Florida State Preview 2006 - Defense
Florida State Seminoles
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Florida State Seminoles Preview 2006 - FSU Defense

What you need to know ... The Seminoles lose a ton of star power with linebackers Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson, linemen Kamerion Wimbley and Brodrick Bunkley, and safety Pat Watkins to the NFL, but this is Florida State; there are replacements. The linebacking corps will bounce back the quickest with several great young prospects playing around Buster Davis. The secondary gets a big boost from super-recruit Myron Rolle, who appears to be the real deal, while the line should be fine if a steady pass rush can be found to replace many of the 44 sacks from last year's D. To nitpick, there could stand to be more interceptions and there will be major problems early if there are injuries at end or corner, but this should still turn out to be one of the ACC's best defenses.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Buster Davis, 91
Sacks: Lawrence Timmons, 3
Interceptions: Tony Carter, Roger Williams, 1

Star of the defense: Senior LB Buster Davis
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Alex Boston
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Tony Carter
Best pro prospect: Freshman S Myron Rolle
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) DT Andre Fluellen, 3) Rolle
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, overall speed
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush, depth at end and corner

Defensive Line
It's Florida State, so there will always be tremendous defensive lineman rising up and producing, but it's still not a positive to lose top NFL prospects like Kamerion Wimbley and Brodrick Bunkley. Andre Fluellen appears to be the next great Seminole lineman, and he needs to be as one of the key players in the middle. Alex Boston, Darrell Burston, and D.J. Norris are experienced ends who have to prove they can get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
The key to the unit:
Everyone has to stay healthy, especially at end. There will be a good tackle rotation as the season goes on, but there could be problems if Alex Boston and/or Darrell Burston goes down for any length of time.
Defensive Line Rating:

Projected Starters
- DE Alex Boston, Jr. - 14 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL
Boston stepped in for a little but of duty on the outside when starter Kamerion Wimbley got hurt. The 264-pound junior has one of the starting spots sewn up thanks to his size and potential as a pass rusher. He got much, much better as last year went on and should grow into one of the new stars of the defense.

- DT Andre Fluellen, Jr. - 26 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL
With the quickness of an end in the body of a 285-pound tackle, Fluellen is on the verge of a big season. He benefited from having Brodrick Bunkley right next to him, but Bunkley also got some help with Fluellen occupying plenty of attention. He's a nice run stopper who's as consistent as they come.

- NG Kendrick Stewart, RFr.
All Stewart has to do is replace Brodrick Bunkley, who spent half of last year camped out in opposing backfields. While a bit undersized at 6-2 and 271 pounds, Stewart is a phenomenal athlete who should become a fantastic interior pass rusher.

- DE Darrell Burston, Sr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL
Is this the year Burston finally grows into a producer? He's a fast 240 pounds who saw plenty of action last season getting seven starts, but he didn't make enough plays in the backfield. While tough against the run, he needs to be hitting quarterbacks.

Top Backups
- NG Paul Griffin, Jr.
The JUCO transfer will get every shot at replacing Brodrick Bunkley on the nose. At 278 pounds, he's a little bit bigger than Kendrick Stewart, but not nearly as athletic. He made 45 tackles and four sacks last year for Butler County CC.
- DE D.J. Norris, Jr. - 20 tackles, 3.5 TFL
While not nearly as talented as some of the other Seminole ends, the 6-3, 252-pound Norris was a nice backup last season playing in every game and getting a start against Clemson. He's not going to be a sack-master, but he's tough to run on.

You don't get better by losing Ernie Sims, A.J. Nicholson, Sam McGrew, and Marcello Church. Buster Davis will be an all-star at either the middle or the weakside, but there's a big all-around drop-off in talent from last year's tremendous group. With that said, there are no reasons to shed any tears for the poor Noles. Geno Hayes has the potential to grow into a star, and Lawrence Timmons has more than enough talent on the strongside to be one of the team's leading tacklers. There's depth, but it'll be a lot better in October than September. Derek Nicholson is a speedy playmaker, while JUCO transfer Toddrick Verdell should be one of the team's top newcomers.
The key to the unit: Hold the fort. This group doesn't have to be last year's disruptive crew, but it can be extremely productive and turn out to be a major strength.
Linebacker Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Geno Hayes, Soph. - 17 tackles
Hayes has to emerge as a steady starter to allow Buster Davis to stay in the middle. The 215-pound sophomore is fast and great on special teams, but he'll have to prove he can be strong against the pass and has to try to fill the huge void in overall production left by A.J. Nicholson.

- Buster Davis, Sr. - 81 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 broken up passes
Strong enough to play in the middle and fast enough to start on the weakside, Davis is one of the team's most experienced players and will move around where needed in the linebacking corps. He hasn't received anywhere near the acclaim of other Seminole linebackers, but he has been just as productive as the other stars over the last few seasons with 141 tackles and 18 tackles for loss. He's a fierce tackler who'll be the intimidator of the D.

