Demonte McAllister (97) took a step forward in his junior season.
2012 recap: Florida State's defensive line was as hyped as any unit in the country entering the season, and the veteran group did little to disappoint, despite a heavy dose of injuries. While the ends took top billing, it was once again the run stuffers up the middle that set the tone. Seniors Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud turned in their usual quiet-but-productive seasons, while Timmy Jernigan proved his freshman campaign was no fluke, blossoming into one of the most dominant interior linemen in the country as a sophomore. Demonte McAllister took a step forward as a junior and Eddie Goldman, the highly touted freshman, played sparingly but effectively. Overall, the tackles helped Florida State finish third in rush defense nationally, the second straight year it finished in the top 3.
Departures: Stalwarts Dawkins and McCloud were never the most hyped guys on FSU's defense, but for the past two seasons, they were often the foundation of a unit that dominated opposing run games. Both departed at year's end as seniors, part of a massive overhaul on the D line that will see the Seminoles replace all four of their starters. Still, there's a wealth of talent -- as many as six potential impact players -- at the tackle position that should make for a relatively smooth transition.
Arrivals: Four-star commitment DeMarcus Walker (Sandalwood/Jacksonville, Fla.) is among FSU's most prized recruits from the class of 2013, while the Seminoles will also add a top recruit from the 2009 class when senior Jacobbi McDaniel finally returns from an ankle injury that kept him out for much of the past two seasons. Redshirt freshman Justin Shanks (6-2, 340) should be an intriguing addition to the lineup as well.
Biggest question mark: Goldman figures to be the biggest wild card of the group. Jernigan hasn't enjoyed the nominal role of starter during his two years, but he should slip into the starting lineup with few obstacles. Who gets the starting job alongside him, however, is a bigger question. McAllister had a strong 2012 campaign (33 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and likely enters spring as the front runner, but Goldman may be the most talented of the bunch. A five-star recruit just a year ago, he got a taste of action in 2012, but FSU will be hoping he takes a big step forward to become an established contributor in 2013.
Breakout star: Picking Jernigan as a "breakout" star is a bit of a cop-out, as anyone who has followed FSU's defense over the past two years is already well aware of his talent. Still, the move into the role of established starter -- along with a junior campaign that could set him up as an early first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft -- should make Jernigan a household name nationally.