Florida State will return 8 of 11 defensive starters this year but that doesn't mean they aren't going to miss some of the players that are gone. Still, FSU benefits from having a depth chart that is defined by young, but experienced players.
While Darrell Burston was never a dominant player for the Tribe, the former defensive end provided quality depth and starting experience for Mickey Andrews' defense.
At linebacker, FSU is missing some former playmakers.
"We do have a lot of talent coming back. You look at us losing Buster (Davis) and Darrell Burston and a guy that decided to leave early, Lawrence Timmons," redshirt sophomore Everette Brown said. "You look at losing those guys and those are some big shoes to fill and our roster now we have guys that are going to step right in and step up to the plate and compete and get better through the spring."
While Brown has the chance to step in and replace Burston, junior linebacker Geno Hayes – the only returning starter – must set an example for a position of depth that is heavy on youngsters and light on veterans.
The soft-spoken former Madison County star must also step into an unfamiliar role as leader.
"Buster was the voice of the defense last year," Hayes said. "I just feel like guys are going to follow who they want to follow. If you have enough respect on the team then they are going to follow you."
Hayes also said that new linebackers coach Chuck Amato wants his players to be the leaders and "the quarterbacks of the defense," thus putting more pressure on the youngsters to perform this spring.
Being the quarterback on the defensive side of the ball means knowing everything that the other players on the field are doing.
"Right now (Coach Amato is) having us learn all three positions so we know what's going on around us," Hayes said.
At defensive tackle, FSU has the talent to be a dominant group but depth is a real concern.
Sophomore Budd Thacker returns as a young player with a surprising amount of experience. Last year the Seminoles lost several players on the middle of the defensive line and Thacker was thrust into valuable minutes.
The Seminole High School graduate says that experience gained only makes the team stronger.
"Not very many freshmen come in and get game experience their freshman year," Thacker said. "That's not normal. I think our defense is actually going to be way ahead of the game when it comes to experience (and) playing young players. I think we are going to be alright."
As Florida State prepares for the start of spring practice, the talented but young players inhabiting the depth chart will be looking to show they can become the type of defense the Seminoles are known for.
"On the defensive side of the ball, I can pretty much speak for everybody and say that we are looking to be the best defense in the country," Brown said.
FSU defense highlighted by young experience
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