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2008 Florida State Preview - Defense
Florida State DE Everette Brown
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida State Seminole Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know:
Florida State, where Mickey Andrews’ kids are typically fast and
nasty, but the defense showed cracks in the armor late last year
allowing more than 30 points in four of the final seven games,
while being especially vulnerable on deep passes. Andrews has
the athletes and the focus to make sure the late-season letdown
is an aberration. DE Everette Brown was the team’s sack leader
as a part-time starter, LB Derek Nicholson led the team with 99
tackles, and S Myron Rolle should be ready to blossom into a
star. The biggest area of concern is at defensive tackle, where
Andre Fluellen and Letroy Guion leave gaping voids that need to
Derek Nicholson, 99
Everette Brown, 6.5
Interceptions: Patrick Robinson, 6
Star of the
Junior DE Everette Brown
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Junior DT Emmanuel Dunbar
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Dekoda Watson
Best pro prospect: Junior S Myron Rolle
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brown, 2) Senior
LB Derek Nicholson, 3) Rolle
Strength of the defense: Team speed, depth at
Weakness of the defense: Interior linemen, preventing the
Projected Starters: The biggest concern on the
defensive line is at tackle, where part-time starters Andre
Fluellen and Letroy Guion are off trying to make NFL rosters.
The most experienced holdover is junior Budd Thacker, who
started eight games, missing time in the middle of the year with
a fractured toe. At 6-2 and 282 pounds, he’s a try-hard guy
producing 23 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in his first
season as a regular. Now that he’s the senior member of the
interior, the ‘Noles need him to get penetration more
Manning the nose will be senior Paul Griffin, a steady
veteran and one of the strongest players on the line. A year
after recovering from an ACL tear, the 6-2, 278-pounder was one
of the unit’s most dependable reserves, making 24 tackles, 6.5
tackles for loss, and a sack, despite not starting a single
The next big thing on the Florida State defensive line is junior
end Everette Brown, who erupted in his second season
making 37 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and a team-high 6.5
sacks. Explosive off the snap at 6-4 and 246 pounds, he’s lived
in opposing backfields the last two seasons and has worked hard
to get even better in the offseason. With an eye on double-digit
sacks, he could be off to the NFL after his junior year.
At the other end spot, the coaches know senior Neefy Moffett
has talent, but just want to see it on a more consistent
basis. He has lettered in each of the last three years, topped
by last season’s seven starts that produced 19 tackles, nine
tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. A lock to be in the rotation,
he’ll have to step it up in August to retain his starting job.
Projected Top Reserves: Now more than ever, Mickey
Andrews needs 6-5, 284-pound junior DT Emmanuel Dunbar to
begin approaching and even surpassing his enormous potential.
Plagued by back injuries throughout his career, he has the size,
strength, and long arms to dominate when he can play pain-free.
Almost two years removed from having surgery to correct two
herniated discs, the staff is cautiously optimistic he’s ready
to recapture his old form.
More depth on the inside will come from junior Justin Mincey,
a 6-5, 265-pound hybrid who has also played extensively on the
outside. In fact, a year ago, he started four games at defensive
end, finishing the season with five tackles and 2.5 tackles for
loss. With a year of experience behind him, he has too much raw
ability to not be more productive this time around.
The ‘Noles are welcoming back 6-2, 255-pound junior end Kevin
McNeil, who sat out all of last season with off-field
issues. As a freshman, he flashed some of the potential that
made him such a coveted high school recruit. He gets out of the
blocks in an instant and has the acceleration and lean coming
around the edge that’s often too much for opposing tackles to
Watch Out For ... JUCO transfer DE Markus White.
Depending on who you speak with, White was the country’s
top-rated junior college transfer last year, abusing offensive
linemen en route to 24.5 sacks. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, he has
the speed to make a smooth transition to the ACC and an
immediate impact for the Seminoles.
