Florida State’s Reserve Tank
By BJ Bennett
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With Brandon Jenkins' season now over, Tank Carradine's showcase starts this Saturday afternoon.
Florida State's vaunted defensive line earned high praise this pre-season, with many pundits claiming the Seminole front to be the best in college football. Top-to-bottom, it's a group loaded with future NFL players. In a week one romp of Murray State, that prowess was on full display. Facing the FCS Racers, Mark Stoops' defense compiled eleven tackles for loss, six sacks and forced and recovered two fumbles.
In the season opener, All-American candidates Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner combined for five sacks -- with Werner recording a staggering four. Not long after the German-born junior was honored as the National Defensive Player of the Week by some outlets, news hit Tallahassee harder than any blow that was delivered Saturday evening: due to a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot, Jenkins was suddenly out for the 2012 season.
Once the story broke, heads started to turn as eyes looked for who might be able to try and fill the glaring void. A quick glance at the top of Saturday's stat sheet provides the answer. For all that Jenkins and Werner did in week one, it was another defensive end that actually led the unit in tackles. Cornellius "Tank" Carradine finished the opener with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. He will take the field this weekend under one big microscope.
A junior college transfer to Florida State in 2011, Carradine finished his two-year career ranked as the nation's top JUCO prospect per Rivals.com. The Cincinnati-native had a NJCAA-best 16 sacks for Butler Community College in 2010. At 6'5'', 265 pounds, and with that type production, Carradine caught the attention of the nation's top programs. After signing with Illinois out of high school, he ultimately chose FSU over Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and others in his second recruiting go-round.
Year one in major college football was a successful one. As a backup defensive end for the Seminoles, Carradine finished with 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He had four stops and a sack in Florida State's Champ Sports Bowl triumph over Notre Dame. Off the field, he earned one of two academic awards given to the junior class and was chosen as the co-recipient of the Bill McGrotha Humanitarian Award. He entered this fall as the accomplished third wheel on a mean-tricycle of tenacity headed straight for the quarterbacks of the ACC.
Carradine, instead, now steps to the forefront of a unit expected to lead the Seminoles to a run at their first national championship since 1999.
"I don't like the way that it happened," FSU's new starter at end explained. "But that just tells me that I just have to step up now because the team needs me and I need the team. We all have to make it happen for Brandon. I want to prove a lot. I'm going to try to get the job done from here on out."
Physically, head coach Jimbo Fisher sees talent similar to what Werner brings, and Jenkins brought, to the table.
"There's no doubt," he responded when asked if Carradine was an NFL-caliber player. "I think a very high draft pick, too. I think he's a really high draft pick. I'll be shocked if he isn't."
Carradine's showcase starts this Saturday afternoon. The pressure will also be on reserves Giorgio Newberry (6'6'', 273), Toshmon Stevens (6'5'', 245) and likely one of the 'Noles' talented young freshman as well. Alongside the nation's current sack leader in Werner, these relatively-new names will be expected to maintain the status quo.
The Jenkins injury story is a difficult one to take. A do-it-all-right leader for Florida State and a hometown product, Jenkins turned down the NFL this past winter for a senior season with the Seminoles. As his friend and teammate readies for the long recovery process, Carradine is preparing to pick up where Jenkins left off.