FSU spring practice kicks off March 20 and our Florida State football spring 2013 preview continues with a look at the defensive end position, which returns very little from an excellent 2012 season. A new group of players and a new coaching staff, including position coach Sal Sunseri, means a fresh start for this position. Almost every player at this position has good upside and accompanying questions.
The goal is, as always, to maximize a player's talent and to get the best possible group on the field. And just because a player may be in a new position does not mean that he was misused by the former staff or is being misused by the new staff.
A ton. Just a ton. Bjoern Werner was the ACC defensive player of the year and an All-American. Tank Carradine was a likely first round draft choice before blowing out his knee in game No. 12. Toshmon Stevens gave FSU more than 100 snaps and wasn't awful. To say this position is a huge question coming in to 2013 is accurate. FSU is tasked with replacing perhaps its best defensive end tandem since Boulware and Wilson (AKA "Meet me there or beat me there").
Lots of talent
With very few exceptions, the departures suffered by Florida State would result in an enormous drop-off at the position in the following year for almost any school in the country. But FSU, because of how well it has recruited the position, will enter spring with some optimism that the drop off will not be quite what those in the national media believe it to be.
Florida State has two five-stars and two four-stars on its roster, and four years of varsity letterman experience.
Who will earn starting snaps?
Edwards is almost certainly a lock to start. After a slow start to the 2012 season, he really emerged down the stretch and started playing like a five-star freshman. Edwards is already very good against the run and has great natural power. He'll need to become the leader of the unit, and work on his pass rushing moves. His versatility should make new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri very happy.
The other spot, and the top backups, are totally up in the air.
Hicks is coming off microfracture knee surgery, after he was injured shortly after moving to tight end to begin the year. He's back, but nobody knows how well he will play coming off that injury. Early reports have been promising, however, and everyone is rooting for a selfless kid who moved positions to help the team in 2012, only to be injured before the season began.
Casher is similarly coming off a leg injury that caused him to miss the 2012 season and redshirt. A five-star recruit in the class of 2012, Casher has phenomenal athleticism, but was very raw coming out of high school, having played only one year of defensive end. Can new defensive end coach Sal Sunseri get him to a level commensurate with a starting spot at FSU?
Newberry is a big, athletic body, who did not impress in his snaps during the 2012 season. He wasn't terrible, but if he starts for FSU in 2013 and plays like he did in 2012, this will not be a dominant unit.
Walker is the true wild card. Stolen from Alabama at the last minute of the recruiting cycle as he followed coach Pruitt from Alabama to Tallahassee, Walker has college-ready size, and will be counted on to play meaningful snaps in 2013. The question is how much of the defensive scheme can he grasp as a freshman? Being in for spring is a huge advantage, and it will be up to the staff to maximize Walker's talents and minimize his weaknesses.
JUCO Desmond Hollin is not listed above because he's not around for spring, but he will also factor into the mix.
Regardless of where they play, FSU is in better shape than most to replace the departed and fill the roughly 1600 snaps between the two defensive end positions.
Arriving in June
Remember that new JUCO recruit Desmond Hollin (6'4, 265 3-star) and Davarez Bryant (6'4, 245, 3-star) won't arrive until summer. Hollin is expected to contribute immediately.