ACC: Kain Daub

Florida State expected departures in the front and back end of its defense, but the Seminoles received news earlier this week the depth at linebacker will also take a hit.

Sophomore E.J. Levenberry has left Tallahassee, Florida, and intends to transfer from Florida State, his father, Eric, told on Tuesday.

Coupled with the midseason dismissal of Ukeme Eligwe, the Seminoles are down to seven scholarship linebackers, a unit that had its bouts with consistency all season. Reggie Northrup, who battled Levenberry for a starting spot through fall camp, and Terrance Smith are returning for their senior seasons, but there is not much experience beyond those two.

The Seminoles do have a number of talented younger players at linebacker, and the group will need to step up as a whole to fill out the starting lineup and provide production throughout the linebacker rotation. Redshirt freshman Matthew Thomas is a former five-star player, although he has battled injuries and off-field issues through his first two seasons. From the 2014 class, third-ranked inside linebacker Kain Daub and top-six outside linebackers Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy should have roles in 2015. Ro'Derrick Hoskins has not seen the field much his first two seasons, but he was highly regarded coming out of high school, too.

Daub could be the beneficiary and slide into a second-string role for the Seminoles at middle linebacker. The Jacksonville, Florida, native was an early enrollee, and the 6-foot-4, 243-pound Daub could earn the role of primary backup to Northrup, who also hails from Jacksonville.

Florida State was not as athletic at linebacker this past season, especially with a sprained knee limiting Smith the second half of the season. The expectation was the unit would struggle to match the 2013 production considering mainstays Telvin Smith and Christian Jones were lost to the NFL. Florida State’s young core of linebackers could provide some of that same athleticism this coming season.

The loss of Levenberry still could sting Florida State, especially as the sophomores and freshmen continue gaining experience. As a freshman, Levenberry racked up 39 tackles, but he played sparingly as a sophomore. Few matched Levenberry’s work ethic, and the second-year player had reshaped his body to withstand the expected pounding at middle linebacker. He gained 20 pounds between the end of spring practice and start of fall camp last year. Eric, Levenberry’s father, said his son felt there was a better chance he would see the field elsewhere.

“He loved Florida State, loved Jimbo Fisher, loved Tallahassee, loved the fans,” Eric said. “… We just didn’t see a future for him under the current defensive regime.”

When former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left for Georgia, Fisher promoted Charles Kelly to coordinator and hired Bill Miller to replace Kelly as the linebackers coach.

“Sometimes a system might not be for a kid,” Eric said. “He’s going to be an asset. He’s not going to test positive for drugs or make a program look bad. We hope a college coach can recognize that and recognize his talent.”
The top-rated recruit of Florida State’s 2014 class has been ruled out for spring practice.

Coach Jimbo Fisher announced on Tuesday that freshman running back Dalvin Cook, No. 21 in the 2014 ESPN 300 and an early enrollee, tore the labrum in one of his shoulders and will miss spring practice, which begins on Wednesday. Cook had surgery to repair the shoulder and should be ready for fall practices.

“It’s a labrum. He went up the steps, tripped in the weight room and put his hand down to catch himself at an angle,” Fisher said.

The injury occurred right before the Noles broke for spring break on March 8.

During the offseason, Fisher has raved about Cook, who was expected to compete for the Noles’ backup running back position. Cook, No. 3 among running backs in the 2014 recruiting class, looked like a player in his third season instead of his first, Fisher said multiple times in the last few weeks.

Cook will still benefit from being a part of the team this spring, though.

“Dalvin will be in all the meetings,” Fisher said. “He had a great offseason; he’ll be fine.”

The backup running back position figures to come down to redshirt sophomore Mario Pender and true sophomore Ryan Green. Pender missed the last two seasons, and Green played sparingly as a freshman.

Two of the top 32 prospects in the 2014 ESPN 300 enrolled in January classes at Florida State, but neither will take a single snap during spring practice. Inside linebacker Kain Daub has an NCAA Clearinghouse issue that will keep him from participating in spring drills. Fisher also expects Daub, who is in Tallahassee, to be cleared in time for fall practices.
Florida State has had one of the best defensive fronts in the nation in the last two seasons, but the Seminoles will have a major challenger to that claim when 2014 rolls around.

Division rival Clemson has the potential to have one of the best defensive lines in school history, thanks to returning all of its starters -- including sack master Vic Beasley. So that leads us to this question: Which team will have the best defensive front in the ACC this upcoming season? Andrea Adelson and David Hale let the debate begin.


