Spring Questions: The defensive line

April, 17, 2013
4/17/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

Next up: The defensive line

The question: Five former starters are gone, likely all headed to the NFL, so what will become of Florida State's once-vaunted defensive line without Bjoern Werner, Cornellius Carradine and Co.?

Timmy Jernigan
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreTimmy Jernigan moves into the starting lineup at defensive tackle, having already proved himself as a backup.
The possibilities: The interior of the line appears to be in good hands with Timmy Jernigan stepping into a starting role, freshman Eddie Goldman getting a crack at a bigger job, and veterans like Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaniel around to provide stability. On the edge, there are bigger questions as Mario Edwards Jr. looks to live up to his recruiting hype, Dan Hicks returns to defense, and Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher work to establish themselves.

What we learned this spring: Perhaps the biggest lesson of the spring wasn't about who would fill the void on the defensive line but rather how new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt planned to scheme around it.

It's not that the pass-rush responsibilities will be shifted completely away from the defensive ends, and technically speaking, FSU isn't moving toward the 3-4 base defense Pruitt ran at Alabama, but there have clearly been some marked changes to the scheme.

Pruitt has had Newberry and Casher drop back into coverage -- with Casher recording an INT in one scrimmage -- while linebackers like Christian Jones have gotten a chance to line up with their hand in the dirt. Pruitt has installed tons of new looks, bringing blitzes from all over the field. While Mark Stoops' defense was predicated on pressure from the front four, Pruitt seems intent on using every last drop of talent on his defense to get to the quarterback.

Still, for all the enthusiasm about a more aggressive scheme, the personnel still has to meet expectations. While some surprises stepped up -- Hicks and Nile Lawrence-Stample, perhaps most notably -- coaches cautioned they still needed to see a lot more consistency from potential starters like Edwards and Newberry.

What's left to decide: Plenty of big questions remain here. Freshman DeMarcus Walker figured to be in the mix at end, but he was held out of spring practice because of an NCAA investigation into his eligibility. Jernigan and McAllister are the likely starters at tackle, but they both missed the bulk of spring with injuries. Casher and McDaniel both made strides in returning from injuries, but neither has played any significant reps on a game day in nearly two years. And for all the enthusiasm about the new scheme, it remains to be seen just how much of the nuance the defense was able to absorb in just four weeks of work.

By the end of the spring game, two things were clear: FSU's players love the potential for Pruitt's defense, particularly when it comes to the pass rush, and the Seminoles have ample talent to get the job done. But just how all of it coalesces once the season begins remains a wide open discussion.

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