Strength: The ends. While Brown is on the brink of
stardom, the additions of McNeil and White give the Noles
tremendous speed and depth on the edge. It’s been years since
the front four was able to frighten opponents with outside
pressure, but that’s about to change.
Weakness: The tackles. Thacker and Griffin may be
serviceable interior linemen, but they’re not going to dominate
the way Fluellen and Guion did at times last year. While a lot
is expected of Dunbar, he first needs to show that the back
injuries are no longer an issue.
Outlook: Expect a role reversal from recent
seasons with the ends providing a little more flash than normal
and the tackles to be vulnerable against teams that pound away
between the tackles. Brown is a special player who’s about to
start making a national name for himself.
Projected Starters: While it hurts losing a player
of Geno Hayes’ caliber to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the
linebacking situation is still solid. Senior Derek Nicholson
returns to the middle of the unit a year after breaking out
with a team-high 99 stops and eight tackles for loss. All the
way back from an ACL tear that ruined his 2006 season, he’s a
6-2, 234-pound beast in run defense with the instincts to track
down ballcarriers all over the field.
At strongside, 6-2, 222-pound junior Dekoda Watson is
ready to author a breakthrough season after scratching the
surface of his potential a year ago. A bona fide playmaker with
blazing speed and a nasty streak, he started a dozen regular
season games, delivering 50 tackles, eight tackles for loss,
three sacks, and four passes broken up. His athleticism allows
the coaches to use him as a pass rusher or as a pass defender
covering tight ends and backs.
The departure of Hayes and transfer of Marcus Ball have created
an opportunity for 6-3, 222-pound junior Toddrick Verdell
to win the starting job at weakside. Fully healed from last
year’s foot and ankle injuries, he’ll be looking to build on his
24 tackles, while enhancing his reputation as the linebacker
with the best cover skills.
Projected Top Reserves: True freshman Nigel
Bradham has already participated in his first spring and is
quickly closing the gap on Verdell at weakside. One of the
nation’s premier recruits in February, he’s a 6-2, 227-pound
destroyer with the speed, power, and hitting ability to be a
major factor early in his career.
Behind Watson at strongside will be 6-1, 224-pound sophomore
Kendall Smith, the program’s defensive newcomer of the year
in 2007. A speedy standout on special teams, he had 14 tackles
and gradually earned reps on defense when injuries struck the
Watch Out For ... Bradham to win the starting job
at some point this season. He’s a rare and special athlete
entering an ideal situation for immediate playing time. It’s
early, and maybe unfair, but he’s got the early signs of
becoming the team’s next superstar linebacker.
Strength: Speed and athleticism. Do you expect
anything less from Florida State? All of the linebackers are
terrific athletes with the next level speed to make plays all
over the field and the tenacity to intimidate ballcarriers.
Weakness: Weakside. Relatively speaking, it’s the
weakest area of the unit, even though Bradham has an enormous
ceiling. Hayes left early and Ball left for another school,
forcing a scramble at the position.
Outlook: As is often the case this time of year,
Florida State will enter the season in good shape at linebacker.
Nicholson is an all-league player, Watson is about to explode,
and out of Verdell and Bradham, the defense will get the
occasional big play from weakside.
Projected Starters: Four defensive backs with
starting experience return to a secondary that has to be better.
Led by 5-9, 166-pound senior Tony Carter and 5-11,
189-pound junior Patrick Robinson, a pair of veteran
cornerbacks return coming off solid seasons.
A starter since his freshman year, Carter plays much bigger than
his size, flashing some of the best open field tackling skills
of the defensive backs. He had 45 tackles, four tackles for
loss, and four picks a season ago, but needs to improve in man
coverage and remains vulnerable when matched against taller
Robinson was a revelation in his first season as a full-timer,
making 28 tackles in five starts and leading the conference with
six interceptions. While still raw and, at times, too quick to
jump the route, he has the 4.2 speed and 5-11, 189-pound frame
that could begin attracting attention from NFL scouts.
