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2018 FSU football recruiting class boasts myriad defensive skills up front

The Seminoles signed some promising talent along the defensive line.

NCAA Football: Under Armour All America Game Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Our scouting series on the newest Seminoles ends today where things begin defensively: up front. As you’ll read, some of these players could very well be moved around, so we’ve included defensive tackles, ends, and outside linebackers in this analysis of what each player brings to the ’Noles in our staff breakdowns below.

Robert Cooper

Robert Cooper is a large human being. He is a true nose tackle who has power and speed. Cooper typically lines up in a four-point stance and explodes out of it. His stance has nice coil, and he is able to spring out out of it and engage offensive linemen with a low to high attack. It is impressive for a player of his size to be as quick and agile as he is. Cooper shows good power defeating double teams— his strength is going straight forward, so he will be limited moving laterally.

He shows powerful hands able to get offensive linemen off of him. On film, Cooper shows an average swim and above-average rip move in pass rush. If Cooper gets into an offensive linemen one-on-one, he will normally win with a strong bull rush. Cooper is going to be a good addition to Florida State’s defensive line group.

Dennis Briggs

Dennis Briggs is an intriguing defensive line prospect who brings a ton of value to the defense due to his versatility. At 6’4 and 270 pounds, Briggs’ projection could go a number of ways, depending on how he develops physically and how the Florida State defensive staff decides to deploy him. He could potentially pack on some weight and play on the interior, but FSU defensive ends coach Mark Snyder says Briggs will start his career at the boundary defensive end position.

He has excellent length, and good athleticism within a large frame and should be excellent vs. the run as he continues to improve his technique. He does do a great job of playing square to the line of scrimmage vs. the run, never letting his shoulders turn, and allowing himself to defend both directions in pursuit of the ball. This pursuit is relentless too, as Briggs does not appear to give up on plays. These are all traits that FSU coaches have to be excited about and as Briggs continues to develop he should be a solid contributor for the ’Noles up front fairly early in his career.

Jamarcus Chatman

Jamarcus Chatman is another versatile defensive lineman with the potential to play multiple roles up front for the Florida State defense. At 6’2 260, Chatman played mostly defensive end in high school. He plays with a ton of effort and finishes plays through the whistle. He has excellent get-off and stays low out of his stance and is advanced as a high school player when it comes to using his hands to engage and shed blockers at the line of scrimmage. He also does a good job using his leverage and strength to hold his ground and maintain gap integrity vs. the run.

Chatman has clearly been well-coached in this area and he has taken to it well. This is something to keep an eye on early for the ’Noles with their lack of depth at defensive end entering the 2018 season. With Chatman’s size and quickness, he could potentially bump inside and play over a guard down the road as a 1-gap penetrator. Similar to Briggs, it will depend on Chatman’s individual development and how the defensive staff chooses to implement their front but nonetheless, Chatman’s versatility will give them options.

Xavier Peters

The first thing that stands out with Xavier Peters are his physical traits. Listed at 6’4, 225, Peters looks like a college linebacker right now. He played the majority of his senior season as an edge player (defensive end with his hand down or a stand-up outside linebacker aligned over a tackle or tight end). Peters will play the field-side defensive end position at Florida State. He showcases a quick get-off at the snap that allows him to get penetration and blow up plays in the backfield.

Peters does a good job of transitioning this burst into backside pursuit on plays away from him and delivers some bone-jarring hits due to his motor and hustle to the ball. When Peters arrives at the ball, he wants to bring down the ball carrier with authority. He also has good length that allows him to defeat and shed blocks, find the ball and disrupt passing lanes vs. quick throws. As Peters continues to learn to play with technique, use his hands, and add the necessary bulk to play on the line of scrimmage, FSU fans expect a three-down player who can be a force vs. the run and someone who can pin his ears back and get after the quarterback in passing situations.

Amari Gainer

At 6-3, 205-pounds, Gainer is a tad light for a linebacker but has the frame to potential bulk up to 220 or 230 pounds. His high school used him in a variety of roles, from rushing the quarterback to covering in space as a nickel back.

The first thing you notice on film is his quickness. Gainer is always the first one to react to the ball, whether it’s coming off of the edge or reading where a quarterback is throwing it to. When he rushes off the edge, he displays good flexibility to bend around blockers to make a play in the backfield. It’s not a stretch to imagine Gainer in a Jacob Pugh-type role for Florida State as a linebacker/defensive end hybrid.

When Gainer drops into coverage, he does a good job of keeping his eyes on the quarterback. At the high school level, he is able to take advantage of his quickness to make tackles for loss, either tracking down screen plays or taking down the quarterback on a scramble. If he’s able to retain his quickness while adding muscle, Gainer could also develop into a solid inside linebacker for the Seminoles.

Regardless, don’t expect Gainer to step in and take major snaps right away. He’ll be a key special teams contributor in year one, but keep an eye out for him in situational pass rushing roles as well.

Malcolm Lamar

Listed at 6’5, Malcolm Lamar is a huge defensive line prospect with big time length and a frame in which he could potentially play around 300 pounds. Lamar’s weight has fluctuated some in high school, but he will begin at Florida State as a defensive end with the possibility of eventually moving inside as a 3-technique. This length is particularly intriguing as an edge player because he uses it well to keep contain and also bring down ball carriers within his reach.

Aside from his size, Lamar has some explosive traits that are very evident in his film. He is quick off the line and is able to bend and stay low out of his stance, which allows him to generate power effectively. This size and quickness combination profiles him as a player who could be an effective one-gap penetrator who can slant and shoot gaps without giving ground or getting washed. As he continues to learn technique and the use of his hands, Lamar should improve his ability to consistently take on blockers, find the ball and disengage to make the tackle. In other words, he could also do well as a two-gapping defensive linemen if the Florida State staff choses to do so.

These traits and flexibility make Lamar the defensive line prospect with perhaps the highest upside in the class. A couple months under the FSU strength and conditioning staff and Lamar will have every opportunity to contribute early for Florida State, especially given the lack of depth up front for the defense.