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Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner offers unrivaled versatility

Steve Cannon/Associated Press
Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner is one of college football's top defensive backs.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Saying Lamarcus Joyner is a defensive back is like describing the Mona Lisa as a painting. It might be accurate, but it does not provide nearly enough depth to truly account for the contributions Joyner provides the Florida State defense.

Joyner (5-foot-8, 190 pounds) can play any of the six positions in the Seminoles' secondary, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said Thursday at the first press conferences ahead of the BCS national championship game against Auburn.

"He's a really good man-to-man guy. He can play the ball in the deep part of the field. He can tackle in space. He's a great blitzer," Pruitt said. "He's just an all-around good football player."

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah paid Joyner that exact same compliment on a recent College Football 24/7 podcast.

"He might be a little under 5-9, but this dude is tough and physical," Jeremiah said. "He hits people. He plays a lot bigger than his size."

Joyner had started all 27 games at safety over the previous two seasons, but moved to corner prior to the start of his senior season and now alternates between cornerback and nickel back.

With outstanding true freshman Jalen Ramsey also able to play both safety and corner, Florida State has unrivaled flexibility on the back end. That has allowed Pruitt to unleash Joyner, especially on blitzes.

Joyner has a team-high five sacks among his 6.5 tackles for loss. He is also tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles, to go along with 64 tackles and two interceptions.

Being deployed all over the field is just fine with Joyner, who embraces the opportunities it creates, his performance against Clemson where he stuffed the stat sheet and the Tigers' offense being the perfect example.

"You have some lockdown corners, and they don't get any action," Joyner said. "I get to roam around and stick my nose in everyone's business and always be around the football."

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The Reese's Senior Bowl is one of football's premier pre-draft events. NFL Network coverage included Senior Bowl week practices and continued with the game, which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.

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The Tigers thrive on creating mismatches with their run-heavy spread offense, but offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee understands Joyner can erase those advantages with his range, comparing him to Arizona Cardinals cornerback Javier Arenas when he played at Alabama.

"He's a guy that we've got to know where he's at and account for him," said Lashlee, referencing instances where Joyner was lined up on the other side of the field but still made the play. "He's a ball hawk and you can tell he's got a high football IQ"

"It's just incredible how an offensive coordinator has to account for him while he is on the field," Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith said. "And if you don't, then you're going to see (him) make these plays, cause fumbles, just be a disruptive guy all over the field."

Whether Auburn can neutralize Joyner might be akin to drawing a mustache on da Vinci's masterpiece: it could certainly happen, but where's the beauty in that?

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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