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FSU Football Spring 2020 Preview: Defensive Line

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Experience defines what could be FSU’s best overall unit in 2020.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 NC State at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marvin Wilson says he was told he was a first-round draft pick.

He also says it didn’t matter.

The senior, who was arguably one of Florida State’s most important players last year before suffering a season-ending injury, decided in January that instead of declaring for the NFL Draft, he’d head back to Tallahassee to try and make one last effort to rectify the downward path Florida State has been on the last few years.

“I feel like we’ve got to come out and dominate the football field and we didn’t do that the last couple years and I just can’t leave Florida State knowing I’ve got an extra year left,” Wilson said on the ACC Network show Parker and Durham. “I just want to come out and give my all one last year.”

Alongside Wilson will be a multitude of players with playing experience, though depth could end being an issue as some of those players (like Wilson) have had injury issues.

Let’s dive in deeper.

Interior defensive linemen

Marvin Wilson was the first name mentioned in this piece, and he’s going to be the first player discussed. Outside of his obvious talent (he’s capable of lining up anywhere along the defensive front) and productivity, Wilson has a lot to offer in terms of leadership. He was seen consoling quarterback James Blackman during the Seminoles’ loss to Arizona State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, and when Florida State was slipping last year, he led the charge of pushing out negative mentalities (by forcing teammates to run.)

As far as experienced players go, he’ll be joined by redshirt junior Corey Durden, who played well in 2019, his first year as a true starter, as well as junior Robert Cooper. The trio (self-nicknamed “The Mob” last year) should benefit from new defensive coordinator Adam Fuller’s scheme, which is a more traditional 4-3 alignment that encourages tackles for loss and sacks. Cooper lined up at nose tackle last year, but seeing as the 4-3 doesn’t exactly allow for a true nose (and since Fuller’s philosophy centers more around consistent execution than multiple fronts), expect him to rotate in-and-out at the tackle spots with Wilson and Durden.

Sophomore Tru Thompson, redshirt sophomore Jarrett Jackson and redshirt freshman Malcolm Ray will be providing the rest of depth through spring.

Of note: with how many interior defenders could be leaving after the season, the need to recruit defensive tackles for 2021 and beyond is even more important.

Edge linemen

On the edges, Florida State has two proven commodities: redshirt senior Janarius Robinson and redshirt junior Joshuah Kaindoh. Kaindoh suffered a season-ending injury early last year, amplifying a void that had been left by Brian Burns’ departure to the NFL, but has shown consistent displays of talent during his time in Tallahassee. Both he and Robinson figure to be ideal candidates for Fuller’s FOX position, a weak-side defensive-end hybrid designation that’ll allow for some pass coverage.

“[The FOX] is definitely a pass rusher and edge setter first,” Fuller said on podcast On the Bench. “But he is involved in some linebackers skills as far as folding and fitting on the football. I think that position in our front, No. 1, gives us the ability to recruit and find position fits in guys who aren’t just defensive ends, but when we find defensive ends, have skills that can fit at outside linebacker.”

Redshirt sophomore Dennis Briggs figures to be the next man up, whether that’s playing a supporting role to whoever assumes the traditional end position in Fuller’s defense or taking over that role himself. Redshirt freshmen Quashon Fuller, Derrick McLendon II and Curtis Fann Jr. will offer depth during spring, with multiple freshman ends headed to campus once fall comes around.