Cornerback White emerges as leader in Florida St. secondary
TALLAHASSEE — Most of the attention on Florida State's secondary has been garnered by sophomore safety Derwin James. That's fine for Marquez White, who is familiar with being under the radar.
Despite having the second-best completion per target rate among cornerbacks in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, the senior wasn't selected to the preseason all-conference team. The slight was nothing new for White. Last season White went largely unnoticed due to the play of All-American corner Jalen Ramsey.
With Ramsey leaving the Seminoles early and being drafted fifth overall by Jacksonville in the NFL draft, White will be the leader for a young but talented secondary.
"It's not really about that. I don't need anybody to tell me how good I am," said White about the lack of attention. "I believe if I got out and just play the way I know I can play this year I will be where I want to be."
White has made an impression during the first week of preseason practices as Coach Jimbo Fisher singled him out for making some nice plays.
"Marquez is Mr. Steady-Eddy out there on the field and can do a lot of things," Fisher added. "Those other safeties are going to give him some opportunities (to make plays). We're expecting a good year."
White played mostly special teams his first two years but started all 13 games last season. He was targeted 62 times and allowed just 20 catches for 225 yards (32 percent) and a touchdown. White also had two passes defensed and an interception.
According to the analytics site Pro Football Focus, White's 0.46 yards per coverage snap allowed is the best among returning cornerbacks from Power 5 conference teams. Only two of his allowed were for 10 yards or more.
White said he has been working on some of the finer details of his game, including doing a better job of playing the ball to the proper hand and chasing the running back in the break. He also has to serve as a mentor to the younger cornerbacks.
Even though the Seminoles return one of the better safety duos in the nation in James — who led the team in tackles last season as a freshman — and Nate Andrews, who will replace Ramsey is one of the bigger questions on the defense. Sophomores Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis got plenty of work in the spring but don't have much game experience. Last season McFadden saw limited action in seven games and Lewis was in only four with that mostly being special teams.
White also noted the early play of freshman Levonta Taylor, especially for his ability to be adept at reading routes for such a young player.
With White being targeted only seven percent of the time by opposing quarterbacks last season, he knows it is tough getting recognition, especially with a lack of interceptions. White realizes he has taken advantage of those times when the ball comes his way.
Florida State opens the season on Sept. 5 against Mississippi in Orlando.
"Hopefully I'll see a little bit more passes this year. I got to make the plays that I have," he said. "I have to play my technique. Like the Houston game (last season in the Peach Bowl), I messed up trying to be greedy and trying to make a play. I can't do that.