FSU DL preview: Strength in interior, pass rush an unknown

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Florida State is in pursuit of a pass rush.

The Seminoles had 28 sacks last year but lose their top defensive end in Brian Burns, who had 10 sacks and was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers. There’s just no single edge rusher who can replace Burns’ production, although FSU has some options.

Now the good news: FSU is loaded with talent at defensive tackle, led by preseason All-American Marvin Wilson. The Seminoles should generate a good push up the middle with a deep rotation of interior linemen.

The spring was one where FSU experimented with 3-4 defensive fronts, and it’s likely we will see multiple alignments this fall. Defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins now also will coach the ends. Defensive ends could be stand-up rushers. So could linebackers. FSU will use its personnel in various ways to try and get after quarterbacks.

Let’s take a look at some key questions for FSU at defensive end and tackle:

Who will provide the pass rush at end?: Joshua Kaindoh has the size, athleticism and motor that coaches look for in a defensive end. He’s shown at times the ability to get to the passer as well as the willingness to chase down running backs in the open field. Kaindoh has produced on a limited number of snaps, recording 19 tackles and three sacks in 2018, and now he could be in line for a starting job.

Another junior, Janarius Robinson, has often shown the raw skills to be successful. He made eight starts last season and had 27 tackles as well as one sack. After an emotional year in which his Panama City home was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, look for Robinson to also compete for a starting role.

Can Wilson fight through double-teams and make an impact?: If Wilson does his job, which is to accept that he will get the attention of a center and guard, he should create opportunities for others on the line to make plays. Wilson made 42 tackles and had 3.5 sacks last season, showing the ability to stuff the run but also the physicality to break free from blockers to pursue the quarterback. His numbers may be limited because he gets so much attention from offensive linemen, but Wilson will continue to fight each snap and look for opportunities to make plays.

Cory Durden, who came on late in 2018 and had 22 tackles and two sacks, likely has the inside track for more playing time. Robert Cooper, who has shed a few pounds and was down to 369 this spring, is a massive presence but also likely a liability against up-tempo offenses. Ja’len Parks, who missed the season due to injury, has a chance to make up for lost time. Quality depth is a good thing and FSU has it on the interior.

Which younger linemen will take a step forward?: End Dennis Briggs played in four games last fall and seemed to make the most of his snaps. Briggs said this spring that he focused on improving his technique, knowing that he was in line for more playing time. Ends Jamarcus Chatman and Malcolm Lamar took redshirts in 2018 and will use the preseason practices to argue that they should earn reps in the defensive end rotation. The Seminoles also have two tackle newcomers in 2019 signees Tru Thompson (an early enrollee) and Malcolm Ray.

FSU also landed a group of three ends in the 2019 class: Quashon Fuller, Curtis Fann and Derrick McLendon. They likely won’t be ready to play early in the season but could contribute as the season unfolds.

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2019 previews

OL: New scheme + new coach = improvement?

QB: Experience and leadership but depth a question

RB: Akers and Laborn set for bounce-back season?

WR/TE: Terry a star, second-year players emerging

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