One season after losing one of the most decorated defensive backs in Florida State history in Jalen Ramsey, the Seminoles replaced him with a freshman that only had seven games of experience. Safe to say that move worked out as Tarvarus McFadden responded by leading all of college football in interceptions. The Fort Lauderdale native and American Heritage-Plantation alum finished his sophomore season with the most interceptions in the ACC since 2014.
Tarvarus McFadden: True to Tradition
McFadden made his way to Florida State after being ranked a top 20 high school prospect in the nation out of American Heritage-Plantation. He was a consensus five star prospect that was selected to the Army All-American game, he made his mark in the all-star game recording an interception and returning a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. He would also be awarded the Lockheed Martin Air Defender of the Year award – presented to the top prep defensive back in the country by the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Committee.
Once he arrived at Florida State he played sparingly in seven games due to Ramsey moving from safety to cornerback. The inexperience would actually work to McFadden’s favor in two ways. The first benefit is that he would get a more in-depth view of the top defensive back, Ramsey, and be able to learn from his play. The second benefit is that he would start out as a relative unknown and without a reputation.
In his first season starting as a sophomore, many teams wanted to challenge McFadden and throw at him, and he took advantage of that opportunity. Florida State played marquee games against some of the biggest names in college football and from the jump McFadden let it be known he would make an impact.
Making his Mark
In the opening game against Ole Miss, McFadden sealed the game for the Seminoles after being down 22 points, it was his interception on Chad Kelly that sealed the win. His interception in the second half against Miami sparked another comeback to give FSU their seventh straight win versus the Hurricanes. McFadden had interceptions against NFL first round draft pick Deshaun Watson, Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson, and American Athletic conference player of the year Quinton Flowers. Not a bad list.
By season’s end he racked up eight interceptions, the most by any Seminole under Jimbo Fisher, and the most by a Florida State defender since Terrell Buckley’s 12 in 1991. His performance throughout the season would earn him numerous All-American honors in his first season as a starter. Another notable honor McFadden received the Jack Tatum award given to the nation’s top defensive back. He would also be named a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski award, given to the top defender in college football.
His emergence as a shutdown defender coupled with his prototype size gives him a strong possibility to become a first round draft pick if he decides to leave early next season. Although it’s Derwin James that is drawing most of the attention in the Florida State secondary, it’s clear that McFadden now has the attention of scouts and opposing teams. Teams will be less likely to throw at his side as much as last season but if he can have another strong season, he could follow the steps of Jalen Ramsey and continue the tradition of dominant defensive backs from Florida State.