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Hurts so good? FSU's defense says it has plan for Alabama's mobile QB

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Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts will challenge FSU's defense on the ground and through the air. (Associated Press)

Marcus Mariota. Deshaun Watson. Greg Ward. Lamar Jackson. These are the dual-threat quarterbacks who have frustrated and sometimes tortured Florida State's defense over the last few seasons.

Will Alabama sophomore Jalen Hurts be the next to join the list? Or is this the turning point for the Seminoles when it comes to stopping mobile passers and successfully defending run-pass-option schemes?

No. 3 FSU won't know for certain until after its season opener at 8 p.m. Saturday against No. 1 Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. One thing is clear: the Seminoles know they can't allow another mobile quarterback to be the cause of another demise in a big game.

"Whatever your assignment is or whatever guy you have, you have to make sure you stick with that and not farm someone else's land," Seminoles junior Josh Sweat said earlier this week. "Pretty much, the guy that you have is the guy that you have to tackle. Even if he pitches it, make sure you go get him."

FSU is expected to be a national title contender this fall, and one of the reasons is defense. The Seminoles return up to nine starters. It's a group that includes redshirt sophomore safety Derwin James, junior cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, sophomore defensive end Brian Burns and Sweat among others.

Very few fans and pundits question the talent. Burns led the nation's true freshmen with 9.5 sacks last season. James, despite missing most of 2016 with a knee injury, is rated by ESPN and Sports Illustrated as the top player in college football. McFadden tied for No. 1 in the nation with eight interceptions last fall. While Sweat, a former five-star prospect, possesses the makings of a premier defensive end.

The Seminoles also are expected to have senior linebacker Matthew Thomas available. The team's leading tackler from 2016 missed about three weeks of practice due to an eligibility issue, but he was cleared to rejoin the team on Wednesday. He is one of three senior linebackers for FSU, joining Ro'Derrick Hoskins and Jacob Pugh.


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