The stud defensive back tore cartilage in his left knee during Florida State’s win over Charleston Southern, coach Jimbo Fisher announced. As a result, he will miss this week’s game against Louisville and likely a few more games after that. How many isn’t clear yet, as Fisher said there’s no current timetable for James’ return.
All of which is bad news for James and the Seminoles.
Even if James only misses a week, this is a less than ideal time for him to be out. Through two weeks of the season, Louisville has played like a team that’s ready to pose a real threat to both Florida State and Clemson in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Going into Louisville to take on the Cardinals in an early game (kickoff is at noon ET) was already going to be challenging, but doing so without James will make life even more difficult for the Noles.
The reason Louisville has looked so impressive this season is quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has thrown for 697 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 318 yards and six more touchdowns in two games. Jackson has basically been an offense unto himself, and James was the perfect player for the Seminoles to use to try and slow down the early season Heisman Trophy favorite.
James may be a safety, but the majority of his work is done in the box stopping the run game. He could have been utilized as a spy to limit Jackson, but without him available, it’s unclear where Florida State’s defense will turn to stop Jackson.
Make no mistake, replacing James isn’t as simple as just putting in the next safety on the depth chart. James is a safety because we have to call him something, but his versatility is what makes him so important. He can cover when needed, serve as an extra linebacker in run defense, and can also go outside as an edge rusher.
It’ll take a group of players to step in and replace James’ production, though the most likely candidate to replace him at safety is sophomore A.J. Westbrook.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Florida State star Derwin James out for Louisville game, undergoing knee surgery