The junior transfer, who enrolled at FSU in January used a good spring and even better preseason camp to propel himself into the starting lineup – filling the massive hole left by former standout Brodrick Bunkley,
The loss leaves the Seminoles extremely thin at defensive tackle. Sophomores Letroy Guion and Emmanuel Dunbar are both nursing injuries as well. Both players likely will miss Saturday's game against Clemson. Second-year player Aaron Jones has yet to dress out for a game, too. As he has battled an ankle injury.
"You know where I start? In recruiting," FSU defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins when asked where he begins in shuffling his depth chart. "Defensive linemen please come. Where I am starting at, I feel my kids … in two-a-days I put a lot of mental pressure on them On some of the young kids.
"I just gotta get them to play Florida State football. And make them believe – and I think they belieive - that they can play on this level right now and that they aren't freshmen. Don't play like freshmen."
The freshman that will get the most playing time is Kendrick Stewart, who redshirted last year. The Lakeland native played 31 plays Saturday against the Trojans – the only real experience of his collegiate career.
But he's ready.
"I have to step up and fill (Griffin's) shoes. I have been working hard anyway right behind him," Stewart said. "I am ready to step up. I will have a lot of adrenaline running for that game. It is a big game. I am going to play it for Paul. He is one of our teammates and I love him like a brother. This game is going to be for him."
Behind Stewart, there aren't any players with any experience. Haggins said that true freshmen Budd Thacker and Ryan McMahon aren't yet ready to contribute but may have to. Justin Mincey, who has worked at both defensive tackle and defensive end in his short FSU career, will gets reps in the middle against Clemson.
Defensive end Neefy Moffett may move inside if need be, too.
Against a Clemson offense that returns all of its starters, the injuries to the defensive tackle spot will undoubtedly be an area of concern. But with a week's preparation, Haggins hopes that he can use the lessons learned in his garnet and gold playing days that still ring true today.
"That's one thing when I was playing here at Florda State, Coach (Mickey) Andrews always said, ‘Young guys, don't play like freshmen. When you step on that field you play like a starter,'" he said. "That's what I expect. Nothing less."
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