The FSU football defensive line finished the 2016 season in dominating fashion. There’s reason to believe this unit could be even better in 2017.
Football games are won and lost in the trenches. A dominant defensive line can allow a defense to dictate terms and take over a game. In the second half of the 2016 season we saw the FSU defensive line begin to establish it’s self as one of the best in the country. With that being said, the 2017 FSU football defensive line could be even better.
Much of the success of the FSU defensive line came in the form of a mammoth senior season from defensive end, DeMarcus Walker. Walker decided to return for his senior season and it couldn’t have worked out better for himself or FSU football. DeMarcus Walker finished 2016 recording 16 sacks, five of which came in the final three games for the Noles. Walker is a complete defensive end that holds up well against the run and the pass.
Replacing Walker’s production will be a tall task for the FSU defense. However, Walker’s impact was not only felt on the field but in the locker room as well. An emotional leader for the Seminoles, Walker leads by example and personifies the term work ethic. The Noles will need someone to step up and fill the void in leadership that will be felt with Walker’s departure to the NFL. Luckily for FSU they have plenty of returning candidates to step up in Walker’s absence.
Replacing the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a first team All-American (Walker) is no small task for the FSU defense. However, when you recruit at the level of FSU, the talent-level is ceaseless.
The forecast for the 2017 FSU defensive line became a lot brighter when defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi recently announced he will be returning for his senior season in 2017. Nnadi started the 2016 season banged up and the FSU defense suffered, partially because of Nnadi’s lack of health. As Nnadi became healthy, the defensive line began to dominate. Nnadi is a balanced defensive tackle that stuffs the run but also recorded six sacks in 2016. The return of Nnadi is the greatest reason I believe this unit could be even better in 2017.
Nnadi isn’t the only returning defensive tackle that has shown his value for the FSU defense. Rising redshirt junior Demarcus Christmas improved as the season went on and might have had his best game of the year in the Orange Bowl against Michigan. The experience and talent of Nnadi and Christmas should make for an elite partnership in 2017.
Rising Junior defensive end Josh Sweat will be a key component in replacing Walker’s production. At 6’5 250 lb, Sweat is a phenomenal athlete who uses his length well in the run game. Sweat has been tremendous against the run in his career and has seen his pass rush improve as of late. In the first ten games of 2016 Sweat recorded just 2.5 sacks. In FSU’s final three matchups, Sweat recorded 4.5 sacks. It seems as if Sweat is finally getting his burst back after suffering a devastating knee injury in his senior season of high school.
True freshman Brian Burns burst onto the scene as a pass rusher from the BUCK position (hybrid linebacker/defensive end) in 2016 recording 8.5 sacks and displaying tremendous versatility. Burns potential is through the roof, look for him to add weight to his long frame and become one of the best pass rushers in college football in 2017.
The front line guys returning to the FSU defensive line in 2017 are an impressive group. But a defensive line is truly elite when depth allows for heavy rotation and fresh legs. The FSU defensive line should not be lacking in depth in 2017.
Players like Fred Jones and Walvenski Aime have logged valuable reps in 2016, experience that will serve them well moving forward. Jones is a powerful player that is built to stuff the run. Aime’s versatility is an asset to any defensive line as he can fit inside or outside in multiple formations.
The depth at defensive end should be strong for FSU football as well. Rising senior Jacob Pugh is a proven valuable commodity that will log a ton of snaps at BUCK in 2017. Pugh is a physical player that knows the defense and has made his share of plays throughout his career. FSU football will have to turn to fresh faces for depth at defensive end, but they won’t lack for talent. Look for rising redshirt freshman Janarius Robinson and incoming five star Joshua Kaindoh to compete for reps through out the off season and into camp.
As mentioned above, FSU will have their work cut out for them when it comes to replacing DeMarcus Walker on the field and in the locker room. Because of the example set by Walker, I would expect the returning players to display a similar work ethic in the off-season, this is what Fisher refers to when he talks about being a “program”. I believe FSU has the talent and personalities along the defensive line to mitigate the loss of Walker. After a successful 2016 season, I expect the FSU defensive line to be even better in 2017 and to be considered one of the best units in all of college football.