- Lawrence Timmons, Jr. - 36 tackles, 3 sacks, 3.5 TFL
Timmons saw plenty of action last season backing up Ernie Sims on the strongside, and now he'll hit the ground running as the new starter. At 230 pounds, he's bigger than Sims with 4.6 speed. It'll mainly be his job to hold up against the run, but he'll also be needed to become a top pass rusher.

Top Backups
- Derek Nicholson, Soph. - 21 tackles, 1.5 TFL
The younger brother of former Seminole star, A.J., Derek will get a lot of playing time in the middle when Buster Davis occasionally moves to the outside. The 223-pound true sophomore saw time in every game last year playing mostly on special teams, and now he'll be the main backup and shine as one of the new all-around playmakers of the defense.
- Toddrick Verdell, Soph.
A safety at Butler County CC last season, the 6-3, 215-pound sophomore will move to outside linebacker and should become an instant factor as a backup on the strongside. He's a great open field tackler and excellent against the pass.
- Jae Thaxton, Soph. - 4 tackles
Thaxton saw time in three games before getting hurt and taking a redshirt season. He's an elite special teams playmaker who'll see a little time in the middle.

Defensive Backs
While the secondary loses a few big names, Pat Watkins is the only one who'll truly be missed. The loss of Antonio Cromartie to a preseason knee injury last year will turn out to be a blessing now as it allowed some of the young corners to see time. Tony Carter will be the new top coverman, while J.R. Bryant and Michael Ray Garvin will make more than their share of big plays. The real excitement is at safety where Roger Williams is expected to emerge as a top playmaker and superstar recruit Myron Rolle should be an All-ACC talent right off the bat.
The key to the unit: More interceptions. The Noles only picked off 12 passes last season and could stand to make more big plays.
Secondary Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- CB Tony Carter, Soph. - 41 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 12 broken up passes
Carter got picked on early and often last year, but he came up with a nice season leading the team in broken up passes after taking over for an injured Antonio Cromartie. He's not big at only 5-9 and 160 pounds, and he's not as fast as the other FSU defensive backs, but he's very productive.

- FS Roger Williams, Jr. - 39 tackles, 3 broken up passes
The 200-pound Williams has been a nice reserve of the last two seasons making 63 tackles as a backup behind Pat Watkins. He has a few starts under his belt and proved to be a strong tackler. He has to be more of a player against the pass, but that should come with more starting experience.

- SS Myron Rolle, Fr.
Call it an educated projection that Rolle will start the season despite being listed behind Anthony Houllis. One of the nation's top recruits was the talk of spring ball proving to be every bit as good as his prep hype. He's 6-2 and 214 pounds with phenomenal speed that'll get him next-level notice right off the bat. What'll get him the most recognition right away is his huge hitting ability. It's not insane to consider him the team's best pro prospect even though he's a true freshman.

- CB J.R. Bryant, Jr. - 38 tackles, 3 broken up passes
Bryant took over a starting role halfway through last season and turned into a nice fill-in. His 6-1, 172-pound size and 4.5 speed makes him a great prospect, and his experience should lead the way to more big plays.

Top Backups

- SS Anthony Houllis, Jr. - 12 tackles
A defensive backup and special teams star over his first two seasons, Houllis was listed as the starting strong safety coming out of spring ball. While he's big and can hit, he won't last in the starting mix long, if at all, with superstar freshman Myron Rolle ready to take over.
- CB Michael Ray Garvin, Soph. - 16 tackles, 1 broken up pass, 1 sack
It takes special speed to be considered the fastest player on Florida State, and the sprinter on the track team can absolutely fly. He'll get a few looks at a starting spot this fall, but mostly he'll be a key reserve behind Tony Carter.
- FS Darius McClure, Soph. - 14 tackles
A special teams standout last season, McClure is versatile enough to play either safety position. He'll start out behind Roger Williams at free safety and should make most of his big plays again as a special teamer.

Special Teams
The kicking game will be just fine with Graham Gano taking over at punter for Chris Hall and Gary Cismesia looking to bounce back from a tough Orange Bowl finish to be one of the ACC's best kickers. Finding a replacement for spark-plug kick returner Willie Reid will be the big issue. Chris Davis will get the first chance at returning punts, while lighting fast Kenny O'Neal will handle the kickoff returns.

The key to the unit: Graham Gano has to be a steady punter right away, while the kick return game has to keep exploding without Willie Reid.
Special Teams Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- PK Gary Cismesia, Jr. - 17-24 FGs, 42-43 extra points
Cismesia had a tremendous season showing fantastic range and clutch ability, but no one will remember his six of nine field goals from beyond 40 yards, or his 48-yard strike in the Orange Bowl to sent the game into overtime. The two missed field goals in OT against Penn State put a sour note on the year, but he's an All-ACC caliber talent who should be a weapon.

- P Graham Gano, Soph.
Mostly a kickoff specialist so far, the sophomore has a big leg and should add more blast to the punting game than Chris Hall, who averaged only 38.6 yards per kick but put 24 inside the 20.

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