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October 15, 2013

Terrence Brooks seeks redemption at Clemson

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The play is still burned into Terrence Brooks' mind; a long pass arcing above him and behind him, into the arms of a sprinting orange-clad player while Brooks tumbles helplessly to the ground.

Brooks' first collegiate misstep came in the opening series against Clemson in 2012. He was still finding his way as a new starter, feeling confident about working onto the field. But Tajh Boyd took a shot at Brooks in the opening series and found Deandre Hopkins for a 60-yard score.

"It was definitely a little wake-up call for me," Brooks said. "I feel like I played well that game, but I still gave up a touchdown which was really - I was really hard on myself. I strive for perfection. That made me say 'Hey, you can't let that happen again.'"

Getting burned there - and also later in the game getting juked on a long touchdown run - are still ingrained in his memory. It left him with the frightening realization that it only takes one moment off, one small misstep, to give up a game-changing or season-changing play.

Brooks said he became a student of the game, watching film and studying the mental side of defense to make sure there isn't a slip-up, even for a moment. So far, he hasn't slipped up much. He's started every game this year at safety and is third on the team in tackles and has one interception.

The success of this season hasn't dulled the memories of last year's Clemson game. He continually references giving up a touchdown as a reminder to himself to not forget the lessons he's learned.

The senior safety has been the most outspoken member of FSU's defense during its early struggles. As Florida State tries to input a new defense and moved Lamarcus Joyner to cornerback, more has been asked of Brooks.

"He's been good," Jimbo Fisher said. "We've been moving Terrence around, doing different things as far as assignments, positions, strong safety, free safety, nickel, dime. He has as really evolved as a player - tackles well, plays the ball. Just a really good football player. It's critical (for him to move around) and that is great for their development for their future too. (We try) to recruit guys that can move in those different positions and he's done a really nice job."

More so than on-the-field versatility, Brooks takes things personally. He said he even gets upset if he loses at darts, much less on the field. That approach fits right in with the rest of FSU's defense.

"Even as a team each yard the offense gets is personal," Brooks said. "That makes me more mad each time. I keep playing with so much anger all over the field. I hate when teams try to expose us. That shows we have a weakness and I don't like us having a weakness."

Seminoles prep for Clemson's atmosphere

More than that, a year removed from being the fresh-faced starter against Clemson, Brooks is now one of the elder statesmen on a talented but young defensive backfield. With Tyler Hunter done for the season and Lamarcus Joyner playing cornerback, Brooks is the only safety on the field with extensive playing experience. Alongside him is freshman Jalen Ramsey and backing up Brooks is freshman Nate Andrews.

Teammates say they've noticed him speaking up more as new faces have surrounded him in the secondary.

"He's taken a leadership role with the DBs," linebacker Terrance Smith said. "He makes a lot of good calls and he helps the young boys out when they might not be as up to speed. "

Brooks said he's trying desperately to get his younger teammates to have a wake-up call in from him in practice rather than from Boyd or some other quarterback this season.

"This game is going to be a lot faster and there will be a lot more dynamic players," Brooks said. "I just want them to practice well. We can't really practice their tempo but we can run around and get to the ball faster. That's what we're trying to get them to do that this week just so they won't be surprised this week."

What's more for Brooks, Saturday's game allows him a chance at a bit of redemption and add a more favorable highlight to his college career.

"I feel like plenty of people give up touchdowns," Brooks said. "But giving up that play, I feel like that's what people focus on in my career. That right there made me mad. This year I'm like, 'Hey, that's not going to happen.'"

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