FSU confident new starters can keep defense among best
AUG 23, 2014 2:00p ET
The Florida State Seminoles lost four starters from last year's No. 1 ranked scoring defense.
The defense was arguably hit the hardest by Jernigan's departure. The team leader in tackles for loss (11.0) and second in sacks (4.5), he demanded weekly double teams and anchored the defense.
Junior defensive tackle Eddie Goldman will attempt to fill Jernigan's shoes and provide a presence in the middle of the defense.
"I've got to step up," Goldman said. "I've got to lead by example and play with aggression."
Junior pass rusher Mario Edwards Jr. and redshirt sophomore defensive end Chris Casher join Goldman on the defensive line, a unit that must establish itself as a dominant force in the trenches if the Seminoles wish to repeat their success from a year ago.
Edwards, the top defensive recruit in the Rivals.com Class of 2012, stands 6-foot-3, weighs over 300 pounds, runs a 4.8 second 40-yard-dash, and can do a back flip in full pads.
"He's one of the biggest, most explosive, fastest athletes I've ever seen in my life," said Florida State All-American left tackle Cam Erving, who has to face Edwards every day in practice. "It's not normal. I'm not going to see a defensive end with his size, speed, and power until I get to the league."
Senior running back Karlos Williams seconded Erving's evaluation of Edwards.
"Mario is a different beast," Williams said. "He's not supposed to be able to move that fast, no way."
Casher, a former 4-star recruit, is no slouch either.
"A freak athlete," Williams said of Casher. "Guy's strong and fast, it's amazing the power and strength."
Freshmen Rick Leonard, Lorenzo Featherston and Jacob Pugh join Edwards and Casher at the defensive end position, and have impressed the coaching staff during preseason.
"Ricky's big physical, got a knack for pass rush. Lorenzo is so athletic and can run. You think he's light (220 lbs), but he's strong. And Jacob Pugh is doing a heck of a job," head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I've been really pleased."
Redshirt junior Nile Lawrence-Stample will most likely serve as the second defensive tackle for the 'Noles opening game vs. Oklahoma State, but freshmen Fredrick Jones, Arthur Williams, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas are all vying for playing time as well.
"The young guys are amazing," Goldman said. "They're improving every day and I had no idea they made defensive lineman that big and fast."
Florida State will look for Goldman, Edwards and Casher to improve on the trio's combined sack total of 7.5 from a year ago and lead a defense attempting to regain last season's championship form.