Fluellen's Got Next

Andre Fluellen understands that there is a lot of pressure on him to perform this season. In fact, he relishes it. As he sees it, it could be the other way around.

"I would rather be in the position I am in than be on the sidelines," Fluellen said recently.

A redshirt junior defensive tackle, Fluellen is the veteran player at a position of depth that features four freshmen, three sophomores and a junior college transfer. The lack of experience at the tackle spot only adds to Fluellen's importance to the Seminole defense.

And it's his maturity and leadership skills that his position coach says is separating him from the pack this preseason.

"He's the leader of our group. He's a junior and he's playing pretty good right now," defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins said. "He does a good job of pushing the other kids. He is doing a good job of leading by his actions."

In addition to his new role as leader this season, Fluellen also has to deal with replacing All-American Brodrick Bunkley, who posted a school-record 25 tackles for loss a year ago.

Bunkley's departure due to graduation came just one year after the Tribe lost defensive standout Travis Johnson to the NFL. Johnson, too, followed a star in Darnell Dockett. It's the pressure to continue the FSU-NFL defensive tackle pipeline that now falls on Fluellen's shoulders.

"It's a little bit of pressure because we have had three great defensive tackles come out (of FSU) in the last three years. I talk to those guys all the time. I talk to Travis and Bunkley called me the other day. He was like, ‘You've got all the tools you just need to go out there and do it.' It's calming to hear somebody who has made it say you've got the tools."

Fluellen says that he knows what it means to his predecessors before him to keep the tradition going. But if he didn't, they don't mind offering a reminder.

"I hadn't heard from Dockett in three years," Fluellen said. "Dockett called me out (of) the blue one day and told me that they were passing me the torch so to speak. I need to keep the tradition going."

Posting 26 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks a season ago, Fluellen appears to be on the cusp of a greatness that Seminole fans are used to in the heart of the middle of the line.

Bunkley, Johnson and Dockett did it as seniors, and if Haggins' (who is known for his in-your-face style of coaching) comments are any indication, Fluellen just may be the Seminoles' defensive dominator with a year of eligibility to spare.

Said Haggins: "I never have to yell at him. He always fights hard."

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