Recruiting Radar: Defensive Priorities

Less than three weeks before National Signing Day, Jimbo Fisher has 15 commitments on the board. At what position on the defensive side of the football is Florida State most desperate to reload?

Defensive Tackle

2011 starters: Everett Dawkins, Anthony McCloud
Projected starters: Dawkins, McCloud
Returning backups: Cameron Erving, Timmy Jernigan, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Demonte McAllister, Moses McCray, Darious Cummings, Jacobbi McDaniel, Derrick Mitchell
Roster defections: None
2012 commitments: Justin Shanks, Dalvon Stuckey

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Florida State is very deep along the defensive line, especially in the interior, where Dawkins, McCloud, Erving and Jernigan rotated liberally throughout this past season. While McCloud will be a senior in 2012 and is quite a fine player in his own right, Jernigan may overtake him in the starting lineup because he was just named a Freshman All-America and is no doubt a future superstar. McCray and McDaniel are question marks at this point due to injury concerns, and whether or not they are healthy may be the determining factor in someone like Mitchell getting a look on the offensive side of the ball.

Recruiting priority: Low. You can never have too many defensive linemen, which is why the Seminoles plan on adding Shanks, Stuckey and maybe even a five-star stud like the uncommitted Eddie Goldman, but it's going to be difficult for anyone to crack the Dawkins-McCloud-Erving-Jernigan rotation.

Defensive End

2011 starters: Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner
Projected starters: Jenkins, Werner
Returning backups: Cornellius Carradine, Dan Hicks, Toshmon Stevens, Giorgio Newberry
Roster defections: None
2012 commitments: Chris Casher, Mario Edwards, Dante Fowler

While Jenkins got off to a rather slow start this past year and his overall numbers were down from his breakout sophomore campaign, all the attention he commanded at right end helped Werner become one of the true rising stars in college football over on the left side. Now that Jenkins is officially coming back to FSU for his senior season, there is every reason to believe that he and Werner will be the premier pair of pass rushers in the entire country, plus Carradine is a tremendous No. 3 off the bench. Hicks has a great deal of talent in his own right, and considering the recruits coach Jimbo Fisher has lined up at this position, Newberry is another candidate to potentially switch over to the offensive line.

Recruiting priority: Very high. Casher, Edwards and Fowler are all blue chippers and have the ability to demand playing time immediately, but since the 'Noles lose Jenkins, Carradine and probably Werner to the NFL after 2012, 2013 is when the incoming freshmen are expected to be ready to start.

Linebacker

2011 starters: Nigel Bradham, Vince Williams, Christian Jones
Projected starters: Jeff Luc, Williams, Jones
Returning backups: Telvin Smith, Nigel Terrell, Terrance Smith
Roster defections: Bradham, Arrington Jenkins
2012 commitment: Markuss Eligwe

Bradham is the only significant part of the linebacking corps that Florida State loses, but he's going to be difficult to replace because, after a few bone-headed plays early in the season, he was an absolute mad man down the stretch. The highly-touted Luc is in line to replace him on the weak side, and the fan base is anxious to see what he can do after two years of waiting. Williams and Telvin Smith make for a fine match in the middle, with Williams more reliable from snap to snap but Smith making most of the highlight-reel plays, while Jones needs to become consistent week in and week out as a strong-side defender.

Recruiting priority: Very high. The Seminoles would love to add another linebacker to this class aside from Eligwe because Terrell and Terrance Smith are still unknown quantities, plus Jenkins recently left the program following a run-in with the law.

Cornerback

2011 starters: Mike Harris, Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes
Projected starters: Reid, Rhodes, Terrence Brooks
Returning backups: Nick Waisome, Keelin Smith
Roster defections: Harris, Avis Commack
2012 commitments: None

Harris spent his two-year stint at FSU as the third banana behind the dynamic duo of Reid and Rhodes, but with Reid having an up-and-down 2011 and Rhodes battling a handful of minor injuries all season long, it was Harris who ended up being the most reliable cover man. Both Reid and Rhodes put their NFL aspirations on hold and are the no-brainer starters, and even though he's listed as a safety, Brooks is a good bet to play nickel back since he has been the dime defender in six-DB packages. Depth was an issue this past year and likely will be again, as Waisome is unproven, Smith is coming off a redshirt and Commack is gone after a legal issue of his own.

Recruiting priority: Very high. The coaching staff hasn't been able to secure a solid commitment from a true cornerback as of yet, which is why landing a Ronald Darby or a Tracy Howard helps plug what could end up being a gaping hole.

Safety

2011 starters: Lamarcus Joyner, Terrance Parks
Projected starters: Joyner, Karlos Williams
Returning backups: Brooks, Nick Moody, Lamarcus Brutus, Tyler Hunter
Roster defections: Parks
2012 commitment: P.J. Williams

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Moving from reserve cornerback to starting safety, Joyner was arguably the biggest reason for the 'Noles once again playing like a dominant defense more often than not, as his instincts in coverage and nose for the ball are evident every game. Parks was a punching bag for angry garnet-and-gold supporters most of the season, but Fisher repeated time and again that the senior was the best option he had lining up next to Joyner -- the freakish Karlos Williams simply wasn't ready to contribute on defense. However, an entire spring and summer should be more than enough time for Williams to learn the intricacies of Mark Stoops' system, and most would argue that the 6-2, 220-pound speed demon has too much juice not to be a smashing success.

Recruiting priority: Medium. Like Brooks, Brutus, Hunter and Smith, P.J. Williams could end up at corner or safety depending on where he fits and what Stoops needs, but Scout.com believes his future is at safety and lists him as the No. 10 prospect in the nation at that position.

To go back and read JC's edition of Recruiting Radar dedicated to the offensive side of the ball, which was published Thursday, Click Here.


John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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