2011 Florida State Preview – Defense
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins
Posted Jun 18, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Florida State Seminole Defense

Florida State Seminoles

Preview 2011 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: After just one year, coordinator Mark Stoops has already earned his keep in Tallahassee. Under his watch, Florida State turned the corner on defense in 2010, improving in just about every statistical category after hitting rock bottom under Mickey Andrews in 2009. Now, with returning starters and budding stars everywhere, the ‘Noles want to build a bridge to the glory days when defense was the fuel for championships. Sure, there's need for improvement, such as bolstering the middle of the D and making more stops on third down. However, there's also reason for unbridled optimism. Brandon Jenkins is one of America's top pass rushers, a safe bet to leave early for the NFL at the conclusion of the season. Nigel Bradham is the cover boy at linebacker after leading the team in tackles. And the secondary is gushing with young playmakers, like Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid, and Lamarcus Joyner. This much talent plus a second year with Stoops at the controls is going to equal another big step in the right direction for the Seminole defense.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Nigel Bradham, 98
Sacks: Brandon Jenkins, 13.5
Interceptions: Xavier Rhodes, Mike Harris, 4

Star of the defense: Junior DE Brandon Jenkins
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Tank Carradine
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Christian Jones
Best pro prospect: Jenkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jenkins, 2) Sophomore CB Xavier Rhodes, 3) Junior CB Greg Reid
Strength of the defense: The pass rush, D-line depth, the cornerbacks, limiting the big play, takeaways, red zone defense
Weakness of the defense: Run stuffers in the middle, linebacker, lapses in pass defense, third down defense

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: By every possible measurement, the Seminole D-line is going to be loaded this season. Everyone, save for DE Markus White, is back, giving the staff an abundance of talent and depth at its disposal. The coaches even landed a blue-chipper out of the junior-college ranks in the offseason, enhancing the unit's profile heading into 2011.

The breakout star of the entire program last season was 6-3, 258-pound junior Brandon Jenkins , who went from backup to All-American in the span of a year. He added considerable weight, yet remained a flash off the snap, notching 63 tackles, 21.5 stops for loss, and 13.5 sacks. A candidate to leave early for the NFL at the conclusion of the season, he'll warrant the kind of attention that makes those around him better.

The all-important battle to complement Jenkins on the other side will be between 6-4, 273-pound sophomore Bjoern Werner and 6-5, 251-pound junior Tank Carradine . Werner played very well in his first season on campus, working his way into the rotation and making 20 tackles, six stops for loss, and 3.5 sacks. A soccer player growing up in Germany, he's light on his feet and sure to improve as he gets more snaps with the first team. In order to offset the loss of White, Florida State signed Carradine out of Butler (Kans.) Community College, one of the coveted JUCO players from the latest recruiting cycle. He had 16 sacks last season, flashing the work ethic and the athleticism to make a smooth transition to the ACC.

At defensive tackle, 6-0, 301-pound junior Jacobbi McDaniel returns for a second season as the starter, hopefully with fewer nagging injuries. He played through pain in 2010, yet still made 31 tackles and 5.5 stops behind the line, helping free up linebackers by clogging the gap. Behind McDaniel is 6-2, 281-pound junior Everett Dawkins and 6-2, 285-pound sophomore Demonte McAllister . Dawkins moves with the quickness and burst of an end, making 39 tackles, six stops for loss, and two sacks last year. He started the first seven games of 2010 before a hand injury limited his availability. McAllister put down a solid ground floor in his debut, making 16 tackles, seven for loss, and three sacks.

First dibs at the nose belongs to 6-2, 302-pound junior Anthony McCloud , a second-year transfer from Itwamba (Miss.) Community College. Boasting the desired blend of quickness and power, he debuted with 35 tackles and a pair of sacks. The hope around Tallahassee is that he can evolve into the run-stuffer the program has lacked for years. Behind McCloud, 6-5, 301-pound redshirt freshman Cameron Erving is one to watch. Flashing the size to clog running lanes, he turned heads in March and April.

Watch Out For … the rehabilitation of 6-2, 320-pound junior NG Moses McCray . His talent has never been questioned, but his health has been a continuing concern. He missed the spring to recover from an ACL tear, but hopes to provide some much-needed interior girth in the summer.
Strength: The pass rush. With Jenkins leading the charge, Florida State tied Boise State for most sacks in the country. The junior is going to get his share of big plays again this fall, while freeing up his linemates to do damage. On the inside, the ‘Noles are quick off the snap and prone to collapsing the pocket from up the gut.
Weakness: Muscle on the interior. While the Seminoles made enormous strides in run defense from 2009, they still had bouts of inconsistency at the point of attack. Before deducting minus yards for sacks, Florida State yielded at least 200 yards rushing to four opponents, Miami, Boston College, NC State, and Florida.
Outlook: A liability only two years ago, the D-line is now one of Florida State's team strengths. The ‘Noles used just one senior in 2010, which will really begin to pay dividends this fall. The unit sports a cornerstone player and a talented supporting cast. If the other ends can make opponents pay for doubling Jenkins, Tallahassee could be home to one of the nation's nastiest front walls.
Unit Rating: 8.5


