This is not the senior season Florida State defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel always dreamed about. Instead of preparing for the season with the starting defense, the 6-foot, 286-pound lineman is only able to participate in individual drills as he continues to recover from a dislocated ankle suffered during the sixth game of the season last year.
McDaniel isn't wondering whether or not he has the goods to make it to the NFL, he is instead wrestling with the decision to try and play this season or take a redshirt and come back fully healthy in 2013.
With no timetable given to him on when he might be a back to 100 percent, McDaniel told Warchant.com during media day that he was leaning towards a redshirt, but the decision hasn't been made yet. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and Jimbo Fisher both have said that they don't plan to redshirt McDaniel, but if he's not fully healthy then they would have no problem with it.
"I haven't made that decision," McDaniel said. "(I'm leaning that way), but at the same time I'm blessed because the coaches told me if I'm not ready they're going to redshirt me without question. That's a good thing for a player to hear from coaches because that lets me know that they have my back and that let me know they have my best interest in mind."
The former five-star prospect from Madison County high school has dealt with injuries throughout his career. As a true freshman he played through knee injuries, and as a sophomore he played with a hyper extended elbow and dealt with groin injuries. Part of playing through the injuries was the stubbornness of a young player; the other half was that there simply wasn't enough quality depth at defensive tackle for McDaniel to not play.
Now that FSU has a plethora of depth along the defensive line, McDaniel can make his decision solely based on the health of his ankle. With Everett Dawkins, Anthony McCloud, Moses McCray all set to graduate after the season, and fellow tackle Cameron Erving switching to offense, there could be a greater need for McDaniel in 2013.
Stoops said that the depth of the defensive line next fall would not factor into the decision to play McDaniel in 2012 or not.
"We're just trying to get him healthy and back playing like he can play," Stoops said. "He'd be a welcome addition because he's got a lot of talent, he's got great leadership abilities, a great kid. It's been a tough injury and we'd just like to bring him back off that the best that we can.
"For us we're not planning on redshirting him. We just want him to get back and get back healthy and play from there. If he could not it's obviously nice to have that redshirt."
Even if he's not healthy at the start of the season, McDaniel said he wouldn't hesitate to burn his redshirt halfway through the season if that's what the team needed.
"I want to be out there so bad. If we was undefeated and somebody goes down in the interior and it was the fifth, six game of the season and the coaches needed me man, I'd come back," he said. "Without a doubt. No question. That's just me man. My season was cut short last season and I want to play so bad this season."
Throughout the process of the injury McDaniel has consulted with his family and friends on what to do this season. No matter who he has spoken with, the message has been the same-- do what's best for your future, not what you want to do right now.
"People have just been telling me to be a smart player and just do what's best for me, he said. "I was trying to play this season even if I wasn't going to be 100 percent. People told me don't make a decision that's based on right now, make a decision that's based on the future for me and my teammates. My team might not need me right now. I understand that. We have a great interior defensive line and the rotation is great. Maybe if I was to come back I might mess up the chemistry that them guys have going on right now. I've just got to be a disciplined player and person."
That discipline is a part of the maturity process for McDaniel. Despite his inability to be on the field he has taken a leadership role in each and every practice since the injury. He has provided encouragement and instruction to his younger teammates.
The bell cow of the Seminoles 2009 signing class, McDaniel knows most think that he hasn't lived up to hype during his career. Coming out of high school McDaniel was ranked the 15th best player in the country and the third best in the state of Florida by Rivals. With 65 tackles, 10.5 loss, two forced fumbles and an interception in 33 career games, McDaniel says the numbers aren't what defines him, but rather the fact that he developed into a leader on and off the field for FSU.
"Most people say I'm a bust. Most people say I'm a leader in a way. For me personally I would have said I was bust, but now I don't see myself as that," he said. "I see myself as a quiet leader. A guy that I (haven't) performed how I wanted to throughout my career at Florida State, but there's nothing I can do about. The only thing I can do is come back and just prove to my teammates and the coaches that I'm here for them and I'm willing to be a team player."
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