TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The simple explanation is that Bjoern Werner is different than the rest of the mere mortals on the field. This is, at least in part, the theory posited by Jimbo Fisher.
The theory goes something like this: Different people are capable of absorbing different quantities of information through their eyes. Those people then process and react to that information at varied speeds. There are studies, Fisher said, ways to measure all these things. Werner's ability is off the charts.
"He has tremendous eyes," Fisher said. "He can process what's going on, and he has a great feel for the game."
Watch Werner on the field and it's easy to understand Fisher's hypothesis.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound German instantly assesses his opposition, toying with the opposing tackle for just a moment. A short pass is lobbed to a tailback on a screen, but Werner already knows it's coming. In an instant, he'll brush aside a blocker, dart laterally across the field and pummel the unsuspecting ball carrier. It all looks easy.
There are other moments in which Werner's superpowers are on display, too. It's in the way he shrugs aside an offensive tackle en route to a devastating hit on a quarterback. Or it's his agility, bouncing off a block and batting down a throw or, it often appears, his ability to redirect the opposition's offense through sheer force of will.
Werner's ability is unique, but he is still human. Fisher's theory holds up only in the moment, on those Saturdays when Werner is so dominant that quarterbacks simply avoid his half of the field. But the rest of the week, in the hours before practice or the nights spent with his iPad watching game video, that's when the magic happens.
"If you study an opponent, the offensive line, you know exactly," Werner said. "You watch them every day for a couple hours, you know how he reacts, what he's going to do to you. Film studying helps you a lot."
Werner calls it instinct, but it's actually preparation. He laughs off the notion that he's capable of miracles because he knows all too well the time it's taken to make everything look so easy. It means coming in early for hours of film study. It means bringing work home with him each night.
This spring, when Werner was sidelined with a shoulder injury, he was left with an excess of free time. Virtually every moment of it was spent in the gym or the film room.
"Every time I saw him, he was headed to the weight room," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "He's dedicated to the game. He's always trying to get better. That's one thing that gives him a cutting edge on a lot of people."
This is not new for Werner, who has always taken pride in his work ethic. But Werner said he's upped the ante for 2012, even by his lofty standards.
In years past, the extra work in the weight room and the film room was a necessity. Now, it's a luxury. The preparation for game day is done throughout the week, but Werner's foundation is already strong. Now, his study is focused on the periphery, those moments in the game when everyone else is reacting but Werner can anticipate.
"Every game, you're going to make one or two big plays when you watch a lot of film," Werner said. "There's going to be one or two plays where they try to trick somebody, but I'm going to have watched, figured out the information. I'm going to make that play, and that can change a game."
Against USF, Werner's numbers were rather pedestrian -- just three tackles and a pass break-up. He was used as a spy on quarterback B.J. Daniels regularly, and Fisher said FSU never really turned its superhuman defensive end loose.
"He does so much that sometimes is hidden that you don't always see," Fisher said.
But the other coaches, the ones who watch the film as closely as Werner does -- they see it.
"He sets the tone for the defense with his motor," USF offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "He has physical talent, but just the way that he plays the game with the energy and the passion. He never takes a play off. I think he is a barometer of how they play. He is the rallying point around them, and I think the whole defense has taken upon that characteristic."
It's high praise, and yet Fisher still believes there's something more.
The great players have immense talent and an unmatched work ethic, of course, but there's a portion of the game that is innate, that can't be taught and can't be acquired.
That's what sets Werner apart. It's an "it factor," Fisher said. It's an ability to take all the information, all the study, all the work and all the talent and somehow still exceed expectations.
By that standard, perhaps Werner is a superhero.
"He never surprises me," Fisher said. "It's remarkable what he feels and sees. That's knowledge, that's study. That's not all natural. He does all the things, but he has ability."