Is FSU the Best Defensive Team in Nation?
By Matthew Osborne
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While many FSU fans are focusing on the persistent Big 12 rumors, this Seminole team is capable of making a push for a national title.
After a string of slumping seasons at the end of the Bobby Bowden Era left the Florida State fan base feeling debilitated, the Seminoles appear to be on the brink of making an emphatic return to the ranks of college football’s elite.
Under the direction of current head coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles have stockpiled premiere high school recruits, arguably becoming the most dominant recruiting program in the nation during the last three recruiting cycles.
In particular, Florida State has tremendously improved the quality of its players on the defensive side of the football.
With veteran defensive coordinator Mark Stoops dialing up the plays, the Seminoles played their way to a fourth place finish in both total defense (275 yards per game) and scoring defense (15.1 points per game) last season.
While last year marked the best defensive season for the Seminoles in recent history, Florida State has reason to believe that its 2012 defensive unit will be even more prominent, as FSU will return eight starters this fall.
The headline of Florida State’s 2012 defense will undoubtedly be the defensive front, where the Seminoles return all four starters from last year’s defensive line which helped register an impressive 41 sacks.
Defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner give the Seminoles two of the top pass rushing threats in the country coming off the edge. Jenkins, who led the team in tackles for loss and sacks last season, uses his rare combination of anticipation, quickness and straight-line speed to wreak havoc in opposing backfield. Serving as an outstanding compliment to Jenkins, the German-born Werner relies primarily on his supreme strength and toughness to outmuscle offensive linemen.
Jenkins and Werner receive the majority of the publicity from the press, but that is not an indictment on the play of their defensive tackles.
Contrarily, defensive tackles Everett Dawkins, Tim Jernigan, Anthony McCloud and Jacobbi McDaniel were key contributors to Florida State finishing first in the country in yards per rushing attempt (2.35) last season.
The Seminoles are obviously extremely talented along the defensive front, but they also have tremendous depth in the trenches. Florida State has no less than 10 defensive linemen with significant playing experience returning to the roster this fall. In addition, redshirt freshmen Nile Lawrence-Stample, Derrick Mitchell and Giorgio Newberry will all be given ample opportunity to earn their way onto the field in 2012.
Of course, an impressive Florida State defensive line begins to look even more imposing when you consider that elite 2012 recruits Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Justin Shanks and Chris Casher will be added to the fray this summer.
Priority No. 1 for the FSU defense this fall will be replacing the production of LB Nigel Bradham, who led the Seminoles in tackles each of the last three seasons. Telvin Smith and converted safety Nick Moody are the early favorites to step in for Bradham at weakside linebacker.
Linebackers Christian Jones and Vince Williams return to their starting roles in the middle of the Florida State defense. The pair combined to tally 110 tackles last fall, and they will be counted on to provide leadership for the Seminole defense, as linebacker is the one position where FSU does not have a ton of depth on defense.
Two starters – safety Terrance Parks and nickel cornerback Mike Harris – are gone from the secondary, but the Seminoles should still be very good in the defensive backfield this season.
Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes combine to give the Seminoles one of the best cornerback combos in the entire nation. While their statistics aren’t necessarily going to blow anybody away, Reid and Rhodes are both exceptional athletes capable of shutting down many of the ACC’s premiere receivers.
Safety Lamarcus Joyner is greatly undersized for the position, but his physicality and strength make up for anything he lacks in terms of height. Measuring in at just 5-foot-8, Joyner was a second-team All-ACC selection at his safety position following last season.
A number of secondary players will compete to fill the vacancies left by the departures of Harris and Parks, including Nick Waisome, Tyler Hunter, Terrence Brooks and Karlos Williams. Each of those players were highly-coveted recruits coming out of high school.
The Seminoles have clearly been blessed with an abundance of talent of the defensive side of the ball for the upcoming fall. In fact, if the Seminoles’ defensive players perform as expected, there is a very realistic chance that Florida State will be able to stake claim to the most domineering defense in the country following the conclusion of this upcoming season.
In order to get an accurate perspective of just how talented the Florida State defense will be this fall, let’s take a look at the quality of the defensive recruits that the Seminoles have lured to Tallahassee in recent years.
According to Scout.com, the Seminoles have signed 11 five-star recruits on the defensive side of the ball over the last four years, with five of those coming on the defensive line. According to those statistics, the Seminoles could theoretically have a former five-star recruit starting at every defensive position this fall.
With the high level of talent that the Seminoles have brought in recently, it should come as no surprise that Florida State will have the top defense in the ACC in 2012.
However, Florida State is having a slightly more difficult time earning recognition from the national media.
With the SEC’s propensity for producing quality defenses, the Seminoles frequently get overlooked when talks of the top defensive teams in college football arise.
Make no mistake though; this Florida State has the players and the coaching to be the best defensive unit in the country this fall.
While many FSU fans are focusing on the persistent Big 12 rumors, this Seminole team is capable of making a push for a national title, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.