Ramsey is 'Jameis of the defense' for Florida St
LOS ANGELES (AP) Jalen Ramsey does it all for Florida State. It's basically a job requirement for the sensational sophomore.
The star position Ramsey plays in the Seminoles' defense demands versatility. Expect to see him all over the Rose Bowl field Thursday when No. 2 Florida State plays No. 3 Oregon in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
There might be no more important player for Florida State, including a certain Heisman Trophy winning quarterback.
"You could say he's the Jameis (Winston) of the defense," Seminoles defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said about Ramsey, "every special teams he's on, he does so many things on defense, playing corner, blitzing off the edge, playing safety, he's one those guys you put him anywhere, he will be around the ball and make the play."
Ramsey, a second-team All-America safety, has been sick this week and was held out practice Tuesday because of a fever. Coach Jimbo Fisher said Wednesday that Ramsey would be "good to go" for the game.
The 6-foot-1, 204-pound Ramsey was a five-star recruit out of Smyrna, Tennessee, who made a late switch in recruiting from Southern California to Florida State.
A cornerback in high school, the Seminoles decided to use him mostly at free safety as freshman. He started all 14 games of Florida State's 2013 championship season and played well beyond his years.
This season he moved to nickel back, a position Florida State calls star that was filled last season by Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner was smaller than Ramsey, 5-foot-9, but just as disruptive. He was also one of the leaders of an experienced defense that ranked among the best in the country. Florida State ranked second in the nation in yards per play (4.09) allowed in 2013.
Replacing the likes of Joyner, Tevin Smith and Timmy Jernigan hasn't been easy for Florida State. Injuries have limited the Seminoles best defensive linemen, Edwards and Eddie Goldman.
The Seminoles have struggled to find consistency on defense this season with inexperienced players. Florida State ranks 46th in the country in yards per play (5.31).
Ramsey has one of the constants, holding the defense together. He has emerged as a leader and, well, a star.
"I don't feel like it's one leader on defense," Ramsey said. "I feel like it's a lot of us. I embrace the role. I feel like I was ready for it. I felt like I can lead by my actions and the way I played on the field."
Ramsey has 75 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 11 pass deflections, three sacks and two interceptions.
"He's asked to blitz. He's asked to play man-to-man. He's asked to do a lot of different things," defensive coordinator Charles Kelly said. "You have to be a very good athlete and you have to understand the game to be able to do that."
Against an offense such as Oregon's that poses so many threats, with Heisman winner Marcus Mariota capable of carving up a secondary with his throws or scooting through it with his legs, Ramsey's versatility should be tested.
Ramsey has gotten the Ducks' attention.
"Really impressed with No. 8 (Ramsey)," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "He can really run. He's long, disrupts a lot of things, makes plays, batting balls, making tackles, been really impressed with him."
Ask Ramsey what he does best and he doesn't lack for confidence. He says he does it all well.
"If you ask me my favorite thing to do, I like to blitz," he said. "I like to get into the backfield."
If Florida State is going to slow down the high-scoring Ducks, the Seminoles will need Ramsey to be at his do-it-all best.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP