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2018 FSU football preview: Defensive line

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A position group from which much will be asked in 2018 is ready to answer the bell

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Florida State Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here at Tomahawk Nation, we’ve always prided ourselves on telling it like it is when it comes to FSU football. In keeping with that approach, it’s time for some real talk about the 2018 defense. The Florida State defensive line will be asked to do a whole bunch this season. Simply put, if FSU is consistently relying on its linebackers to control the run game and generate pass rush, it will be a long year.

Fortunately, the Seminoles’ defensive front should be ready to deliver on some lofty expectations. The unit boasts two bona fide studs, as well as two or three heralded young talents ready to step into the limelight. The Seminoles have also piled up some quality depth, particularly on the interior, which should help to absorb the inevitable attrition of a college football season. Overall, it’s a nice blend of experience, player types, and young talent that should lead to a successful season for the group, even with the unavoidable growing pains that will come with learning a new system.

Big Names Doing Big Things

It’s possible that Florida State’s new defensive system will only enhance the final salvos of both Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas. Both gifted pass-rushers appear well-suited to transition to an attack that will emphasize getting after quarterbacks. Burns will likely enjoy Mark Snyder’s emphasis on getting upfield on the outside, while Christmas may be even more unblockable in a true one-gap system from his three-technique spot. As long as these two stay healthy, ’Noles fans should enjoy the final campaigns from the standout defensive linemen.

Who’s Next?

Janarius Robinson, Marvin Wilson, and Josh Kaindoh had quite a few stars next to their names when they signed with the ’Noles. While two of the three are still trying to reach 100% health as we enter the final week of camp, FSU fans hope to see these players emerge to reach the levels of Christmas and Burns. Wilson could provide a dynamic presence at nose tackle, while Robinson and Kaindoh will have plenty of opportunities to make plays on the boundary side opposite Burns, and even spell the elite pass rusher at times. Robinson has been the only full camp participant, but returns on him have been quite positive. In short, the talent and the opportunities for this trio are there. The question is whether they’re ready to become who the Seminoles need them to be, both this season and beyond.

Quality Depth

Through continued quality recruiting on the defensive line in recent history, the ’Noles have also accrued players who can give them some high-level snaps in 2018. Fred Jones should be more than serviceable at nose tackle and an excellent complement to Christmas. Wally Aime is a new option at boundary defensive end. FSU fans hope to see the oft-injured Cedric Wood, as well as younger players like Cory Durden and Ja’len Parks, join this group of quality contributors, though Wood and Parks have seen their development slowed by injury. Camp reports regarding Durden in particular have been positive. Optimism is warranted here, and even if a rash of injuries forces these guys to play more snaps than we might prefer, FSU is in a better position to deal with such a scenario than almost anyone else in America.

Young Guns

Finally, it will be exciting to see whether any of the Seminoles’ newest crop of linemen emerge in 2018. In particular, Xavier Peters looks physically ready to give the ’Noles something from the end spot, even if it’s just a handful of situational snaps. Robert Cooper also looks incredibly strong, but he has quite a few pounds of bad weight to shed before he’s game ready. We’ll see if players like Malcolm Lamar, Jamarcus Chatman, or Dennis Briggs, Jr., can put themselves in a position to earn early playing time. One thing to remember is how many additional snaps the ’Noles will likely face on defense and how quickly they may have to return to the field, due to FSU’s increased pace on offense. That, combined with an increase in blowout wins, should provide more opportunities for players lower on the depth chart to see live game snaps. Hopefully, this will prove to be yet another benefit to Florida State’s offensive approach.

In sum, there are few defensive line groups better situated to take on the responsibilities that will fall on FSU’s 2018 unit. But remember, they’ll need to be very good for the Seminole defense to appear competent, and they’ll need to be outstanding if the ’Noles are to compete for a division crown. Here’s hoping.