Florida State's lack of depth, especially on the defensive line, in 2014 really hindered what the Seminoles were able to do on defense. Through three games this year that hasn't been the case. Florida State has played 12 defensive lineman through the first three games and 10 have recorded at least one tackle. With defensive end Lorenzo Featherston coming back from injury that number will increase to 11.
Defensive back Nate Andrews said that last years defensive line was forced to play so many snaps it was hard for them to complete drives and get third down stops. He believes that the depth on the defensive line is allowing the Seminoles to get off the field.
"I think we can get a lot better," Andrews said. "That goes to the pass rush. They’re rushing a lot better than they did last year. Guys from last year, I think we didn’t have as much depth last year and this year we have a lot of depth. That just helps us out a lot.
We have guys that can play first and second down, and we have a whole new group of guys that come in on third down. That just helps us out a lot. The DBs don’t have to cover as much or as long. We’re covering for like 2 seconds because they’re rushing the passer really good. The quarterback just scrambled out on that play. The defensive line is doing really good so I have to thank the D-line for that."
Redshirt senior linebacker Terrance Smith agreed with Andrews that the defensive line depth has really changed the way they can play defense.
"We have a great rotation going. It keeps guys fresh. That's one thing that allows us to keep pressure on the quarterback. We can rotate those guys in every couple of series. We can keep fresh legs in. When Mario had to play 70 plays, you could kind of tell toward the end of the game, guys get tired. Keep them fresh and keep them coming 100 percent at the quarterback."
Keeping the defensive line fresh has really paid off on third downs for the Seminoles. Florida State currently sits 12th in the country in 3rd down conversion percentage at 22.2-percent. Teams have combined to convert just 10 of the 45 third downs the Florida State defense has forced them into. Unlike Florida State, each of the 11 teams in front of the Seminoles have played an FCS opponent.
It has also paid off on the scoreboard as well. The 30 points that Florida State has allowed through the three games this season is the lowest point total for the Seminoles first three FBS opponents since 2003. Florida State's first three opponents have not been the strongest FBS teams, but it is still a big turnaround from the 2014 season where the Seminoles gave up 89 points through their first three FBS games.
Florida State's schedule will get much tougher as the season goes on, but the depth along the defensive line will allow the Seminoles to rotate enough to keep them fresh, healthy, and playing well. That will go a long way towards the Seminoles winning their fourth straight ACC title.