State of the Unit: Linebacker is one of this year's only positions getting a bit of a makeover. Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander exhausted their eligibility, leaving the Seminoles with holes needing to be plugged in the middle and at strongside. The competition will be heated at both areas, which the coaching staff hopes will bring out the best in all of the contenders.

The lone returning starter is a good one, 6-2, 240-pound senior Nigel Bradham , a third-year starter. Operating with the desired measurables, such as size, speed, and agility, he's been among the Seminoles' leading tacklers over the last two seasons. In 2010, he set the pace with 98 stops and five sacks, packing a punch from sideline-to-sideline. Beyond his physical presence, the coaches are banking on him being more of a leader in his final year.

The heir apparent at weakside is 6-0, 246-pound sophomore Jeff Luc , a blue-chipper from the 2010 class. Although he had just eight tackles in his debut, the Seminoles love his physical makeup and upside potential.

While Bradham is an impressive all-around specimen, 6-4, 236-pound sophomore Christian Jones might actually be a notch better. The likely starter at strongside, he plays with the power to take on linemen in run defense and the range to make stops all over the field. He set the table for a promising career by making 18 tackles and three sacks as a true freshman.

Assuming the middle will be 6-1, 245-pound junior Vince Williams , a two-time letterman but newcomer to the starting lineup. More steady than spectacular, he's a sure tackler, with a solid feel for the system, chipping in with 17 tackles last season. If the ‘Noles are looking for more playmaking ability from the inside, it'll turn to 6-3, 209-pound sophomore Telvin Smith , who plays the game much faster than his elders. He flashed impressive athleticism throughout his first season, making 18 stops and earning a reputation as a frenetic defender. If he proves he can handle the job despite giving away so much weight, he's capable of winning this job in the summer.

Watch Out For … Jones to blossom into one of the breakout stars of the defense. The sophomore is on the tarmac and preparing for lift-off, blending a mix of power and speed needed to make an instant splash in the ACC. The right man at the right time on the second level, he has an ideal opportunity to start building reputation in 2011.
Strength: Range. A trademark of this group for many years, the Seminoles will once again be turning loose an athletic bunch of linebackers capable of making big plays all over the field. Aside from Williams, who can be a little heavy-legged, all of these guys can fly.
Weakness: Lack of experience. After Bradham, the Seminoles are going to be very young at linebacker. There's talent, to be sure, but that dearth of relevant game experience is going to be the cause of occasional inconsistency and missed assignments this fall.
Outlook: The Florida State linebackers are good today, but not as good as they'll be tomorrow. After Bradham, who'll get his chance to play on Sundays, most of the Seminoles at the second level of defense are green. How quickly players, such as Jones, Smith, and Luc, mature will go a long way determining how effective this unit is in 2011.
Unit Rating: 7.5


State of the Unit: After regrouping on the fly a year ago, the secondary is looking to take the next step forward with a unit busting at the seams with young talent. The weak link of the team entering 2010, Florida State made major strides in pass defense, nearly cutting its touchdowns yielded in half versus the prior. Now that everyone is back, with a lot more seasoning and polish, there's legitimate hope that the ‘Noles could harbor one of the ACC's stingiest and most opportunistic defensive backfields.

The emerging star of the secondary is 6-2, 205-pound sophomore Xavier Rhodes , whose ceiling is as high as any young defensive back in America. At first blush, there's not much to dislike about the rising boundary corner. He has great size and the ball skills to force quarterbacks to avoid his side of the field. He's also precocious, debuting with 58 tackles, four interceptions, and 16 passes defended to earn the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

At field corner, there'll be no drop-off. Junior Greg Reid is building an impressive reputation of his own. While only 5-8 and 185 pounds, he doesn't play to his modest size. In fact, he's a scrapper, with the speed, hips, and hops to lockdown much bigger receivers. Explosive in all facets of his game, including as a return man on special teams, he made 65 stops, three picks, and a team-best 17 passes defended a year ago.

Florida State's first corner off the bench will be no slouch either. Senior Mike Harris may have gotten lost in the shadows in 2010, but he played very well in his debut out of El Camino (Calif.) Community College. Primarily used as a nickel back, he was in on 41 tackles and tied for the team-high with four interceptions.

