Bunkley Blowing up Backfields

Now accustomed to making opposing backfields sweat, Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley caused his teammates a little apprehension before his senior season even began.

Not to mention himself. A lapse in the classroom over the summer forced the all-America candidate into a harried game of academic catch-up in order to become eligible in time for FSU's season opener against Miami.

"He was faced with a near impossibility," FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "It didn't look good for him. Or us."

The Tampa native persevered, rejoining his teammates on the practice field just ten days before the Seminoles were to host Hurricanes. That was after several 15-hour days with the books restored his academic status and got him back into the good favor of his coaches.

Following that scare, Bunkley hasn't disappointed. His 17 tackle for loss this season are a close second in the ACC standings, putting him just behind N.C. State defensive end Manny Lawson (17.5). That total is most in the nation for an interior lineman.

As a team, FSU (99) is second in the nation in tackles for loss behind Nebraska (107).

Bunkley's play has alsoelevated his draft status – ESPN.com and nfldraftscout.com list the 6-3' and 284-pounder as a late first or early second round prospect for April's NFL Draft.

Credit the wake-up call.

"I felt like that with all that I went through over the summer, it focused me," Bunkley said. "I knew I needed to come out here and perform for this team after all of that."

A lineage has continued with Bunkley – for three straight seasons, the FSU defensive line has witnessed one of its seniors blossom into an elite talent in the middle. In 2003, it was Darnell Dockett, now with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. Last season, Travis Johnson played his way into a first-round selection by the Houston Texans.

It was expected – with Dockett and Johnson still in the fold, FSU coach Bobby Bowden anointed Bunkley as his best defensive tackle during his sophomore season. But that was before injuries limited him to seven games last season and academics caught up to him.

"I think there's just a sense of urgency when you are a senior," Bunkley said. "There's more accountability involved."

In Bunkley's case, it was absolutely needed. With Johnson graduated and projected starter Clifton Dickson sidelined for the year by academic problems, FSU's remaining tackles – one sophomore and four freshmen – had a combined eight career tackles heading into the season.

"He's done a great job stepping his act up, not only on the field but as a leader to our younger guys," said defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins, an all-American at the position in his playing days. It's been huge that (Bunkley) has been healthy and we have stayed healthy at that position."

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