Spring Preview: Defensive End

Now that spring practice is right around the corner NoleDigest continues to preview each position. In this installment we look at the defensive ends.

There is a lot of excitement from fans of Florida State as a new era is slated to start in about a week as the new coaches and players will be starting spring practice.

There is a lot of importance this spring on building depth at defensive end, as well as finding players ready to take the next step and become a force along the defensive line.

With new coach D.J. Eliot on staff look for a change in the way the defensive ends play. Over the spring it's expected that we'll see focus on pass rush techniques, schemes and just an overall better coaching situation than years past.

Key Losses: Kevin McNeil

Key Returnees: Markus White, Brandon Jenkins and Toshmon Stevens

2009 in Review: 2009 was not a banner year for FSU's defense, and the lack of pass rush and playmakers at defensive end did not help. Kevin McNeil was the leading sacker among the ends with a miniscule 2 sacks on the season.

One of the issues FSU faced was a severe lack of depth. The fact that FSU started a walk-on in Craig Yarborough speaks volumes of where FSU was in 2009. Markus White was expected to step up last year but he did not have the year people expected.

Overall there was poor play all around. From a lack of rush moves to taking themselves out of plays the defensive ends just were a sore spot last year.

There were a few bright spots in the play of Brandon Jenkins and the late season play of Toshmon Stevens. Jenkins probably should have played much more than he did last year, but when he got his shot he showed flashes of the potential to a true force coming off the edge. Stevens is an excellent athlete that has a great blend of size and speed.

Likely starters heading into spring: Markus White and Brandon Jenkins

What to expect this spring: Developing the talent at defensive end through coaching is vital this spring. The majority of the players at this spot have talent that unfortunately was not developed under the previous staff. Early word out of pre-spring workouts is that players like White, Jenkins, Stevens and Dan Hicks have responded well to the new staff.

When you look at the roster heading into spring there may not be a player ready to burst onto the scene more than freshman Dan Hicks. Hicks came in as a late signee, took a redshirt, and then worked hard in the weight room preparing for his chance this spring. Those close to the program have said Dan is going to be a force due to his athleticism. He is fast, big and strong, and we've heard he has a motor that never stops.

It would be fantastic to see Hicks really break out this spring, but FSU needs Markus White to realize that All-American potential he had coming in a few years ago. Coach Eliot has been working with Markus on developing his rush moves; can he build on that and come out of spring as the unquestioned leader of the group.

Wildcards here are Everett Dawkins and freshman Demonte McAllister. Dawkins has bounced back and forth from outside to inside since arriving at FSU. He is reportedly nearly 280 pounds now, but he has been able to keep most of that speed he had coming in. Dawkins has had a great off-season. Will he get a chance to play outside?

NoleDigest heard recently that it looks like McAllister will start out outside as he has lost a lot of weight during conditioning drills. McAllister has special written all over him. How will he bounce back from the knee injury?

Questions to ponder: Is there a more naturally gifted defensive end than Jenkins on the roster? Can White be the pass rusher the ‘Noles need? Is Hicks as good as people say? Can Jamar Jackson stay healthy? Is Stevens strong enough to become a constant contributor?

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