Most media guides for Florida State will say that they only have four returning starters on defense, but do not let that number fool you. Florida State is once again loaded with talent on the defensive side of the football due in large part to Jimbo Fisher‘s ability to recruit top prospects from around the country. Last season the Seminoles were led by defensive ends Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner who combined for 24 sacks between the two of them. However, both of them have moved on to the NFL as well as standout defensive back Xavier Rhodes. Despite all of the key departures, there are some key players back in leading tackler Christian Jones (95 tackles), along with both safeties Terrence Brooks and Lamarcus Joyner.
Florida State is preseason ranked No. 11 by the Associated Press poll and it is easy to think why there could be a drop-off because of all the departures, but FSU is the type of school that just reloads with talent always waiting in the wings. Former No. 1 overall recruit Mario Edwards will be a sophomore this year and will have the task of replacing Werner at the defensive end position. Edwards is a prototypical defensive end with his 6-foot-3 height and 282-pound frame. He seems like a can’t miss prospect due to his incredible athletic ability and quickness off the line of scrimmage. It was hard for him to get enough reps last season sitting behind the two leaders in the ACC when it comes to sack totals, but this season is his time to step in and be the next great defensive end at Florida State.
Joining Edwards on the D-line will be Timmy Jernigan who recorded 46 tackles last season to go along with 6.5 tackles for loss. He is 6-foot-2, 298-pounds and has proven that he can make the big play as an every down lineman. The national media might say that this defense is rebuilding, but in reality they are just reloading. I mentioned earlier that the Noles returned both starting safeties in Brooks and Joyner which should go a long way in helping the new faces on the defensive line to get coverage sacks. Joyner is a preseason All-American and showed his strength as a shutdown defender a season ago when he prevented Clemson‘s Sammy Watkins from making any impact in the receiving game whenever the Noles beat the Tigers last September. To give you somewhat of an idea of the talent that FSU has on defense comes in the form of safety Karlos Williams. Williams is a former 5-star recruit who is going into his junior campaign and is still not projected as a starter due to the overwhelming talent that new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt already has in his secondary. However, there is no doubt that Pruitt will find a way to get Williams on the field for a good amount of snaps because he is simply too talented to keep on the sidelines.
A big reason why Florida State struggled in the 2000s before Fisher took over was because their defense was not even close to what it was in the 90s under legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. Somehow Florida State stopped getting all of the top recruits, especially in the state of Florida, and that translated to poor performance in the field. Florida State’s return to the national spotlight can be credited to, in large part, to consistently grabbing top-10 recruiting classes year in and year out. Coaches need talent to win at a consistent level and Florida State has plenty of it, so I would not expect to see the Noles take a step back this year with their defense.
Travis Patterson, Writer for the ACC Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20.