Young DEs learn in hurry
Redshirt frosh Newberry, true frosh Edwards, Casher, must step up to replace Jenkins
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As a senior in high school, Giorgio Newberry watched Brandon Jenkins with admiration, but not with awe. Before he'd pushed through a grueling practice or sparred with an offensive tackle for 60 snaps, Newberry watched Jenkins and saw himself.
The reality of life at Florida State was a bit different.
After a few weeks of baking under the hot sun in practice and bleary eyed in the film room trying to make heads or tails of a playbook far more complex than he expected, Newberry's appreciation for Jenkins blossomed.
They weren't the same type of player, of course. Jenkins lacked that dominant size, but he played with furious speed and reckless abandon. Newberry liked that.
For Newberry, life with the Seminoles was hard, but on film, Jenkins made it look easy.
So for a full year, as Jenkins thrived and Newberry redshirted, the freshman used his All-American teammate as the archetype for his own game, and Jenkins was all too happy to pass along the wisdom that comes with three seasons of excellence.
"He'll study an offensive tackle and tell me I need to do this move, point out an offensive tackle's weakness," Newberry said. "Brandon was a big help for me."
It has been a week since Newberry lost his mentor, with Jenkins now done for the season with a foot injury. But the lessons Newberry learned from his teammate have become more important than ever, as he heads up a group of young pass-rushers hoping to replace some of Jenkins' productivity on the Florida State defensive line.
Cornellius Carradine inherits the bulk of the work as the new starter at right defensive end, and coach Jimbo Fisher believes there won't be much dip in production. Carradine, like Jenkins, figures to be an early selection in next year's NFL draft, and he earned plenty of reps a year ago. But the task of filling out the three-man rotation at defensive end now falls to Newberry and freshmen Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher, and that's where the real concern begins for the Seminoles.
"I think Giorgio will establish himself, we'll just develop him quicker," Fisher said. "Nobody [else] here has really proven it. But I think they're very capable."
Newberry's debut against Murray State was solid, as he made two tackles and forced a fumble despite a healthy dose of nerves. On Saturday against Savannah State, he earned the most snaps of any of the defensive ends, again making two tackles and breaking up a pass.
It was a much-needed breaking-in period for Newberry, but Edwards and Casher weren't quite so lucky. The two freshmen saw only limited work before lightning delayed Saturday's game for a second time, eventually drawing the action to an abridged conclusion with 24 minutes remaining.
"We got them a few reps, and we were going to play them the whole second half," Fisher said. "We were just getting ready to see. That's the thing that disappoints you is you didn't see those guys the way you wanted to."
Edwards assisted on a tackle, and Fisher said he liked the energy he saw from Casher. But as ACC play begins this week plenty of questions remain about the final piece to the Seminoles' rotation at end.
Carradine spent fall camp cross training at both defensive end positions, and that offers some leeway. When Newberry enters the game, Carradine will be on the left side. When Werner is in, Carradine will be on the right. Edwards and Casher might mix and match early, but their reps will be limited until Fisher is more comfortable with them.
In essence, it's a work in progress, but one with the potential to improve quickly.
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Some of the emphasis on getting that rotation moving with precision, however, falls on the veterans.
Jenkins' film can provide a template, and Newberry said he hopes the senior will be a fixture in the locker room to help coach the younger ends. In the meantime, Newberry, Edwards and Casher are getting plenty of advice from the rest of the defensive line.
"They're going to make little mistakes, and that's why we coach on the sideline," senior defensive tackle Anthony McCloud said. "They need to work on small techniques, but they're going to progressively get better."
It's a process, Fisher said. It's just a process that has had to be expedited a bit from what was originally intended.
Two weeks ago, Newberry was prepping for his first game, and Edwards and Casher were set to redshirt. Now they're squarely in the spotlight, looking to help fill the void left by one of Florida State's biggest stars.
It's a lot to ask, but the first steps toward finding a routine have already been taken.
"They're not redshirts anymore," safety Karlos Williams said. "We weren't expecting to play them, but those guys came in and got some quality reps, and played hard."