Two weeks ago the Osceola looked at the top offensive players that FSU will face during the 2019 season. This week we take a look at the top defensive players the Seminoles will face this season. There were a bunch of talented defenders to choose from and some very good football players were left off our starting eleven. Unlike some publications which named four defensive ends to their preseason front-four, the Osceola selected two defensive ends and two defensive tackles. Here is our 2019 FSU All-Opponent Defensive Team:
Defensive End-Jabari Zuniga, Senior (6-4, 257 pounds), Florida
Zuniga is considered one of the best athletes in the SEC. He is a force to be reckoned on the edge of the Florida defense because of his size and speed. Last year Zuniga totaled a career-high 45 tackles. He was also second on the team in both tackles for a loss (11) and sacks (6.5). Zuniga was also credited with four quarterback hurries in 2018. Against FSU last year Zuniga was credited with four tackles including one sack. He is more effective as a pass rusher at this point in his career but is physical enough to be disruptive against the run. ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay has the talented Gator projected as a first-round draft pick in 2020.
Defensive Tackle – Tanner Karafa, Senior (6-3, 285 pounds), Boston College
Karafa was productive in his first year as a starter at defensive tackle in 2018 after making the transition from defensive end. He totaled 47 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks. His most productive game of the year came against FSU. Against the Seminoles, Karafa led the Eagles with eight tackles, including six solo stops. He also totaled eight tackles against Virginia Tech. The senior originally signed with BC as a linebacker. While his name is not the most recognizable to many ACC fans his play last year helped him earn 2019 third-team All-ACC preseason honors by Athlon. Karafa is the only returning starter from last season’s BC defensive line that saw ends Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray graduate on their way to the NFL.
Defensive Tackle – Eli Hanback, Senior (6-4, 300 pounds), Virginia
Hanback has been one of the stalwarts of Virginia’s much-improved defense and the Cavaliers’ turnaround under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The underrated defensive tackle has played in 38 career games and is the Cavs’ most experienced defender. He has been instrumental in keeping blockers off UVA’s very productive linebacking corp in the Cavaliers’ 3-4 defensive scheme. UVA tasks their tackles with keeping blockers from getting to the second level and often asks them to control two gaps at a time unlike a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme that is asked to get upfield and disrupt the line of scrimmage. He is a solid run defender as evidenced by his season-high eight tackles against Georgia Tech’s option offense last year. Hanback totaled 47 stops, three tackles for a loss and two sacks in 2018.
Defensive End – Curtis Weaver, Junior (6-4, 264 pounds), Boise State
While folks in the south may not know much about the Boise State defensive end/outside linebacker the Mountain West Conference and NFL are acutely aware of Weaver’s talents. Some NFL draft experts project him as a second-round pick in the 2020 draft. Weaver’s 20.5 sacks through his first two seasons as a Bronco rank sixth in Boise State history with two seasons of eligibility remaining. He was named All-MWC first team for the second straight year in 2018 after finishing the season with 43 tackles. He also spent a lot of time in opposing backfields with 15 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Weaver is long, lean and is effective off the edge in part because of his ability to bend and gain leverage against his blocker. He can play with his hand down as a defensive end or as a standup outside linebacker.
Linebacker – Shaquille Quarterman, Senior (6-1, 235 pounds), Miami
Quarterman is your prototypical middle linebacker and a tackling machine. The talented tackler has totaled over 80 tackles in each of his first three seasons as a Hurricane and has been named to several preseason All-American and All-ACC teams coming into the 2019 season. He is a physical player who has started all 39 games in his college career. Quarterman earned first-team All-ACC honors last year while making 82 stops, 14 tackles for a loss and six sacks. He was held to his lowest tackle total of the season against FSU in 2018, totaling just three tackles against the Seminoles.
Linebacker – Isaiah Simmons, Junior (6-4, 225 pounds), Clemson
Simmons is one of the most talented defenders in the country. He plays a hybrid outside linebacker/nickel position after starting his career with the Tigers as a safety. The athletic defender led Clemson in tackles last season with 97 stops, including 9.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and one interception. He has been named to several preseason All-American and All-ACC teams heading into the 2019 season. Some NFL draft experts project him as a first-round pick in the 2020 draft.
Linebacker – Charles Snowden, Junior (6-7, 225 pounds), Virginia
Snowden is a member of one of the ACC’s deepest linebacker units and one of the Cavaliers’ most productive defenders. Last season Snowden was productive and disruptive, having totaled 61 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback pressures. He is also an effective pass defender from his outside linebacker spot as evidenced by his nine passes defended and two interceptions. With the graduation of linebacker Chris Peace, who led the Cavaliers in sacks and tackles for a loss in 2018, Snowden will likely be asked to rush the passer more in 2019. The rangy outside linebacker could emerge as one of the ACC’s top defensive playmakers on what is projected to be one of the better defenses in the conference this season.
Cornerback – Bryce Hall, Senior (6-1, 200 pounds), Virginia
Hall is one of the top cornerbacks in the nation heading into 2019. As a junior, Hall was named a second-team Walter Camp and FWAA All-American. He was also named a first team All-ACC and AP first-team All-ACC. Hall is a lockdown corner who is asked to play in man coverage on a regular basis. He led the nation last year with 24 passes defended. His size allows him to match up well with bigger wide receivers. His speed and ability to plant and change directions allows him to successfully match up against smaller, quicker wideouts. Hall had a career-best 62 tackles last year, including 39 solo stops and two sacks. Hall has started since he was a true freshman. The talented senior is projected to be drafted anywhere from the late first round to early third round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Cornerback – CJ Henderson, Junior (6-1, 191 pounds), Florida
Henderson, along with Hall, is considered to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country in 2019. He is on a number of preseason all-conference teams. The converted high school running back has been a natural since moving to defense upon his arrival at Florida. As a true freshman he was named a second-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press. Last year, as a true sophomore, he was a second-team All-SEC selection by the conference’s head coaches. Henderson is one the fastest players on the Gators’ roster and was highly productive in 2018. He was credited with 38 tackles, five tackles for a loss, three sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defended. Against FSU last season he totaled two tackles. Henderson also stood out in Florida’s Peach Bowl win against Michigan, where he totaled a season-high eight tackles and one sack. Henderson may be a better NFL prospect than the aforementioned Hall. There are several NFL draft experts who are projecting Henderson to be a mid-first-round pick in the 2020 draft.
Safety – Andre Cisco, Sophomore (6-0, 198 pounds), Syracuse
Cisco was one of the more opportunistic and productive defensive backs in the nation last season as a freshman. He finished the season tied for first in the nation with seven interceptions in 2018. Cisco totaled 60 tackles, fourth on the team, and he led the team with 11 defended passes on his way to becoming the first true freshman in Syracuse history to earn All-American honors. He was named a second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Sporting News. He was also named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. Cisco was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, All-ACC first-team and AP All-ACC first ream. Against FSU last year he totaled three stops. Cisco improved throughout the season and had huge games against Notre Dame and West Virginia, totaling a season-high nine tackles in both games.
Safety – Jarius Morehead, Senior (6-0, 220 pounds), NC State
Morehead is the top returning playmaker for the Wolfpack defense. Last year he totaled 81 tackles, tops among NC State’s returning starters and second on the team in 2018, and led the team with three interceptions. Morehead is also one of the more experienced players on the Wolfpack defense having played in 38 games with 26 starts over the last three seasons. The senior is a sure tackler in space and is physical enough to walk up and play as an in-the-box safety. For his career he has totaled 173 tackles. Against FSU last season Morehead totaled three tackles.
Please continue to check-in with the Osceola for more news on FSU football and its 2019 opponents.