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2014 Signing Day Preview: Defense

Jan. 28, 2014

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Brandon Mellor Brandon Mellor
Seminoles.com Managing Editor
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One year ago, Florida State had to replace on defense a bevy of future NFL Draft selections and all but one of its assistant coaches. And while wholesale coaching changes aren't occurring this time around, there are still some critical personnel losses on FSU's defense in the wake of the program's third national championship. 

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and stars Lamarcus Joyner, Christian Jones, Timmy Jernigan, Terrence Brooks and Telvin Smith are all no longer part of the team so the Seminoles have some areas on the roster to address come National Signing Day Feb. 5.

Let's take a look at what FSU needs on all three levels of the defense with National Signing Day set for Feb. 5.


Casher could be in for a starring role in 2014.

DEFENSIVE LINE

As I wrote earlier this month, Jernigan is arguably FSU's biggest loss this off-season. As of right now, there simply isn't a player on the Seminoles' roster that is as dominant at defensive tackle as Jernigan was in 2013 and his early departure to the NFL leaves the team with a gaping hole in the heart of its defensive line.

But that doesn't mean someone can't step up. Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample are the most likely starters as both served in first-team roles last year. But with Jacobbi McDaniel and Demonte McCallister no longer on the team, the depth behind Goldman and Lawrence-Stample -- and perhaps rising senior Desmond Hollin -- is a concern.

And that's where signing day comes into play. FSU needs to sign at least one (preferably two) impact defensive tackles in this class that can come in and not only push Goldman, Lawrence-Stample and Hollin right away but that can compete for playing time against reserves Derrick Mitchell, Keith Bryant and Justin Shanks.

Depth is critical in the trenches and the Seminoles need a handful of young defensive tackles this signing period.

At defensive end, signing depth is just as important. 

The `Noles benefit from the return and expected continued progression of Mario Edwards, Jr., Chris Casher and DeMarcus Walker. But behind there isn't any proven depth behind them.

The Seminoles need to sign several pass rushers this year to add to Sal Sunseri's group.

Not counting signees, FSU will have one senior (Hollin), two redshirt juniors (Lawrence-Stample and Mitchell), two true juniors (Goldman and Edwards, Jr.), two redshirt sophomores (Shanks and Casher), one true sophomore (Walker) and two redshirt freshmen (Keith Bryant and Davarez Bryant) on the defensive line in 2014.


Terrance Smith is FSU's most experienced returning linebacker.

LINEBACKER

The graduation of Jones and Smith leaves FSU searching for players that can step up and replace two key players that contributed for four consecutive seasons. 

Luckily for FSU, signing linebackers in 2013 may be important but it isn't a do-or-die situation as far as depth is concerned. FSU is losing some great playmakers but the fact they return Terrance Smith, Matthew Thomas, Ro'Derrick Hoskins, E.J. Levenberry, Reggie Northrup, Ukeme Eligwe gives them more than a few excellent options to round out the depth chart.

Each of those young players has the talent, size and ability to step into the biggest roles of their careers and be impact players.

From a numbers standpoint, Florida State only needs two or three linebackers in this class to continue the natural progression of the position and add even more depth. Only needing a few signees means the coaches have had more than enough time to hand pick exactly the prospects they want.

Not counting the signees, FSU will have one redshirt junior (Terrance Smith), one true junior (Northrup), one redshirt sophomore (Eligwe), one true sophomore (Levenberry) and two redshirt freshmen (Thomas and Hoskins) at linebacker in 2014.


Williams and Ramsey are returning stars on the FSU defense.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

FSU has two starting spots open in its defensive backfield without Brooks and Joyner on the roster but a bunch of really good players returning.

Jalen Ramsey emerged as a potential superstar as a rookie that started all 14 games in 2014 and his classmate Nate Andrews wasn't far behind him. While Ramsey could remain a starter at safety, he also has experience at cornerback and Andrews could line up at either safety or fill the nickel role Joyner played in last year.

With Tyler Hunter expected to make his healthy return and P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby making up perhaps college football's best one-two punch at cornerback, FSU shouldn't miss a beat in the backend of its defense in 2014. Marquez White, Tyrell Lyons, Lamarcus Brutus, Nick Waisome, Keelin Smith and Colin Blake comprise the rest of a deep roster.

Because of that depth, signing safeties and cornerbacks isn't a top priority. The `Noles need just a few come Wednesday to add to the roster.

Not counting the signees, FSU will have one true senior (Waisome), three redshirt juniors (Hunter, Brutus and Keelin Smith, two true juniors (Williams and Darby), one redshirt sophomore (Blake), three true sophomores (White, Ramsey and Andrews) and one redshirt freshman (Lyons) in the secondary in 2014.

*This information is just educated guesses on what Fisher and his staff will do on National Signing Day.

Stay tuned to Seminoles.com Feb. 5 for live updates as each new `Noles player is cleared by FSU Compliance. At that time, we will post official bios and instant analysis for each signee online.

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