Coming into the 2008 season Florida State is looking at the best depth chart situation at defensive end that they've had in some time. There is a balance of experienced players to go along with the infusion of new talent that came in last year for the Seminoles. Everette Brown already has one defensive end position locked up as he is coming off a sophomore season that helped establish him as one of the premier ends in the ACC. The main battle that will commence when fall camp starts is who'll start opposite Brown and who'll be the guys that'll play in Mickey Andrews' rotation heavy scheme.
Everette Brown has been named to several pre-season All-ACC teams and has made numerous post season award watch lists. Brown was FSU's most consistent defensive end last year as he had 36 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Brown is expected to have a breakout year this season. If he has the year many expect it's not out of the realm of possibility to see him test the NFL waters and possibly go pro.
Neefy Moffett is a talented player, but he is also frustrating at times. The senior to be has the potential to be a force from his defensive end spot, but it often comes when he wants it. Moffett can be a world-beater one minute then the next play will completely disappear. He worked hard in spring and has kept that going into summer workouts. His 19 tackles, 9 TFLs and 2.5 sacks are numbers that can be much better if he works harder. This year is his last to prove himself on the field.
Kevin McNeil's career at FSU has gotten off to a slow start. After battling the NCAA's Clearinghouse as a freshman McNeil showed excellent potential on the field. After a standout freshman year many pegged McNeil as a guy who would play a role last year for the Noles, but he had several off-field incidents that held him back. From the car accident to a death in the family, McNeil's string of bad luck continued. He's been cleared to play this season, so after he serves his suspension for the academic scandal look for him to be a guy who sees a lot of reps in 2008.
Markus White has the Seminole nation sitting on the edge of their seats with anticipation for what he's going to bring to the team. Why are fans eagerly anticipating White's role in 2008? This is why: 91 tackles, 25 ½ sacks, 17 tipped passes, 37 total TFLs and nearly 200 yards lost in sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries and 1 touchdown on a 30 yard fumble return. That stat line is from White's season last year as he was named the National Player of the Year in JUCO as he helped lead Butler to the championship. White is going to be an instant impact player for FSU in 2008 and will see time immediately due to the suspensions early on.
Jamar Jackson saw his first real action this spring after coming off an ACL injury his freshman year. If the spring is any indication, Jackson made the right move switching positions from linebacker to end. Jackson has ideal size at 6'4" and 240 pounds. He didn't show any effects from the knee injury this spring and had one of the better performances of any of the other guys at his position. Jackson is a guy who'll need to continue to develop in camp as he's going to be used a lot early on in the season.
Everett Dawkins isn't the biggest defensive end on the team but he may be one of the fastest. At 6'2" and 250 pounds Dawkins game is based off his excellent burst off of the line and his ability to use numerous moves on his opponent. With the suspensions early on Dawkins is not expecting to redshirt, so this camp is important for him and the coaches to see if he is ready to play this season. Dawkins feels he is ready to go, so he's a guy fans will want to watch as he progresses through fall camp.
Toshmon Stevens is a freak athlete. He was the Player of the Year in his county in football, basketball and track. Stevens is a candidate to redshirt because, simply, he needs to hit the weightroom. He is a legit 6'6" but he's about 215 pounds. Once he gets going in Coach Stroud's weight program look for Stevens to be big time. His impact won't be felt in 2008.
Another player at defensive end is walk-on Benjamin Lampkin. Lampkin has been a steady special teams performer at FSU and filled in nicely when FSU played in their bowl game last year. He may get into the rotation early on due to the suspensions, but NoleDigest feels he is a guy who won't see a lot of time at defensive end in 2008.
Brown has one spot locked up. The one opposite him is where the battle is going to be in camp. Moffett and McNeil have the edge in experience as they each have several years in Coach Andrews system. Markus White brings big play potential and may be the best raw athlete at that position. Jamar Jackson showed during the spring that he is going to be a player for FSU. He's a natural at end.
NoleDigest feels that Dawkins will be the only freshman with a legitimate shot to play in 2008, thus Stevens will take a redshirt unless something drastic happens. McNeil is an extremely talented player when he is on the field. With the other stuff looking like it's over with look for Kevin to finally be able to focus on football. That focus, along with his sheer ability, makes him a prime candidate to start. NoleDigest feels that both McNeil and White are going to outwork Moffett in camp and be the guys who battle for the starting position. White's strength, speed and determination will most likely win out. With Kevin and Neefy sitting out the first 3 games, White will take the ball and run with it.
Winner: NoleDigest feels that Everette Brown and Markus White will be the starting defensive ends once camp ends and the season starts. Those two players will be the best starting combo the Seminoles have had in quite some time. When McNeil and Moffett come back from their suspensions, look for them to contribute immediately. We feel Dawkins sees a lot of time early on with Jamar Jackson which will help them gain experience as the Noles head into the meat of their schedule. This is the best depth the Noles have had in several years. If all goes to plan look for the impact of this group to be felt along the entire defense.