RESERVES: Charles Howard (Jr.), Eric Moore (So.), Willie Jones (Fr.), Kamerion Wimbley (Fr.), Eric Powell (Sr.).
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Broderick Bunkley (Tampa), Darnell Burston (Peachtree City, Ga.).
THE SKINNY: The unit's effort last season was lackluster at best, accounting for just 10 sacks and disappearing at times on rush defense. But the ends enjoyed a solid spring under first-year coach Jody Allen. Allen, a former Seminole graduate assistant, steps in for veteran Jim Gladden, who accepted a role with Seminole Boosters, Inc.
Jackson won the Hinesman Award as the Seminoles' most dominant spring performer, thanks to his consistent harassment of the team's quarterbacks. Jackson also has recovered from recent left wrist surgery and has been a leader is summer workouts. He led the team with five quarterback sacks and ranked second with 16 hurries last season.
Howard was named the unit's most improved during spring drills, and Emanuel and Moore, possibly the group's most talented player, drew high praise from Allen. The ends capped spring drills by registering 5.5 sacks in the Garnet & Gold game.
Depth shouldn't be a problem either, as the first four players are expected to receive a bulk of the playing time. Powell also is expected to return after being shot last season, while youngsters Jones and Wimbley could get opportunities to contribute. The ingredients for dramatic improvement over last season appear to be in place.
ALLEN SAYS: "I think we have a good group as a whole. We don't have that one guy that just, you know going into the season this guy is going to be an animal. Everybody is going to be trying to double-team him and he's still going to get his 15 sacks. We don't have a guy like that."
"When you bring up the great ones we've had in the past around here that were, you know, 6-4, 250-pound guys who could run 4.5, 4.4 40. You look out there and those guys aren't out like they used to be in that dimension. But that doesn't mean we can't be very effective players. They are young and they have better potential than what we've played at this point.
"Last year we didn't have a senior in the defensive end group, other than Eric Powell (shot) and he will be back for a second senior year. Zo (Alonzo Jackson) was the only junior. We were playing with a lot of sophomores and freshmen last year. It was kind of a same song, same story for the whole defense. The linebackers were sophomores. The safeties were the only group in the secondary that were seniors -- everyone else was young. Now the safeties will be young and everybody else will be a little more experienced and hopefully the year will be better for everyone."
STOPPING THE RUN: Allen believes a key to registering more sacks will be helped by the 'Noles' ability to stop the run. Opponents rushed for an average of 126 yards per game and had 23 rushing touchdowns last season. Wake Forest rushed for a whopping 256 yards.
"There's a lot to a sack," Allen said.
"There's the coverage behind you. There's the pass rush up front. The pass rush obviously helps the coverage be better. We can help those cornerbacks a lot if we can get that guy (quarterback) on his back some and make him run and throw off balance and all that kind of stuff. By the same token, they can help us by making that quarterback hold the ball and get sacks. And the other big part of it that people don't realize, the game is obviously more passing than it used to be. But there is still quite a number of teams out there that if they can run the ball down your throat that's all they will do.
"So, the first thing we have to do is stop that run to get people to pass to get those sacks. If we can get them in second-and-11 and third-and-10, we can pin our ears back and it's easier to get sacks. If you are giving up eight yards on first down, it's hard to get a sack on second-and-two -- chances are they won't be throwing in the first place and if they do it's a surprise to you. That makes it tough. We have to get them in passing situations and then we have to pin our ears back and get them on the run."
SMART DUDE: Emanuel ranked third among linemen last season with with 36 total tackles. The junior started the last seven games and all but two on the year and finished with at last two tackles in all 12 games. But that's not the best part. Emanuel is scheduled to begin work on his master's degree this fall.
"He is going to graduate -- and he's only a junior, which I think is pretty phenomenal," Allen said.
FUTURE STUD: Moore has made dramatic progress since arriving at FSU from Pahokee as a linebacker. And, at least physically speaking, Moore appears to have the talent to become a dominating player.
"He is a real tight-skin, there's no fat on him, but yet he's carrying 240-245 pounds and I guess he could run a pretty good 40 time," Allen said. "When you look at the numbers part of it, he's probably the closest physical thing to all those guys that we had. Jamal Reynolds was one. David Warren was one. From a number's standpoint, he was a freak of nature. David hasn't had the success in the pros like some of the those other guys have had, Andre Wadsworth and those guys, but we've always had those type of guys here."
LOOKING GOOD: Powell can be one of the Seminoles' better stories of the season if he continues to progress and recover from the gunshot wound he suffered last year. Powell also has made strides in the classroom, where struggles led a suspension last spring. Powell still has to be cleared medically for contact work.
"He's had a really good summer working," Allen said.
"We asked him to lose a little weight, and he did it. Coach (Bowden) called him in and had a good conversation with him. Eric was not with us for part of the spring (suspended for academic woes). Coach kind of gave him a choice and told him he had to -- I don't know what the exact words were -- but basically he had to do some soul searching and decide whether he really wanted to be with us.
"Either get completely with us or get away from us, one of the two. Eric apparently has made the decision to get completely with us because he has done really well this summer. As far as the weights, running, the weight loss -- everything we have asked him to do from a physical standpoint he has done -- and he is taking care of his business there (classroom)."
LOOKING GOOD II: After a disappointing sophomore season, when he carried more than his ideal weight, Howard looks primed to become a factor again. Howard arrived back in town earlier this week. Allen wants Howard in the 230-pound range after nearly reaching 260 last year. Allen believes Howard simply thought heavier was better in terms of becoming a better player.
"Charles Howard just got back and I understand he's around 235 pounds,:" Allen said.
"I think the next couple of months in the weight room and running, I think he's going to be ready to go. Charles is a lot like some of the other guys. When David and Jamal left out of here, all of them guys took it upon themselves to say, 'I've got to be the guy. We've got to do it.' Jamal weighed 265 pounds, David weighed 270. They thought bigger was better. Charles, for example. I was a freshman who played at 220 pounds. Well, I want to get to 265 so I need to do that right now.
"He was thinking he was helping the team and helping himself be a better football player -- going from a freshman to a senior right now (snap of a finger) because that's the level he thought he needed to play at. He equated that by gaining 40 pounds. I don't care who you are. You are not going to put on 40 pounds of good weight in a year, so he put on a lot of pounds that weren't good weight. In my humble opinion, it hurt him. It kept him nicked up. He just had too much weight to carry to keep his quickness and move and stay healthy."
STAYING LOW: Allen believes FSU ends need to stay lower when engaging an offensive lineman.
"We worked hard in the pens this spring and while we can't be out there with them this summer, they've been encouraged to stay under the pens and I think they will," Allen said. "Playing low is something we have to get better at. Jamal and David both had good core strength -- bottom line is you have to keep those shoulder pads down. And David and Jamal had a great knack for doing that. I watched last year and at times we were high and had been high a little this spring. But we got better at it and it's something we need to concentrate on."
UP NEXT: Running backs