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Brandon Jenkins' season-ending injury heartbreaking development, serious challenge for Florida State

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In the wake of what had been a gleeful start to this highly anticipated 2012 season, Florida State received some heartbreaking news late Monday, when it was first reported, and later confirmed, that senior defensive end Brandon Jenkins would miss the season with an injury to his foot suffered in the Seminoles’ 69-3 season-opening win against Murray State Saturday.

The senior was poised to anchor one of the best units in the country in Florida State’s defensive line, which he has led in sacks the previous two seasons. Jenkins has totaled 21.5 sacks since his breakout in 2010, and was thought to be in line to record another double digit sack year by many after slipping to eight sacks in 2011.

Before anything can be said about the impact on the team itself, you have to just feel for Jenkins when you hear news like this. He’s a proven commodity at the college level who easily could have taken the money and entered the 2012 NFL Draft, where he would’ve likely been a first or second round selection. Instead, Jenkins, a player who committed to FSU before it returned to national relevance, chose to return for one more go-around in garnet and gold, a season with aspirations for a national championship.

Whatever route Jenkins chooses from here, be it taking a medical redshirt and returning in 2013 to re-prove himself to pro scouts, or trying his luck at entering the draft this upcoming year, you can only hope he’s able to make a quick recovery and return to form. He certainly deserved better for his senior season.

However, with Jenkins out, now the focus must turn to replacing the considerable void that losing a player of All-American caliber creates. Florida State is blessed to have Tank Carradine available to slide in as a starter, a swap that isn’t a huge dropoff. Carradine has big-time potential and ability, recording 5.5 sacks last season as a reserve, and coming on late in particular.

But the questions come on the depth chart behind Carradine. Giorgio Newberry is a guy who has drawn a lot of positive reviews from veterans like Jenkins and Bjoern Werner, as well as the coaches, but now he’ll be counted on for a bigger role than before. The cumulative effect of Jenkins’ absence is felt most after Newberry, where either senior Toshmon Stevens or possibly one of the freshmen duo of Chris Casher and Mario Edwards, Jr. (who were both planned to redshirt as of Monday, according to Fisher) will have to fill out the rotation at defensive end.

Ultimately, it’s amazing that Florida State has accrued the kind of depth that could allow it to weather the loss of two headline players in Greg Reid and Brandon Jenkins and still remain an extremely good defense. There’s no doubt that the loss of a player like Jenkins, who was a standout on the field and a leader off of it, will hurt. But if Carradine can meet the challenge of the greater role and Newberry turns out to be the real deal, with Bjoern Werner still in the fold, the Seminoles’ defensive line could still be outstanding.

We’ll see what happens, but one thing is clear: Florida State is still waiting for some good luck when it comes to injuries. As we’ve discussed, staying healthier is one of the biggest things that needed to change from 2011 for the program to take that next step forward. Now, they’ll have to weather another serious wave of adversity to continue forward towards that step.