Although he arrived as a cornerback, 6-2, 218-pound junior Terrance Parks is now firmly entrenched as a strong safety. However, the staff is still waiting for him to experience a breakout moment. He has the requisite size and intensity to play the position, but has struggled to get near the ball, making only 44 tackles in 14 starts a year ago. Big-hitting sophomore Nick Moody is set to take over at free safety now that Jamie Robinson is gone. At 6-2 and 226 pounds, he's a potential enforcer, starting a pair of games at rover and making 33 tackles on defense and special teams. While he'll defend the run with the ferocity of a linebacker, he still needs to prove he can cover receivers and tight ends, an unknown up to this point.

At free safety, 6-2, 226-pound junior Nick Moody may pass the eye test, but he won't keep 5-8, 183-pound sophomore Lamarcus Joyner from passing him on the depth chart. Despite making 79 tackles, Moody's inconsistency forced the staff to move Joyner over from cornerback. One of the nation's blue-chip recruits of 2010, he made 23 tackles and broke up four passes as a rookie. An electrifying all-around athlete, he'll overcome a lack of size with his speed, leaping ability, and unexpected strength when the ball is in the air.

Watch Out For … Joyner to make the staff look wise. The sophomore is going to be an instant upgrade from Moody, giving the secondary another dose of frenetic playmaking ability. Sure, he may get beat over the top on occasion, but he'll compensate with a bunch of momentum-changing hits and takeaways.
Strength: Takeaways. When you've got three explosive playmakers in the secondary, Rhodes, Reid, and Joyner, good things are bound to happen. The trio has an electrifying blend of speed, burst, and tenacity that's needed to get a hand on the ball. The fact that the defensive backfield is littered with great athletes means quarterbacks won't be able to avoid one side of the field.
Weakness: Consistency in pass defense. As exciting as this group can be, it'll also show its youth and relative inexperience from time to time. In losses to Oklahoma, NC State, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech last season, for instance, the Seminoles yielded 11 touchdown passes and picked off a single throw. Plus, the stature of Reid and Joyner could present problems versus taller receivers.
Outlook: Having recruited the defensive backfield exceedingly well in recent years, Florida State is about to start reaping all of the benefits of those efforts. The ‘Noles have pieced together an exciting collection of young athletes who are going to drive opposing quarterbacks nuts. Sure, there'll be occasional breakdowns, but this group has the closing speed and tenacity to compensate with a ton of turnovers and deflected balls this fall.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: It's going to be difficult to find much fault in the Florida State special teams, one of the sneaky-good units on this squad in 2011. From a group that performed well last fall, the Seminoles welcome back their punter, placekicker, and top return man. Although none of the individuals comprising the ensemble will garner as much attention as, say QB E.J. Manuel or DE Brandon Jenkins, they're still to have an underrated impact on the program's overall success this fall.

Junior Dustin Hopkins is on his way to becoming one of the top young placekickers in the country. A two-year starter, with a booming right leg, he connected on 22-of-28 field goal attempts, capped by a 55-yarder to beat Clemson as time expired. He gets outstanding leg drive, averaging an impressive 66.3 yards on kickoffs last season.

Back for a third year as the Seminoles' regular punter is linebacker-sized senior Shawn Powell . Improving with each passing season, he averaged a career-high 44.3 yards in 2010. A rugby-style punter, he improved his directional kicks and dropped 16 of his 50 attempts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

Junior Greg Reid is once again expected to handle both kickoff and punt returns. A dangerous playmaker in the open field, he averaged 24 yards on kickoffs and ranked 28th nationally on punts, often forcing the other team to avoid him completely.

Watch Out For … Hopkins to continue maturing into a Lou Groza Award favorite. Now that he has two full seasons of experience, he has it all to become an elite, next-level placekicker. While still searching for a higher degree of accuracy and consistency, he did improve in both areas last fall.
Strength: Leg strength. In Hopkins and Powell, Florida State boasts one of the hardest hitting kicker-punter combinations in America. Big and powerful, both specialists are assets to the offense and defense. Hopkins can reach from well beyond 50 yards, and Powell would have led the ACC had he qualified with enough attempts.
Weakness: Coverage units. Like two years ago, this isn't a glaring weakness, but it is a relative area of improvement. Considering all of the talent within this group, the Seminoles were 36th nationally at covering punts and a disappointing 62nd in kickoff return defense.
Outlook: Florida State is going to win at least two games this fall solely on its special teams superiority. Hopkins, Powell, and Reid are all difference-makers, providing a boost by doing the little things well. By the end of the year, the ‘Noles will be able to stake claim to one of the top five or six units in America.
Unit Rating: 9

- 2011 Florida State Preview | 2011 Florida State Offense
- 2011 Florida State Defense | 2011 Florida State Depth Chart
- Florida State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006