March 19, 2013
The Florida State football team starts spring practice March 20 and Seminoles.com has you covered with daily looks at each position on the roster. With practice set to start tomorrow, we take a final look at the defensive linemen.
The Seminoles.com Spring Preview Series concludes with the position on the roster that was hit the most this off-season.
With Bjoern Werner, Brandon Jenkins, Tank Carradine, Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud all preparing for next month's NFL Draft, Florida State has a crater-sized hole of lost talent to replace in the defensive trenches this spring.
Luckily for the 'Noles, the amount of talent waiting in the wings should be enough to help fill the void. No player is going to step in and immediately replace the playmaking ability of Werner and Carradine or the veteran leadership of Dawkins and McCloud but that's not to say that the returning Seminoles can't eventually accomplish such a task.
Redshirt senior Demonte McAllister is out for the spring while rehabilitating his shoulder but FSU is boosted by the return of fellow fifth-year defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel, who missed all of last year while working his way back from the ankle injury he sustained at Duke during the 2011 season.
McDaniel's return buoys a defensive tackle rotation that is short on experience but long on upside and size. Timmy Jernigan is the star of the unit and could be on the verge of the biggest year of his career. Jernigan's disruptive abilities should be made easier by the rise of sophomore big men Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, who should both see their chances increase as they push not just for playing time but for a starter's job this spring.
Like Jernigan, Lawrence-Stample and Goldman, redshirt freshman Justin Shanks was one of the nation's most touted defensive tackle prospects coming out of high school and he spent the last year getting his body in proper shape to handle the rigors of battle that take place every snap between offensive and defensive linemen. Shanks' addition to the rotation gives the 'Noles yet another massive body in the middle for position coach Odell Haggins.
Derrick Mitchell has battled injury since he got to FSU but if healthy could also provide a spark as a redshirt sophomore.
While the 'Noles boast a plethora of youth mixed with nice experience at defensive tackle, the defensive ends don't have the latter as a luxury.
Redshirt senior Dan Hicks is the oldest of FSU's returning defensive ends but he spent last year as a tight end watching from the sidelines while working his way back from a fall-camp injury. Hicks was moved back to defensive end -- a spot he played the first three years of his collegiate career -- because Florida State lacked depth and experience on the outside in the wake of the exit of the Werner-Jenkins-Carradine trio.
But for everything FSU lacks in experience, it makes up for in young talent.
Redshirt sophomore Giorgio Newberry and sophomore Mario Edwards, Jr. will enter spring as the two starters at defensive end, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said this week and both gained invaluable at-bats last year as backups. Edwards, who was the near-consensus top high school player in the 2012 class, played 11 games last year and started in place of Carradine after the senior was injured in the Florida loss.
Battling for playing time alongside Hicks, Edwards and Newberry will be Chris Casher and DeMarcus Walker.
Casher was one of the top defensive ends nationally coming out of Alabama but had to sit out last year with a knee injury. The same potentially bright future is true for Walker, who enrolled at FSU this semester as a true freshman after gathering scholarship offers from many of the country's top programs.
Depth will be a concern for the defensive ends this spring but with lack of numbers comes an increased opportunity for Florida State's young pass rushers to state their case for playing time this fall.