Special to the Journal
ALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Odell Haggins leapt out his chair, high-fived Jimbo Fisher and Lawrence Dawsey and gave a defensive-tackle sized bear-hug to Mark Stoops before Dameyune Craigjoined them in celebration.
“That was something right there,” Fisher said moments later, sitting back down in his chair with an ear-to-ear grin while the conference room inside the third-floor Florida State football offices continued to rattle with jubilation.
A few seconds earlier, FSU’s coaching and support staff watched highly touted high-school cornerback Ronald Darby pick up a garnet Seminoles cap on live television, indicating his decision to sign with Florida State that day.
Six months later, that excitement probably hasn’t worn off as Darby has been one of the most talked about players at FSU’s fall camp. His speed, closing ability, ball skills and instincts have been every bit what they were hyped up to be as one of the nation’s premier prospects and a key target for Haggins, who recruits the Maryland area where Darby is from.
“He’s physically gifted, he’s got the instincts and he understands the game and he’s got a good work ethic,” said Stoops, FSU’s defensive coordinator and Darby’s position coach. “So that’s a good combination.”
Darby’s addition to Florida State’s 2012 squad couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Greg Reid’s dismissal earlier this month left the Seminoles with a void at one of its cornerback spots. Sophomore Nick Waisome entered camp as the new starter and has maintained that position leading into the team’s second scrimmage Thursday.
But Darby has been right there, nipping at his heals.
“Darby is my man,” junior safety Terrence Brooks said. “I like that kid a lot. I have been working with him a lot since he got here, trying to take him under my wing and just get him comfortable with things. He has been doing real good.
“The kid can play, I’ll tell you that.”
Whether or not Darby, who has also been practicing at punt and kick returner, earns the starting job at cornerback will be determined in the coming days as FSU closes out fall camp and begins game preparations for Murray State.
The ‘Noles’ scrimmage could go a long way towards determining if its Waisome or Darby that will hear Woody Hayes introduce him to the home crowd as a starter over the Doak Campbell Stadium loud speakers.
His physical abilities obviously help him in that quest to become a first-teamer, but Fisher said recently the thing he’s been most impressed with is Darby’s football I.Q. and understanding of his mistakes — two musts for a defensive back.
“For a young guy, the thing I see about him doing, he gets beat [and] comes back, OK. And he can tell you what he did wrong. That’s rare for young guys, you know what I’m saying?” Fisher said. “He gets it. He gets back up. He’s got a lot of God’s gifts … I think he’s going to be a very, very good player.”