lead and seal the W with a pick. 33-32, Happy New Year— barely.
So against elite competition (like Alabama), this is what the Florida State defense allowed without Marshall: on seven possession, four ended in touchdowns, one on a field goal, one with an interception, and one when Clemson took a knee in victory formation.
Yes, [Derwin] James’ return likely lessens the severity of Marshall’s first-half suspension against the Tide. But the overriding question remains: how much can FSU trust its safety depth this time around?
According to NCAA rules, Marshall will be able to go through the team’s pregame warm-up, but during the first half, he “must remain out of view of the field of play under team supervision.” Tomahawk Nation’s Bud Elliott adds that Marshall is better against the run, something that Bama has excelled at, than the pass.
During Marshall’s 18 career starts, he’s accounted for 91 total tackles, including 60 solo stops. Behind Marshall on Florida State’s depth chart for the Alabama game is junior A.J. Westbrook, who had eight starts at safety last season, finishing with 40 tackles. We’ll see if Westbrook can successfully fill in.