Which team will have the best defensive line in the ACC in 2014?


Discuss (Total votes: 4,741)

Andrea says Clemson

The moment Beasley decided to return to Clemson was the moment the Tigers became the favorite to field the best defensive line in the ACC next season.

Now, this is not to slight Florida State, which has dominated up front over the last two seasons. But the Seminoles have key players to replace again. Clemson, on the other hand, returns every starter on the defensive line, plus its top four backups. All told, eight linemen return who played at least 292 snaps a year ago.

Those top eight combined for 65 tackles for loss -- more than half the single-season school-record 122 tackles for loss Clemson had in 2013. They also combined for 26 of the team’s 38 sacks.

Beasley, of course, leads the returning group after making 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss a season ago, one of the top performances of any defensive end in the country. Had he decided to leave for the NFL, Clemson would have still had plenty of talent returning.

But with him, the Tigers could potentially have the deepest, most talented group of defensive linemen at the school since the 1981 national championship team featured future NFL players Jeff Bryant, William Perry, Andy Headen and Dan Benish in the starting lineup.

Clemson could potentially go 10 deep along the defensive line, especially when you consider the return of Carlos Watkins, expected to be healthy after missing most of last season following a car accident. That means the Tigers have the ability to rotate frequently and keep players fresh, perhaps more than they did last season.

Fresh players mean fresh legs, and fresh legs mean getting into the backfield at a much better clip. Last season, Beasley, starting tackle Grady Jarrett (11), starting end Corey Crawford (10.5) and backup end Shaq Lawson each finished with 10 or more tackles for loss. Now think about some of the best defensive fronts in college football. Florida State has zero defensive linemen returning with double-digit tackles for loss. Alabama? Zero. LSU? Zero. Stanford? Zero. Virginia Tech? One. Michigan State? One. Ohio State? Two.

Clemson leads them all.

Such an experienced group, with the ability to get into the backfield and get after the quarterback, should only get better with another year under Brent Venables, who is entering his third season as defensive coordinator. As Beasley told colleague Heather Dinich after he announced his decision to return, “I feel like we can be the best in the country.”

And, yes, that means the defense could emerge as the strength of this team.

David says Florida State

The track record for Florida State’s defensive front speaks for itself. During the past three seasons, only Alabama has had more success defending the run than Florida State, which has allowed just 2.8 yards per carry since the start of the 2011 season. Those Seminoles teams sent eight players from the front seven to the NFL -- and that number figures to increase by at least four this year -- yet the unit has seen little decline in production. With new personnel, a new scheme and new coaches last season, FSU’s first-team defense didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until the national championship game.

Of course, that’s all in the past, and 2014 comes with some significant questions for Florida State.

Throughout the three-year run of success for the FSU front seven, Christian Jones, Telvin Smith and Timmy Jernigan have been anchors. All are gone now, and that means some significant vacancies on the defensive front, both in terms of on-field talent and off-field leadership. It means there will be questions surrounding the unit for the next few months, but it doesn’t mean the Seminoles don’t have answers.

Of the projected two-deep in the front seven, FSU projects to feature as many as 12 former ESPN 300 recruits. The talent is exceptional.

Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman were both top-10 recruits in 2012, and both have two years of experience under their belts. Edwards, in particular, took big steps forward throughout 2013, turning in perhaps his best game against Auburn’s up-tempo ground attack in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

The linebacker group lacks significant experience, but Terrance Smith is a physical clone of Telvin Smith, and he performed admirably after stepping into a starting role last season. Matthew Thomas and Ukeme Eligwe are both former elite recruits who project nicely in the hybrid role Jones handled so successfully in 2013.

Kain Daub, Demarcus Christmas and Derrick Nnadi lead a stellar 2014 recruiting class that could make an instant impact.

That’s not to say Florida State is prepared to move forward without Jernigan’s presence up front or Telvin Smith’s leadership in the middle of the field without missing a beat. There will be hiccups as the new group gets its feet wet and Edwards and Goldman learn to be leaders. But similar concerns existed a year ago when Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine bolted for the NFL, and after some early missteps, Florida State again proved to be one of the fiercest defensive fronts in the country.

And, of course, the Seminoles have another weapon in this debate, too. No position group succeeds in a vacuum, and FSU’s front seven gets a major boost from a secondary that projects to again be the best in the nation. If the Seminoles’ defensive backs continue to make teams one-dimensional and continue to provide time for the pass rush to get to the quarterback, the odds of FSU’s front seven making a smooth transition into 2014 get even better.

