Since Mark Stoops took over as Florida State’s defensive coordinator two years ago, the ‘Noles defense has recorded a combined 89 sacks—the best in the country in that span.
Aside from Stoops’ new scheme, the biggest reason that the Seminoles have turned up the heat on opposing quarterbacks is the dominant play of their defensive end unit.
Part of the optimism surrounding Jimbo Fisher’s ballclub heading into 2012 is because of his dynamic pass-rushing duo of senior Brandon Jenkins and junior Bjoern Werner. The pair of elite edge rushers has combined for 32 sacks (Jenkins 21.5, Werner 10.5) and more than 50 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Jenkins and Werner boast resumes strong enough for each to be considered as possible first-round draft choices in the 2013 NFL draft. However, does that mean they are the nation’s top tandem of defensive ends?
Noted college football scribe Phil Steele rated FSU’s defensive line as the nation’s best, largely because of the defensive ends unit.
A few teams, such as LSU, Texas and South Carolina, may have compelling arguments to make similar claims. All four tandems combined to record at least 14 sacks and more 20 tackles for loss in 2011, and each school boasts a pair of defensive ends that NFL scouts are drooling over.
South Carolina lost Melvin Ingram to the NFL, but the Gamecocks boast a freakish pair in senior Devin Taylor and sophomore Jadeveon Clowney.
The Longhorns' duo of senior Alex Okafor and junior Jackson Jeffcoat helped keep the Texas defense among the nation’s elite, despite the transition in defensive coordinators from Will Muschamp to Manny Diaz.
LSU juniors Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo powered a Tigers defense that was instrumental in shutting down three teams that won BCS bowls last season.
Coincidentally, all four of these teams have a great chance to begin the season ranked high, possibly in the top 10 for each program.
The difference that could help settle the debate in FSU’s favor is the backups to Jenkins and Werner.
Senior Tank Carradine (who recorded five-and-a-half sacks and eight tackles for loss last season) and uber-recruit Mario Edwards Jr.—the nation’s top prep defensive end in the class of 2012—help assure that FSU keeps all of their pass rushers fresh.
With all four groups possessing the talent and production necessary to make a valid declaration for that title, Seminoles fans can take comfort in the fact that this is the first time since the days of Reinard Wilson and Peter Boulware that their defensive ends are among the nation’s elite.