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FSU football 2018 spring preview: Searching for depth with Seminole DEs

The ’Nole starters inspire confidence. What about the guys behind them?

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-Southern Mississippi vs Florida State Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Our 2018 spring previews march on with a look at Florida State’s defensive ends. While the Seminoles boast a star — and potentially one or two more in the making — at this position, depth this spring is not a strength. Although it’s not the end of the world for spring ball, the lack of proven defensive ends may force Mark Snyder and Harlon Barnett to get a little creative this fall, particularly if the ’Noles see an injury or two to the group.

Note: for the purposes of this preview, we will group the ends as Field and Boundary. Think of Field Ends as the former Weakside Defensive Ends, and Boundary as Strongside Ends. We will discuss Harlon Barnett’s scheme in more detail later this spring. Also, because of FSU’s lack of defensive end depth this spring, you will likely see some crossover in scholarship players working at both spots, as well as walk-ons playing significant snaps in the spring game.

Field Defensive Ends

Where else could we start but with junior standout Brian Burns? The prolific pass-rusher has been a presence from the moment he stepped on campus. While he failed to match his ridiculous sack total from his freshman season, Burns remained a bright spot on a struggling Florida State defense in 2017. He’s primed for a big third, and in all likelihood, final year in Tallahassee. Barnett’s defenses have often emphasized ends getting up field after quarterbacks, which would seem to present a perfect fit for Burns. Lofty 2018 expectations appear to be justified for No. 99.

The other apparent fit for a field end spot on FSU’s spring roster is redshirt freshman Tre Lawson. Taken as a project, Lawson has had a year to get ready to contribute, and it’s not inconceivable that the ’Noles will rely on him to do so this coming season. Florida State lists Lawson at 6’6, 230 pounds, and he will need to hone the length and athleticism that earned him his FSU offer to spell Burns, absent other options emerging.

In terms of creativity, Snyder and Barnett may seek to utilize a much deeper defensive tackle position group to fill the more traditional nose, three, and five-technique spots, while looking to other position groups to generate edge rushes. Asking Josh Brown or Amari Gainer to play a role similar to Jacob Pugh, at times, would come as no surprise. This is especially so if something catastrophic, like an injury to Burns (knocks on wood furiously) occurs this spring or fall. One way or another, the Seminoles will need to find ways to pressure the passer if they are to live up to their aggressive mantra.

Boundary Defensive Ends

On the other side, it’s time for 6’5, 252-pound redshirt sophomore Janarius Robinson to play to his potential. The former four-star recruit from Panama City will have an opportunity to earn a bunch of 2018 snaps and to make himself some future money in doing so, as he’s now draft-eligible.

However, Robinson will face some serious competition from Josh Kaindoh, who had a promising freshman campaign. Kaindoh was especially impressive late in the season, logging a total of four sacks. Ideally, an intense battle at this spot will give FSU fans confidence that they’ll see high quality snaps from the Boundary DE spot throughout 2018, even when the backup spells the starter.

Also on Florida State’s 2018 spring roster are Delvin Purifoy and Adam Torres, both of whom are wrapping up their eligibility as fifth-year seniors. FSU fans hope not to have to rely too much on either. Purifoy has not been able to return to form after a debilitating ankle injury, and Torres has bounced around position groups since he arrived on campus.

Snyder and Barnett may also use the defensive tackle position to bolster the Boundary End position. Wally Aime has shown the ability to slide out from the interior spots when necessary, and several similarly-built Seminole tackles may also have the ability to do so.

Simply put, the key for the FSU defensive ends in 2018, both spring and fall, is health. The starters inspire plenty of confidence, but the ’Noles are skating on thin ice on the outside.