Florida State defensive line takes spotlight

April, 4, 2013
4/04/13
3:30
PM ET

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State defensive end Giorgio Newberry walked into the room, cradling his black playbook, and sat down on a folding chair.

By the looks of it, the book should have made a monstrous thud when he went to put it down. Newberry placed the book gently on the floor, though, and laughed when he was innocuously asked, "So that playbook is bigger than your old one, huh?"

The new book, a huge three-ringed binder stuffed full, features more blitzes, and some new assignments for players used to the old way of doing things. While the Seminoles will remain a 4-3 base defense, they are going to be using all of their players in different ways.

That means a guy like Newberry -- all 6-foot-6 inches and 273 pounds of him -- will be dropping back into pass coverage on occasion as he transitions to play the jack position, an end/linebacker mashup.

And no, Newberry has never actually covered anybody in the pass game before.

"It’s pretty fun actually, getting an opportunity to run in space, show my athleticism off," Newberry said recently. "I have the speed for a big guy. I have a lot of range. I’m pretty long and tall so that should help me, too. I’ll still be rushing sometimes but it’s almost like I’ll be rushing, dropping, rushing dropping even though I’ll be rushing still."

Newberry is not the only defensive lineman in the spotlight this spring. They all are, as questions persist about how the Seminoles are going to look up front with starters Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine, Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud gone. The good news is a wealth of experienced players return.

Coach Jimbo Fisher consulted his stat sheet to prove it. He starts with tackles Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister, who were more productive than Dawkins and McCloud. End Mario Edwards Jr. started at the end of the season; Newberry has game experience; Jacobbi McDaniel is back; Eddie Goldman has been "coming on like wildfire"; and expectations are high for Chris Casher.

"They still have to prove it, but from we still feel very comfortable that we can be very physical and very dominating up front. Very strong," Fisher said.

To that end, players like Newberry and Jernigan are preparing themselves for breakout seasons in this new defensive style that first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brought with him from Alabama.

"This," Newberry says, "is a killer defense."

How good can it be once everybody learns the entire system?

"Our defense is going to be just as good as last year, if not better," Newberry said. "Because we have a new system, people are younger and we have more people."

Jernigan chimed in later with his own take: "As far as stats go, I feel like this will be my biggest year. I feel like I’m going to have a very good year this year.

"I’ve been preparing, I’ve been working very hard in the weight room, in the classroom making sure I have no extra stress. Then the style of the defense, we’re a little more aggressive up front and that’s the way I like to play. I like the physicality, I like to get off the ball, hurry up and get my hands on the blockers. I think that’s going to help, we’re going to be attacking a lot more."

Attacking from all over the field, in fact. Florida State has a deep history and tradition to uphold defensively, especially after ranking No. 2 in the nation in defense last year. The only team ahead was Alabama, and now the Noles have the Tide's former defensive coordinator.

Fisher, however, wanted to be sure to emphasize the Noles are keeping much of what they did in the past in place, even though it seems they may be radically changing. Alabama does run a 3-4 base. Florida State will not. Simply put: There will be a few new twists -- OK a lot more twists -- in the playbook, sorta like sprucing up the garden for spring.

"We're a 4-3 team," he said. "If you go back and look last year, we were about 25 percent 3-4 last year. If you go back and watch Alabama’s film, there’s only about 8-to-10 3-4 snaps a game. They might not have been as much 3-4 as we were a year ago. Believe that or not. You may stand a guy up to create a mismatch, we did that with Bjoern and Tank and Brandon (Jenkins) all the time. We were a bunch of 3-4. Perception’s not always reality."

That may end up being the perfect description for this defensive line in 2013.

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