The pressure is on to keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
While Alonzo Jackson has solidified himself as the team's most effective pass rusher and one of its most respected leaders, the Seminoles appear to be in good shape across the board.
Junior Kevin Emanuel has emerged as a budding star, starting seven games last year. Emanuel ended the season on a strong note with four tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in FSU's Gator Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. He was the recipient of the Big Otis Award following spring drills.
Of course, FSU defensive ends are being coached by Jody Allen, who brings a high-octane, hands-on approach to the game, not to mention 10 years of experience as a collegiate coach. Allen was a graduate assistant on the FSU staff for the last two years, working with the secondary and special teams, before being tabbed to replace veteran Jim Gladden.
Allen has been pleased with his unit's performance heading into its final preseason scrimmage tonight at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"I think we are making progress," Allen said. "You never make enough as much as you hoped for because you want them to be perfect every time they go out there. Of course, they aren't going to be, ever. But I think we are getting better. I liked our effort (Wednesday, previous scrimmage).
'"Zo was banged up when we started. I thought he exhibited some toughness, scrimmaged and gave us some good effort. Eric Powell got out there and gave us a good, hard effort. I told him you go as hard as you can go - everyone knows Eric's situation - for as long as you can go and when it shuts down, we will get you out of there. Well, he went to he cramped. We just about got out of gas when we finished, so it was a good scrimmage for us. We pretty much got out a maxed-out effort."
Playing defensive end at FSU brings a unique level of pressure with the history of great players at the position - eight former 'Noles are currently in the NFL, and the position has had seven consensus All-Americans since 1979. Five of those players have earned that elite status since 1995.
The good news is Allen has inherited plenty of depth.
Eric Powell has returned from a gunshot would suffered last season to emerge as one of the team's best stories, if not best players. Sophomore Eric Moore is challenging Emanuel for playing time, while Charles Howard also has worked his way into the rotation. Redshirt freshman Willie Jones,Jr. continues to feel his way, gaining 35 pounds since last season, while Kamerion Wimbley and Darrell Burston represent the future.
"Zo and Kevin are the most experienced guys," Allen said.
"The other guys are really improving. Kevin has done some good things. Right behind him is Eric Moore, who is really coming on. He's strong, he's fast, he's doing all of his assignments pretty well. He's learning some new techniques. I tell you, he's going to be a good player. Those two are battling pretty good right now.
"On the other side, Eric Powell is going to give 'Zo some rest. He's making a move. The better he plays, the more reps he will get. Charles Howard, right now, he and Kamerion could play into it. At times. They are doing some good things. These guys can help. Have to smooth out the inconsistencies. Willie Jones, he missed last year, was a linebacker in high school, so this is his first season really playing defensive end and he's still feeling his way and learning. Darrell Burston, got good tools feel like he's going to be a good layer, a year or two away from a size and physical standpoint."
Moore is one of those players who is developing into budding star from a size and physical standpoint, as Allen says. Considered by many to be one of the top linebackers in the nation and the best linebacker prospect in the state of Florida as a senior at Pahokee in 2000, Moore was moved immediately to defensive end at FSU.
One of 12 true freshmen to play last season, Moore finished with 15 tackles. He was named the top newcomer in the spring by coaches after recording five tackles, including a sack and two tackles for a loss in the Garnet and Gold Game.
"(It's) going pretty good. I feel much more comfortable," Moore said. "I don't have to worry about the person in front of me. I am learning technique. Everything is coming together. We've been playing pretty good, even though we have some injuries. Everyone is trying to step it up and come together."
Moore, one of four 2000 signees to be named Parade All-American, says he feels comfortable rushing the quarterback, though there's plenty to learn.
"Not really (tough transition)," Moore said of the move to defensive end from linebacker.
"You have to learn the different angles you have to take to get around a tackle. It's pretty hard sometimes but it's also pretty easy because you are closer to the quarterback. We want to improve it it (sacks) this year because last year we had to back off because a lot of us were young. The linebackers were young, and they really didn't want to blitz because of the coverage. But now everyone has come together as a team and we are more experienced. I just want to go out there and do my best. I thought I did okay (scrimmage). At first I thought I did poorly, but coach said the progress I've made from last year to this year, he said I 've done real good. I am getting off the ball, using my hands, using my technique."
Fans have also often wondered about Jones, who missed last season following knee surgery. Also rated as one of the top prep linebackers in the country out of Miami Carol City High School, Jones was also moved to defensive end, where his father - Willie Jones - starred for the Seminoles and the Oakland Raiders in the NFL.
Jones' transition hasn't gone as smoothly as Moore's.
"It's going alright," Jones said.
"I've progressed a lot from the spring. I am basically trying to come back from my knee injury and try to get the feel of the game because I've been off so long. But I feel like I am coming along. I gained an extra 35 pounds, that made it a lot harder for me. Getting used to running with this weight. It was kind of frustrating at first because when a person is used to making plays and contributing to the team and you have to sit out and watch, it's very frustrating."
Jones admits he also misses playing at linebacker. However, he's also expected to play a key role at some point in the Seminoles' scheme. That's where depth is expected to be a huge advantage this season.
"I miss standing up rushing," Jones said.
"It's a lot different with your hand being on the ground than being up. If I could, I would love to be an up defensive end rushing the quarterback like Lawrence Taylor. But I just have to settle for the down defensive end right now. When you have your hands down, you have to work on your hand techniques and the moves.
"In high school, I didn't have to worry about that. All I did was run off the edge and just dip that shoulder and speed rush every time, but it's not like that anymore. It (athleticism) helps me but at the same time I feel like I have to work on a lot more technique. I feel like I am kind of rusty on my technique compared to the other guys because they are used to using their hand movements. But me, I am just used to running around and making plays. I guess that's the thing that will really keep me from really contributing to the team this year, basically working on technique and hand movements."