Junior Myron Rolle is the prototype at rover, a smart and
physical 6-2, 218-pounder with two years of starting experience
already behind him. While not one of the team’s fastest
defensive backs, he takes good angles, plays with keen
instincts, and rarely misses an assignment. Last year’s 67
tackles and two fumble recoveries don’t paint an accurate
picture of how good he can be, or his pro potential.
The lone hole in the defensive backfield is at free safety,
where reliable Roger Williams is gone. His likely successor
will be senior Darius McClure, a career backup who has
seen plenty of time on defense and special teams over the last
three years. At 5-11 and 217 pounds, he can deliver the payload,
but still needs to prove himself in coverage.
Projected Top Reserves: A seasoned veteran with
off-the-charts speed and eight starts from a year ago, senior
Michael Ray Garvin is running neck-and-neck with Robinson at
one cornerback spot. Far more physical than his 5-8, 185-pound
frame might indicate, he’s led the corners in tackles in each of
the last two years, topped by a career-high 49 stops a year ago.
In order to bolster the situation at free safety and provide
competition to McClure, talented junior Jamie Robinson is
making the move from cornerback. At 6-2 and 187 pounds, he has
the speed, size, and cover skills to make this decision look
like a stroke of coaching genius. He played sparingly during the
regular season, finishing with 17 tackles, but could use this
opportunity as a springboard for the second half of his college
Watch Out For ... Rolle to do more freelancing than
in the past. On some levels, he’s been underutilized the past
two seasons, prompting the staff to create more ways for him to
be involved in the defense and closer to the ball. If the
coaches are successful, he could be in store for a monster
Strength: Ball skills. Yeah, they’ll bite a little
too easily, but when these athletic playmakers break on the
ball, they instantly go from defensive backs to dangerous
receivers. Florida State had 17 interceptions last season and
could do even more this year.
Weakness: Softness in coverage. The ‘Noles were
one of only four ACC teams that allowed more than 12 yards a
completion, yielding 24 touchdown passes overall and more than
245 yards a game. Things, stat-wise, really got out of hand down
the stretch against some of the game’s better quarterbacks, such
as Matt Ryan, Tim Tebow, and Andre Woodson.
Outlook: There is way too much talent and athletic
ability for this group to be sketchy in pass defense for a
second straight year. Things will be fine against a schedule
featuring just one opponent that finished in the top 25 in
passing a year ago. The real litmus test won’t occur until the
‘Noles face Clemson’s Cullen Harper on Nov. 8 and Florida’s
Tebow three weeks later.
Projected Starters: The graduation of PK Gary
Cismesia means senior Graham Gano is likely to be
handling double-duty. He has already proven himself as a punter,
earning All-ACC honorable mention with an average of 43.4 yards,
highest by a Seminole in over a decade. Although leg strength
isn’t a concern, he has yet to attempt a field goal, let alone
with the game on the line. His backup will be sophomore
Nathan Ojibway, a 6-3, 253-pound kicker in the body of a
In junior Preston Parker and senior Michael Ray Garvin,
the Seminoles will have a couple of return men with the speed
and wiggle to be extremely dangerous with the ball in their
hands. Parker averaged more than 10 yards on punt returns a
year, while Garvin managed just under 20 on kickoffs, a poor
number he’s capable of surpassing.
Watch Out For ... Gano the kicker. Only two
kickers in the country attempted more field goals than Cismesia
last year, so the offense needs a reliable kicker who can split
the uprights when drive stall.
Strength: Gano the punter. He made a quantum leap
in his second year as the starter adding almost three yards to
his average and improving his directional kicks.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. Garvin is way too
explosive to be averaging less than 20 yards on kickoffs. The
‘Noles were 107th nationally and last in the ACC,
which needs to be addressed in the name of better field
Outlook: The special teams unit is a mixed bag
that needs a lot more from the return name and a kicker who can
deliver with a degree of consistency. Florida State has played
in a ton of close games over the last few years, meaning
improvements here could add a win or two.