By Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
Defensive Ends Recap:
The entire defensive line at Florida State — particularly Markus White — has some big shoes to fill.
The Seminoles lost star defensive end Everette Brown to the NFL in the offseason and priority No. 1 entering spring practice was finding a way to replace an enormous amount of production from a season ago.
Brown, the recent second-round draft choice of the Carolina Panthers, led the FSU defense as a redshirt junior last year with team highs in sacks (13.5), tackles for loss (21.5) and forced fumbles (4). That disruptive, game-changing ability is not easily replaced but ever since Brown declared for early entry into the NFL, it has been White’s mission to prove that he can step in and seal the void at right defensive end.
Despite an overall up-and-down performance by the entire defensive line over the course of the spring, White and his fellow ends performed well in the Garnet & Gold game.
The defensive ends helped pressure quarterback Christian Ponder into throwing his first interception of the spring and assisted in limiting a potent rushing attack to a mediocre evening. Still, there is much room for improvement if the defensive ends want to be as troublesome to opponent’s backfields as Brown was last year.
Opposite White, Kevin McNeil showed some flashes – as he has done in the past – at the left defensive end spot and true freshman Brandon Jenkins burst on to the scene with some fantastic plays in his first spring practice period.
As for the other defensive ends, youngster Jamar Jackson is still working his way back into playing form after sustaining a knee injury before his freshman year. Sophomore Toshmon Stevens didn’t play much as a true freshman a season ago but got some much-needed reps this spring and should contribute this fall.
What to watch for:
With a lot of pressure and expectations, comes a lot of rewards for a job well done and White has the unique opportunity to become a household name for the Seminole defense this year.
The question is, can the former junior college All-American continue to develop and hone his game? Last season, White got to play in all 13 games and learn from one of the best rush-ends in all of college football. Now, it is his turn to take the reins and set the example for a defense that from top to bottom is quite young. The FSU coaches don’t need him to be just a consistent defender but a game-changer as well.
On the opposite side, McNeil needs to show again that tremendous upside he displayed as a true freshman not too long ago. He must now step in for the recently-graduated Neefy Moffett as the starter at left defensive end.
Keep an eye on Jenkins, too. The true freshman and early enrollee garnered national recruiting attention just down the road at Florida High because of his uncanny ability to get to the quarterback.
Since coming to play for his hometown Seminoles, that trend has continued as his overall performance in just one semester’s worth of work should warrant some very early playing time this fall. If Jenkins continues to work hard in the weight and film rooms and on the practice fields, he has a very bright future.
Waiting in the wings with Jenkins are up-and-comers Jackson, Stevens and perhaps Everett Dawkins; a former high school star at defensive end that spent most of his time working with the defensive tackles as a true freshman a year ago.
Depending on where he is needed because of depth, the versatile Dawkins could move back to the end or stay in the middle as a sophomore this season — or perhaps even play both.
The same is true for soon-to-be true freshman and highly-touted pass-rusher Demonte McAllister, who will enroll this summer and could line up at either end or tackle at FSU.
There’s no doubting that Brown is a huge loss for the Seminoles and the pressure to fill his quarterback-sacking shoes is intense. In order to do that, defensive ends coach Jody Allen must get each of his players to take their development to the next level and perform very well this fall.
It’s not an easy job … but somebody’s got to do it.
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