It’s hard to believe that the NCAA leader in interceptions from a year ago could be overlooked in his own defensive backfield, but that is the case for Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. With the presence of the consensus best safety in the nation – and the player many experts consider the top overall defensive player in the nation – Derwin James, lining up next to him, McFadden has become an afterthought to many.
He is determined to make people pay for that mistake in 2017.
McFadden, a Fort Lauderdale native, was a five-star prospect and the No. 3 cornerback in the nation in the 2015 recruiting cycle, according to 247Sports. He played sparingly as a freshman before emerging in his sophomore season.
In 2016, McFadden recorded eight interceptions along with six passes defended. Those numbers earned him the Jack Tatum Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back, along with All-ACC honors.
McFadden’s eight interceptions tied for second all time in Florida State history with Monk Bonasorte (1979) and Curt Campbell (1951), trailing only Terrell Buckley’s 12 interceptions in 1991.
It can be argued that McFadden’s interception total last year was due to James’ absence most of the season with an injury. At the same time, it makes McFadden’s performance almost that much more impressive without the star safety’s help over the top. Without James’ ball-hawking ability behind him, McFadden was called upon to come up big, and he did.
Interestingly, McFadden’s eight picks were spread out over eight different games and came against a collection of the best quarterbacks college football had to offer. He picked off Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Louisville’s Heisman Trophy-winning Lamar Jackson, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Miami’s Brad Kaaya. On the biggest of stages, against the best competition, McFadden proved he is the real deal.
In 2017, quarterbacks will have likely learned their lesson. If he can show a similar improvement from what we saw season ago, the junior will undoubtedly be destined for a high first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
McFadden will be on the spot early this fall; he’ll face one of his biggest tests to date in Week 1 when he lines up opposite of Alabama’s Calvin Ridley.
(You can follow Jordan Spina on Twitter @jspina904)
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