TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Many things have changed for third-ranked Florida State since Derwin James last played in a game. What hasn’t changed is the sophomore safety’s ability.

James missed most of last season with a knee injury and now has a chip on his shoulder. He’s still considered not only the team’s best defender but one of the best in the nation. He’ll get a chance to prove it Saturday when the No. 3 Seminoles take on top-ranked Alabama in Atlanta.

James took part in spring practices after tearing the meniscus in his left knee last September during the second half against Charleston Southern. He said he hasn’t had any problems with the knee.

The only problem James has had is keeping his emotions in check.

“I’m anxious to get out there for the first game. I still feel like I have something to prove,” he said.

James played in only two games last season but had an impact in both. He had eight tackles and an interception in the win over Ole Miss. After he was sidelined, the Seminoles dropped two of their next three games and were ranked last among Power Five conference teams in pass defense.

The defense improved during the second half of last season and comes into this year with plenty of experience. Florida State was the only school to have two players on The Associated Press Preseason All-America first-team defense: James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said James is every bit as good as anyone he’s faced in his 11 years at the school.

“This guy’s just a very aggressive player. He’s got good ball skills. He’s a good tackler. Good blitzer. Just all around a really, really good football player,” Saban said.

“I think when you have good safeties, they can minimize the big plays that you ever give up because a lot of times they’re ready to stop the ball when it breaks the line of scrimmage. He’s certainly good at doing that.”

James said his biggest takeaway from spending last year on the sidelines was getting a better understanding of the game. Now he believes he can watch film from a coaches’ standpoint and has a better grasp on his – and other players’ – responsibilities.

“When the coach is getting on you it’s because of a reason. It’s because of something that they see,” he said. “I didn’t get that at first coming in, but now I understand why the coaches are on me so hard.”

Despite limited action last year, James comes into the season hailed as the best defensive player in college football by a couple of national publications. In 2015 he started eight games as a freshman and was second on the team in tackles.

FOX SPORTS added former LSU coach Les Miles, former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and former Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell to its lineup of game analysts for college football.

BAYLOR: Coach Matt Rhule suspended two expected starting players for incidents over the summer: Senior safety Taion Sells will miss the first three games and senior left tackle Mo Porter will sit out the first half of Saturday’s opener at home against Liberty. The reasons for the suspensions weren’t revealed.

SYRACUSE: The Orangemen will honor their late coach, Old Town native Dick MacPherson, by wearing a blue patch with “Mac” inscribed in orange on the team jerseys. Also, the logo will be painted on the Carrier Dome field.

GEORGIA TECH: With less than a week to go before the opener against No. 25 Tennessee, Georgia Tech won’t reveal who will start at quarterback, with Coach Paul Johnson saying he may wait until the first offensive series Monday night.