Fact or Fiction- Defense

During Fall Camp, NoleDigest will be breaking down issues concerning the Florida State football team; fact or fiction style. We will look at several questions facing the team heading into 2008 and tell you how we expect things to pan out this year.

Fact or Fiction? Patrick Robinson will improve on last season's interception total of 6.

Mack-Fiction. Patrick is one of the top corners in the ACC. He has to sit out the first 3 games of this season. He will have opportunities because of the way Florida State plays defense but I doubt that teams will test him too many times this year.

Fish-Fiction-He would have had a great shot but losing out on playing those first three games will hurt Robinson chances. He will only play in 9 games so he would have to beat his best by playing in three less games.

Nate-Fact. Some teams may go away from him, but I think Patrick is in for a big year. Talent has never been the problem with Robinson; it's always been his mind taking him out of the game. He seems to be primed for a big year. Missing the first 3 games may make it hard for him, but he did pick off a pass in 5 straight games last year, so he's shown the ability to be a playmaker during a long stretch.

Richie-Fiction. Not only will Patrick Robinson be missing the first three games of the 2008 season, he won't have the advantage of taking teams by surprise again this season. Last year, nobody in the country besides fans at Florida State had ever head of him. This year he returns as the co-reigning ACC interception and offensive coordinators will advise quarterbacks against throwing his way. That being said, Robinson will still have a solid season and should still pick off about 4 or 5 passes while not giving up the big play.

Fact or Fiction? The suspensions will leave Florida State too short-handed to escape the Wake Forest game with a win.

Mack-Fiction. Only position group that will be short-handed is the defensive tackle position. FSU needs Emmanuel Dunbar and Kendrick Stewart to make plays and stay healthy, and Moses McCray to step up. On offense FSU will have all of their players. At LB, FSU will be without Watson but Bradham, or Smith can step in there. At DE, FSU will be without Moffett but McNeil, Jackson, and White can more than pick up the slack. FSU will be very motivated to play Wake Forest in Doak Campbell this season.

Nate-Faction. I'm not ready to say whether or not FSU is going to lose to Wake because I think it's too early. It depends on how the freshmen play and if Thacker can get through his funk during fall camp. Talent wise there is no reason to not beat Wake. Is the mental part going to be there? It's too early to determine that at this time.

Fish-Fiction-Most of their offensive players will be available. At DT, FSU may get Thacker back by this game. With Thacker, Dunbar, Moses McCray and Stewart FSU will be in pretty good shape. The game is also in Doak which the last time these two teams play was not a pretty site.

Richie-Fiction. Even with a depleted defense for this specific game, Florida State still has a significant edge in overall talent on the field. Depth may be an issue, but the same can be said for Wake Forest. This won't be the first time Florida State has to prepare for a game like this and I believe that Mickey Andrew openly saying the defense will be trying different things this season means something. If Florida State loses this game, it won't be because of the defense, but I fully expect them to pull this one out in a close one.

Fact or Fiction? Markus White will lock down the starting spot opposite of Everette Brown at defensive end and hang on to it the entire season.

Mack-Fiction. Markus White is a very good player who is getting better with more repetitions. Kevin McNeil and Jamar Jackson are two players who I expect to start on the opposite side of Everette. Right now, I think that those two players are ahead of White but that can certainly change later in the year.

Fish-Fact, Neefy Moffett will miss the first three games which will hurt his chances of holding on to the starting job. The only one that has a chance to beat White out would be McNeil.

Nate-Fact. I think White has shown the motor, skill and determination that made him the JUCO player of the year last year. He's impressed his coaches and teammates and has been praised for his work ethic and ability to pick things up. Kevin McNeil is his toughest competition, but he's been away from the game for a while. White's combination of size and speed is something the Noles haven't had in some time. I fully expect White to lock up the spot opposite Brown, forming one of the best tandems of defensive ends in the ACC.

Richie-Fact. Markus White is a special type of player that doesn't come along very often. He recorded 24.5 sacks last season in the Jayhawk conference in JUCO, which is traditionally one of the toughest conferences. Even if White only gets half of that number, 12 sacks would be insane for a first year player. With White, I think it could actually happen though. Kevin McNeil will be his main competition for the spot but Markus will prove to be too valuable to be coming off of the bench. This could possibly be the most dominant pass rush in the ACC this season if Brown continues to improve and White fulfils his potential.

Fact or Fiction? Derek Nicholson will once again lead the team in tackles this season.

Mack-Fact. This question was the hardest for me to answer. In Florida State's defense, history has shown us that the Middle Linebacker usually is one of the top tacklers or the top tackler on the defense. Nicholson rarely came out last season thus allowing him to make more plays on the field. Nicholson will have more opportunities than any other defensive player. The other player I believe will contend with Derek is Myron Rolle. The Rover position is another position that usually is one of the top tacklers on the team. The last two seasons Rolle has been in the Top 3.

Fish-Fact, he gets a ton of opportunities to make tackles. Derrick just needs to learn to make more plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Nate-Fiction. I think Dekoda Watson is going to have a breakout year and will lead the team in tackles. Watson has had a great off-season, and he's going to come back with guns blazing after the suspension.

Richie-Fact. If there is one thing that Nicholson is known for, it's consistency. He quietly led the team in tackles last season recording 19 more than NFL draftee Geno Hayes. Nicholson finished with 99 tackles in '07 and his role will increase in the first three games as he will be the leader of a young group of linebackers. I expect Nicholson to repeat what he did last season and wouldn't be surprised if he cracked the 100 tackle mark.

Fact or Fiction? Defensive tackle is the weakest part of the FSU defense.

Mack-Fact. The defensive tackle position is one of the weakest positions on the team. Coach Haggins does not have a lot of depth to work with. The most talented defensive tackle on the team is not practicing yet. FSU needs a bigger push and more plays from this position group for the defense to reach their full potential.

Nate-Fact. 100 times over fact. Thacker's been struggling, Mincey isn't back yet, Dunbar and Stewart are finally healthy and are unproven, and Moses McCray is a freshman. What's keeping some people from being in full panic mode is that is looks as though Paul Griffin is primed for a good year and that the defensive ends will take up blockers, allowing them to make some plays. All of the guys are out from the suspensions minus Stewart, Dunbar and McCray. The first test comes against Wake, but after that game hopefully they'll be getting back Griffin AND Mincey for the season. Mincey getting cleared keeps this unit from being a complete washout. McCray has shown promise, but the hip injury is making his learning curve a lot steeper as the season approaches.

Fish-Fact, at least to start the season. If Mincey, Thacker and Griffin are not available for the first three games that position is not as good as it can be. I feel that Mincey if he gets qualified (which he should) will be FSU next great DT. Griffin never fully recovered from his ACL tear last year and Thacker is a good hustle player. Add these three to the mix of McCray, Dunbar and Stewart FSU will be alright at DT.

Richie-Fiction. While Justin Mincey's status remains in limbo, and the position will be affected by the suspensions early on, I think this unit will end up being very strong. Budd Thacker hasn't had a great camp so far, but I expect him to turn it up a notch once he comes back; whether it is for the Wake Forest game, or the Colorado game. Paul Griffin has been a beast so far and is primed for a big season. Emmanuel Dunbar is another guy who can step in and make plays when he has to. I think free safety is the weak link of the defense and if Darius McClure and Jamie Robinson step up the way they are expected to, then this could be one of FSU's strongest defenses in years.

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