Preview: Defensive Tackle

With the graduation of seven seniors from the defensive side of the ball, it wouldn't appear on that on paper that the Noles would be heading into the 2004 with a possible top five to ten defense in the country. Some of the backups and younger players are simply much more talented than the previous starters. With a nice mixture of experience and talent, this year's bunch will be turning some heads. The Territory will preview each position starting with defensive tackle.

Last year the defense was very strong the first half of the season but tailed off the second part of the year by finishing up as the 26th ranked defense in the country by yielding an average of 329 yards per game. 111 yards were given up on the ground while giving up 218 through the air.

The position that has the most questions to be answered next year will be defensive tackle because of the graduation of All-American Darnell Docked and steady nose tackle in Jeff Womble. The two players that appear to be the front-runners to start are senior Travis Johnson and junior Broderick Bunkley. Both players have some huge shoes to fill however both players have a lot of potential.

Johnson, an All-American high school player, has never lived up to high expectations. The 6-foot-5 and 286 pound nose guard has had several set backs, including legal issues, injuries and work ethic. With one last chance to improve his chances of being a high NFL draft pick, Johnson will have a lot to prove in 2004. With a healthy year and his legal issues in the past, the sky is the limit for him with some hard work in spring and in the off-season. As a junior Johnson recorded 36 tackles and three tackles for a loss.

Bunkley, a true junior, has been steady backup. With a healthy off-season, it appears that he could be a star in the making. The 6-foot-3 and 286 pound standout has a body that looks like a Greek-god. As a true sophomore, he recorded 38 tackles and eight tackles for a loss.

Clifton Dickson, a true sophomore, didn't get much more than garbage time but did impress when he got a chance. In high school at Miami (Fla.) Northwestern, the 6-foot-5 and 285 pound Dickson was an unmovable force that was rarely pushed off the line scrimmage. His size and strength makes him a perfect fit at nose-guard. As a senior in high school, he recorded 116 tackles and 21 sacks.

Chris Bradwell, a red shirt freshman, might have the most upside of any player on the defensive line. The 6-foot-5 and 271 pound tackle came to Florida State via Hardgrave Military Academy where he starred as a defensive end. Going into spring, he is most likely going to be Broderick Bunkley's backup at tackle. As a senior in high school, he recorded 85 tackles and 11 sacks. He also caught eight passes for 150 yards playing tight end.

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