Biggest flips: ACC 

February, 3, 2014
With prospects making commitments earlier than ever, naturally there are second thoughts before signing day. That leads to a number of recruits decommitting and flipping to another school.

Here is a look at five of the biggest flips in the ACC in the 2014 recruiting class.

Recruit and return: Florida State 

January, 7, 2014
Florida State played in the first BCS championship game. It could play in the first championship decided by a playoff, too.

Monday, they beat Auburn for the final BCS title. The Noles will go for a second straight title in 2014 and they bring back several key pieces next season, most notably quarterback Jameis Winston. They will suffer some departures from central players, but a loaded recruiting class ranked in the top five should add depth throughout the roster.

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Under Armour game storylines: ACC 

December, 5, 2013
The rosters are set, plane tickets purchased and coaching staffs assembled. The 2014 Under Armour All-America Game is less than a month away.

Deshaun Watson
Courtesy of IntersportDeshaun Watson could be the starter from Day 1 at Clemson.
With nearly all of the country’s elite prospects all together, there are bountiful storylines leading up to and during the Jan. 2 game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Here are five for ACC fans:

1. Will Deshaun Watson follow the footsteps of Jameis Winston and Christian Hackenberg? Both Winston and Hackenberg were the No. 1 quarterbacks in their respective classes and played in the Under Armour Game. Both then went on to have great freshman seasons (Winston after a redshirt year) and have their teams in position to make waves on a national level the next few seasons. Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) is the No. 1 quarterback for 2014 and will enter a similar situation to Hackenberg’s. Clemson will have an opening at quarterback in 2014, and Watson will enroll at Clemson following the game. He will have to beat out 2012 Under Armour All-American Chad Kelly, but there is a legitimate chance Watson could be the starter from Day 1 for the Tigers. He is that good.

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Best ACC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013

Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

The best head coaches are often called the closer when it comes to sealing the deal with recruits. Whether on a visit or a trip to a prospect’s home, the head coach is called upon to secure the signature.

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Best ACC classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
Florida State has the top class among ACC schools right now, but that is taking the Seminoles’ entire 23-recruit class into account. The Noles don’t have the best class at every position, as some of Florida State’s top rivals are looking stronger at certain positions. Here’s a look at which ACC school has the best class by position:

Strongest class: Clemson
The Tigers just don’t have the No. 1 quarterback in the conference but the top quarterback in the entire country. Clemson has an argument for the best QB class in the nation with Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) in the fold. Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd will be gone after this season, so Watson could even come in and make a major impact as a freshman in 2014. Watson, who has been committed for more than a year, has also helped the Tigers reel in the conference’s strongest class at another position.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 2, 2013

Clemson and Florida State dominated the ACC recruiting headlines over the weekend.

Both teams saw changes to their commitment lists, with the Tigers adding and the Seminoles subtracting.

Best prospect performances: Florida State commitment and ESPN 300 inside linebacker Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) lived up to his billing as a run stopper in his team's 30-14 win over Creekside. Daub racked up 14 tackles and contributed on offense as well, rushing five times for 48 yards. Up next for Daub and Sandalwood is a city magnet school, Paxon.

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ACC's lunchtime links

July, 2, 2013
Practice kicks off in 30 days y'all.

NoleNation links: Meet LB Kain Daub

April, 30, 2013
NoleNation has more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles:

From Corey Dowlar Insider: ESPN 150 LB Kain Daub doesn't say much about his recruiting, but he's sparing a few words to persuade other prospects to join him at Florida State.

ACC commits, targets highlight NFTC

March, 15, 2013
Many of Florida's top 2014 and 2015 recruits will be on hand this weekend when the Nike Football Training Camps hit Orlando on Saturday and Miami on Sunday.

Orlando's event will feature top prospect Kain Daub, who has offers from Florida State, Miami, Alabama, LSU and many more. Sleepers like Darrion Owens, considering N.C. State, Boston College and Maryland, will have a chance to raise their profiles. And don't forget about 2015 phenom George Campbell, who already has offers from Clemson, Florida State and N.C. State, in addition to Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida.

The Miami NFTC will feature a couple of future Hurricanes in WR Travis Rudolph and OL Trevor Darling. RB Dalvin Cook, who has committed to Clemson, will also be participating.

To read more about the Orlando NFTC, click here Insider. And for more on the Miami NFTC, click here Insider.