TALLAHASSEE — Lamarcus Joyner was skeptical.
Joyner, a Florida State senior defensive back, spoke proudly about the Seminoles' new multiformation defense throughout the offseason. He said the revamped scheme would utilize his versatility, his aggressive play.
But deep down, Joyner wasn't sure just how effective the switch in philosophies would be — that is, until last week's 41-13 season-opening win at Pittsburgh.
"It's great to see the defense going as planned," said Joyner, who led FSU with nine tackles and two sacks. "Everything sounds good on paper. When something is new and it's presented, everyone is excited about it.
"To see things working the way you draw it up, you have no choice but to believe it."
Although still adjusting to the nuances of a new defense, No. 10 FSU (1-0) looks to build off its stingy performance against Pitt when it hosts Nevada (1-1) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher brought in Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt as his defensive coordinator this offseason to replace Mark Stoops, hired as Kentucky's head coach in November.
With Pruitt came a drastic shift in defensive philosophies.
Stoops preferred a base four-man front, predicated on defensive ends bursting off the edge to generate pressure on quarterbacks. It worked, with FSU ranking second nationally in total defense (253.8 yards per game.)
Only Pruitt's former employer, Alabama, was better, surrendering an average of 250 yards per contest. Pruitt's approach to the game was inspired by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who uses a wide array of defensive formations and exotic blitz packages.
Pruitt has done the same, establishing a very different defensive look in Tallahassee.
Former defensive end Dan Hicks spent most of the Sept. 2 game standing up as a linebacker. Linebacker Christian Jones, who had eight tackles and two quarterback hurries, rushed from the edge for part of the contest. Joyner, a safety last year, played cornerback and blitzed as a nickel back.
The mixing of players and formations is designed to confuse offenses, making it easier to create turnovers and get to the quarterback. The Seminoles accomplished that against Pitt, recording seven quarterback hurries, two interceptions and several more would-be picks that were dropped.
"Throughout camp, that's all we emphasized: getting more turnovers," Jones said. "During the first game, we had a chance to get four or six. If we're locked in more, we'll be able to get those big plays."
FSU held Pitt to 297 yards of total offense. A chunk of that production came on a nine play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the game's opening series.
"I don't like how it took us a little [while] to get started," FSU safety Terrence Brooks said. "Taking the first blow, we want to take that to them always."
Citing first-game nerves and communication issues, Brooks said the Seminoles settled in and flustered Pitt throughout most of the contest.
FSU's defensive ends — normally extremely productive in the previous scheme — accounted for just one quarterback hurry.
"It's a different style of defense; it's not the same defense we always run," Fisher said in defense of his ends. "They had to take on blockers."
With so many players moving around and attacking from different spots, Pruitt's system will likely yield different standouts on a weekly basis.
Joyner — who at 5-feet-9, 180 pounds had just one career sack entering the year — knows he won't be in a position to record two sacks every game. But, with the new scheme, he takes solace in knowing that it's a possibility.
"Not being able to do that last year and to do it this year, with the aggressive players that we have, it's working out," Joyner said. "We're getting into that stage, and it's going to be a great defense."