Florida State coach Willie Taggart talks about FSU’s class on National Signing Day.
Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat
Spring will be a proving time across the Florida State defensive line.
The Seminoles lose a pair of players at both defensive end and defensive tackle after 2018’s 5-7 campaign.
Defensive end Brian Burns — whose 24 career sacks are the fifth-most in program history — declared for the NFL after his junior season. Wally Aime (graduation) spent time at both tackle and end after transferring into FSU and made four starts last season.
At tackle, FSU loses seniors Demarcus Christmas and Fred Jones, who had a combined 97 appearances and 48 starts between them.
These losses are padded by the fact that FSU used a heavy rotation at both positions last season.
Four returning ends and three returning tackles saw at least some playing time on defense in 2018.
FSU also enters 2019 knowing the majority of its defensive line should be back in 2020. There’s no senior at either position and junior Marvin Wilson is the only player pegged as a likely early NFL departure.
The unit will also take on a new look this season as Odell Haggins is set to coach both the tackles and ends after coaching just the defensive tackles at FSU since 1996.
Former defensive end coach Mark Snyder will remain on the coaching staff, but assume a new role.
Burns’ impact at defensive end over his three years at FSU can’t be denied. He accounted for 10 of the 14 sacks by defensive ends last season and made the players opposite him better by drawing the opponent’s attention.
Rising redshirt junior Janarius Robinson is one of the main players that will be looked to in Burns’ absence. Robinson doesn’t have Burns’ pass-rush ability, but he’s proven to be a capable run stopper.
Seeing by far the most playing time of his career in 2018, Robinson finished with 27 tackles (18 solo), three tackles for loss, a sack, a pass break-up and four quarterback hurries.
With a tall, lanky frame and speed off the edge, FSU junior Joshua Kaindoh is the strongest candidate to fill Burns’ pass-rushing role.
Backing him up last season, Kaindoh finished with three sacks, four quarterback hurries and 4.5 tackles for loss.
After these two, FSU’s depth at defensive end drops off to a quartet of second-year players. Dennis Briggs and Xavier Peters saw limited action, but still redshirted in 2018 alongside Jamarcus Chatman and Malcolm Lamar.
Briggs played the most as a true freshman, seeing action in four games.
Peters played in two games and considered transferring closer to home this offseason before electing to remain at FSU.
Chatman cross-trained at end and tackle while redshirting with the scout team in 2018 while Lamar also worked with the scout team.
All four enter spring with the potential to set themselves up for playing time in 2019.
FSU signed three defensive ends in its 2019 class, but none of them will arrive on campus until summer.
While FSU lost its most productive defensive end after the 2018 season, the Seminoles return their two most productive tackles from last season.
Rising junior Marvin Wilson and redshirt sophomore Cory Durden both had breakout seasons that have set them up well going into 2019.
Wilson showed why he was an extremely well-regarded five-star recruit coming out of high school, making five starts and leading FSU’s defensive tackles in tackles (42) and sacks (3.5).
He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, two pass break-ups, four quarterback hurries and a forced fumble, earning an All-ACC honorable mention.
Wilson enters what could very well be his final season at FSU primed for an even bigger season behind a full-time starting job he claimed by the end of last season.
Durden made just one start in 2018, but was a spark off the bench as he made the most of his appearances in all 12 games.
He finished last season with 22 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and a blocked kick.
Robert Cooper came into FSU oversized last season at 396 pounds, but still managed to make an impact. He had 10 tackles and a half tackle for loss in 11 games as a true freshman.
As of last week when he talked to the media, he was down 25 pounds to 371. His goal for the beginning of the 2019 season is 320 pounds. If he’s successful, he would be in a strong position to build upon a promising freshman campaign.
Redshirt sophomore Ja’len Parks and redshirt junior Cedric Wood both missed the entirety of the 2018 season due to injuries, but are expected to be back for spring practice.
Three-star defensive tackle Tru Thompson is FSU’s only early enrollee on the offensive line after committing in early 2017.
He’ll be joined by three-star defensive tackle Malcolm Ray over the summer.
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