Tuesday, August 29, 2006

6 Days to Go... Scouting the Defensive Line

Florida State has many traditions - the most famous is Chief Osceola and Renegade planting the flaming spear before kickoff, but there are scores of others. One tradition that is realtively new is the annual emergence of an All-American defensive lineman. From Darnell Dockett to Travis Johnson to Brodrick Bunkley the 'Noles have made a habit of producing top-flight DTs that blow up their senior year and go on to NFL success. What's more, last year actually had TWO senior-year phenoms in Bunkley and All-ACC DE Kamerion Wimbley. Having seniors blossom into dominant defenders is great, but what if you don't have any seniors?

That's the conundrum FSU faces entering the 2006 season. There are no senior DTs on the roster and the lone senior DE, Darrell Burston, has yet to flash NFL potential. So wher will the 'Noles turn to replace the massive contributions made by Bunkley and Wimbley last season? Fortunately there are several talented players waiting in the wings who may emerge as FSU's next generation of stars.

Darnell Dockett started this amazing run of senior success

Left Defensive End - The aforementioned Mr. Burston is penciled in as the starter at LDE, and this is his time to shine. After arriving at FSU as a 200-lb. LB, Burston is now a 250-lb. run stopper off the edge. He has shown little ability to get into the backfield as a pass rusher, and unless he improves dramatically in that area he'll be sharing time with Neefy Moffett. Moffett was denied a scholarship offer by UM and wound up at Florida State by default. He made the 'Canes pay for their error by sacking Kyle Wright in the closing minutes of the game last year. Moffett is still adjusting to playing DE at the Div-1A level, but he's shown a great deal of promise thus far. Still, FSU will need to find a way to get a consistent pass rush from this spot or else we may be forced to blitz more often.

Nose Tackle - Filling the enormous hole left by the departure of Bunkley is JUCO transfer Paul Griffin. A squat, powerful defender, Griffin has impressed since arriving in Tallahassee with his quick moastery of the defense and his raw power. FSU has recruited this position well so it speaks volumes about Griffin that he wa able to step in and take a starting role. He'll have some growing opains as he adjust to the speed of the game at this level but we feel confident that he can handle the transition. Backing up Griffin is Kendrick Stewart, a big-time prospect that 'Nole fans have been dying to see. Stewart is still undersized for the position but possesses tremendous quickness - still, he is likely a year or two away from reaching his potential. With so much inexperience stepping in for an All-American performer this spot bears keeping a close eye on.

Bunk spent so much time in BC's backfield they started charging him rent

Defensive Tackle - If there's one spot Seminole fans can feel relatively good about it's right here. Andre Fluellen surprised almost everyone with his steady play last year. Most fans thought that the loss of Clifton Dickson would be a huge blow to FSU's run defense, but Fluellen fit in just fine next to Bunk and gave the 'Noles a great 1-2 punch in the middle of the line. Fluellen returns to his starting role bigger and stronger, and has taken on agreater leadership role on the defense. If you asked us which DL is most likely to become a household name this seaon it would be Fluellen by a long-shot. Promising sophomore Letroy Guion, another pleasant surprise for FSU last year, backs up Fluellen making this the strongest position on the line enetering the season.

Right Defensive End - Junior Alex Boston is slated to take over Kam Wimbley old hunting grounds at RDE, but like much of his career so far injuries are holding him up. It appears that Boston won't play against Miami, leaving DJ Norris and redshirt freshman Everette Brown to man the position in the season opener. Norris isn't flashy, but he gets a good push and plays the run well. The problem is that the 'Noles now find themselves starting two DEs who aren't strong pass rushers. One potential solution is Brown, a top-ranked prospect out of North Carolina and a guy that we've been extremely excited about since he signed his LOI. Hoping for a freshman to make an immediate splash against UM may be asking a bit much, but Brown could blossom into a true FSU-style DE during the course of the season.

Wimbley was a beast off the edge last year

So, out of four positions FSU will kickoff the Miami game with three question marks. Yikes. Fortunately we still have Odell Haggins, one of the preminent DL coaches in America, and a plethora of talented prospects. However, "prospects" and "performers" aren't the same thing. the young guys are going to have to grow up in a big hurry if FSU is to emerge from the Orange Bowl unscathed.

Coming tomorrow: What will the secondary look like?


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