TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State has one of the nation’s most versatile defenders in safety Derwin James. On Saturday, James and the Seminoles’ defense will go against what many consider the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most all-purpose playmaker in North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels.
The versatility comparisons haven’t been lost on James, who said trying to game plan against Samuels is ”kind of like going against myself.”
”They try to use him and get him the ball. Florida State tries to use me as a versatile (player) to give the offense different looks. It’s kind of the same,” James added.
James is listed at safety on 12th-ranked Florida State’s depth chart. But the 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore will also be used as an end in certain pass-rushing situations, linebacker or a nickel corner against a slot receiver.
Samuels, a 5-11, 228-pound senior, is listed as an H-Back but has seen most of his snaps this season as a slot receiver. He’s also lined up at tight end and running back in the Wolfpack’s first three games.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said that Samuels ”is the epitome of a football player. … There’s nothing he can’t do.”
Samuels has scored five touchdowns in the Wolfpack’s first three games (three rushing, two receiving). He is fifth in the Football Bowl Subdivision, averaging 8.7 receptions per game. Samuels has caught a pass in 37 straight games and tied a school record with 15 in a season-opening loss to South Carolina. It is also the third straight year where he has at least five touchdowns a quarter of the way into the season.
”They move him everywhere and they just try to get him the ball,” Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden said. ”They do a lot of things to try and mess with your eyes to get you caught looking in the backfield so the big plays can happen, so we’ve just to stay disciplined in what we do.”
The one place where Samuels has not lined up yet is quarterback, but he told reporters after last Saturday’s 49-16 win over Furman that coach Dave Doeren has a package of plays for him there.
Florida State has done a solid job containing Samuels in three previous meetings. He had seven touches for 60 yards and a touchdown in last year’s 24-20 FSU win.
James, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury, played well in the 24-7 loss to Alabama in the opener. He was tied for third on the team with six tackles along with half a sack.
Despite the loss and having a 21-day layoff due to Hurricane Irma, James thinks the Seminoles defense has plenty of confidence going into the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
”We know we have the talent and players to make plays,” he said. ”All we have to do is keep being ourselves. Just work a little harder.”
Samuels is hoping that the Wolfpack (2-1) can finally get a big conference road game. They haven’t defeated a ranked conference opponent away from home since 2008.
”This is what we’ve been waiting for. We get to play FSU at FSU,” Samuels said. ”It’s going to be exciting. My teammates rely on me to make those big catches and third-down conversions.”
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joereedy