Spring Preview: Defensive Line

NoleDigest continues its preview of spring practice for Florida State with a look at what fans can expect to see along the defensive line. With the massive losses of Everette Brown and Paul Griffin it is important that the Seminoles see several players bust out this spring.

In this position preview NoleDigest looks at the defensive line. The Seminoles lose All-American Everette Brown, which is a major blow to the front 4 for FSU. This spring it is important that at least one defensive tackle makes the necessary strides to anchor the line, while several others need to step up to provide the pass rush lost by Brown's early entry into the NFL.

Defensive Tackle

Key Returnees: Seniors Justin Mincey, Budd Thacker and Kendrick Stewart, and Sophomore Everett Dawkins.
Key Losses: Paul Griffin

What to look for: Besides the secondary there is not a position during the spring that'll be more critize than defensive tackle. For 2 years running this has been a weak spot on Florida State's defense. Entering the spring the Seminoles have 3 players in Mincey, Thacker and Stewart that have been apart of the system for 4 years.

Justin Mincey is the guy coaches and fans have their eyes on. The 6'5" 285 pounder has all the tools to be the next great tackle, but he has been inconsistent. At the end last season Mincey really started coming on. This is a spring where he needs to realize that talent and become the leader of this unit.

Budd Thacker and Kendrick Stewart have been two players who traditionally would be back-ups on previous Seminole teams, but due to the recruiting misses over the past 4 years they've had to play major minutes for the Noles. Budd is a beast in the weight room, but he enters his final spring with questions on if he can really get it done. Emotionally there isn't a more exciting player than Thacker, but he must become better-rounded for the Noles to have success in 2009.

Stewart has battled injuries throughout his career at FSU, but last year he got the chance to play a ton. In some cases he played very well, and in others he looked out of place. Look for Kendrick to use this spring to work on being a contributor for the fall.

Other key contributors: Everett Dawkins came in as a pass rushing defensive end in 2008, but due to the suspensions and lack of depth at the tackle position had to play in the middle last year. Dawkins doesn't have the typical size for defensive tackle, but his speed and motor are attributes that make him hard to stop. Over the spring he'll play inside, but some feel he'll move back to defensive end going into the fall.

Questions to be answered: Will Moses McCray be healthy enough after spring to get ready for summer? Can Thacker be a pass rushing tackle? Can the players get out of spring healthy? How many spots are going to be open for the freshman coming in the fall?

Defensive End

Key Returnees: Senior Kevin McNeil, Junior Markus White, Redshirt Sophomore Jamar Jackson and Redshirt Freshman Toshmon Stevens.
Key Losses: Everette Brown

What to look for: While it was expected, the loss of Brown to the NFL draft was a major blow to this unit for the Noles. Brown was flat out dominating for FSU in 2008; now the coaches have to find a replacement that'll be the pass rushing specialist of this unit.

The one player who is primed for a major season is former JUCO Player of the Year Markus White. Last fall White worked himself into the rotation and showed flashes that he'll be the guy many pegged him to be. Markus plans on using this spring to lock down one of the starting positions. If his performance during mat drills is any clue, look for him to build upon his 1 sack and 7 tackles for loss from last year.

Kevin McNeil enters his final spring as the next guy who'll most likely lock down a starting spot over the spring. McNeil is very talented, and the coaches need him to use this spring to establish himself as a premier player in this unit.

Other key contributors: Jamar Jackson and Toshmon Stevens.
Jackson wasn't 100% from the knee injury he suffered as a freshman last season, and we saw that was apparent when he played in only 4 games for the Noles. Here is a guy who physically looks the part. After moving to end last year can Jamar stay healthy and make the necessary strides this spring.

Toshmon is one of the best overall athletes on the entire Seminole roster. After suffering a calf injury in the second game of the season Toshmon used the rest of the year to add weight and get healthy. Toshmon is a wild card here and he is a guy who can come out of spring ready to be a force for next season.

Questions to be answered: Is Markus White ready to be a dominant player? Will McNeil and Jackson get out of spring without injury? What will Toshmon bring to the table? Who want to step up and be the next great FSU defensive end?

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