Over the past three seasons the Florida State defense has consistently been among the nation's best at getting to the quarterback. Much of that success is due to the superior play from the defensive end position.
During that span FSU's ends have racked up at least 20 sacks in each season and combined for 74 total sacks. But after losing three top-flight defensive ends to this year's draft, there are some big shoes to fill.
Bjoern Werner is first among those that will be difficult to replace as he will likely be a top-15 pick in the draft, and for good reason. Werner accumulated 23.5 sacks in his three-year career and was extremely productive in run support for the Seminoles.
Cornellius "Tank" Carradine is another guy who is going to be extremely difficult to replace. What Carradine was able to accomplish in just 12 starts was remarkable and would have likely landed him in the first round had he not suffered a torn ACL in the regular season finale against Florida.
In 12 starts, Carradine accumulated 12 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. All signs still point to Carradine being a first day selection when the draft comes around. But who knows where Carradine would be had he not been forced in to action due to pre-season All-American Brandon Jenkins suffering a season ending foot injury in the Noles' season opener.
Jenkins racked up 22.5 sacks in his three-year career and is also working to get back to full-speed. Regardless, Jenkins will still be selected at some point in the draft. Jenkins has another opportunity to showcase his skills in FSU's upcoming Pro Day on March 18th.
But the good news for Seminoles fans is that FSU has recruited extremely well at the position over the past few years. While the talent at the position is promising, there will certainly be a learning curve as the group is one that lacks both experience and depth.
First up is freshman Mario Edwards Jr. who definitely has the most experience in the group, which isn't saying much. When Carradine went down against Florida, Edwards Jr. was moved into the starting role and was able to get some much-needed experience as he started the Seminoles two final games.
After Edwards, the depth chart is filled with sophomore Giorgio Newberry, redshirt freshman Chris Casher, true freshman Demarcus Walker, and Dan Hicks who is returning to defensive end after trying out tight end last season.
Newly hired defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri will be faced with the task of preparing the unit. The first thing Sunseri will look to do is establish his starters and then move on to filling out the two-deep depth chart.
As of now, Edwards will certainly be one of the starters but the second spot is up for grabs. It will likely come down to a battle between Newberry and Casher, but at this point you can't count anyone out.
There is also a good chance that you see the coaches doing a lot of rotating to get everyone as much experience as possible. There is certainly going to be at least a small decline in production from the unit, but that's expected when you lose three guys that could have all been first-rounder's if healthy.
While all eyes will most certainly be fixed on the quarterback battle taking place this spring, and likely into the fall, don't overlook the defensive end position which will have some great competition itself.