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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
State of the Noles: Defensive End

By David Hale & Corey Dowlar

When it comes to recruiting, coaches need to be thinking long-term. It's not just about which holes must be filled immediately, but rather where the needs might be in two or three more years.

With that in mind, NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Today, we're looking at one of FSU's most productive positions under Jimbo Fisher: Defensive end.

Current scholarship DEs (6):
Chris Casher (RFr.)
Giorgio Newberry (RSo.)
Mario Edwards Jr. (So.)
Davarez Bryant (Fr.)
Desmond Hollin (Fr.), Demarcus Walker (Fr.)

Mario Edwards, Jr.
Mario Edwards Jr. is on the verge of a dynamic season in 2013.
Potential early departures: Edwards is still a long way from proving himself at the college level, but the former No. 1 overall recruit has the talent, size and pedigree to be a pro prospect by the end of 2013. He can't jump to the NFL until the end of the 2014 season though.

Predicted starters (Hale's pick/Dowlar's pick)
2013: Edwards, Casher (Hale)/Edwards, Newberry (Dowlar)
2014: Edwards, Casher (Hale)/Edwards, Casher (Dowlar)
2015: Walker, Casher (Hale)/Edwards, Casher (Dowlar)

Why they'll start: Edwards appears a lock to join the starting lineup after he stepped in for an injured Cornellius Carradine for the final two games of the 2012 season. It was something of a whirlwind turnaround for the talented pass-rusher. He was originally slated to redshirt, found playing time when Brandon Jenkins went down, and by year's end, he was the foundation for the future at the position.

Edwards certainly has the talent to blossom into an impact player immediately, but with FSU losing three defensive ends who all figure to be selected early in April's NFL draft, there are plenty of other holes to fill.

Edwards figured to redshirt in 2012 because Fisher said the team had ample depth at the position. That won't be the case this time. Edwards and Newberry are the only two D-ends on the roster with anything close to significant experience -- and even that is limited.

Newberry seems the logical choice to get first crack at the other open spot, but the fact that he was passed so quickly by Edwards on last season's depth chart speaks to some of the concerns surrounding Newberry this year. He's got the size and speed to become a solid player, but he simply hasn't developed as quickly as coaches would have liked. Casher had his crack at playing time in 2012, too, but it was an injury that sidelined him. His upside isn't quite the same as Edwards, but he's a legitimate NFL talent. It'll be an interesting battle between Newberry and Casher this spring -- with the decision coming down to how much Casher has progressed without playing time and how much Fisher values Newberry's experience.

Walker and Hollin could find themselves in the mix, too. FSU has had success in the past with junior college transfers at the position, and Hollin hopes to follow in the footsteps of Carradine. But it's Walker, an early enrollee this spring, who could make the biggest impact. Given the lack of experience at the position, he could fight for a job now, but he could also be the heir apparent should Edwards bolt for the NFL after his junior campaign.

Who might FSU add: The Seminoles brought in Bryant and Hollin in the 2013 class to reinforce the position after losing Jenkins, Carradine and Bjoern Werner. With guys like Casher and Edwards already on board, it softened the blow somewhat, and allowed the Seminoles a little flexibility in recruiting.

Looking ahead, Florida State doesn't have any committed defensive ends at the moment. Denzel Ware (Crestview, Fla./Crestview), an ESPN Watch List end, was committed, but with the departure of D.J. Eliot to Kentucky, he's opened it back up.

They're hot after Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), and look to be in pole position for Justin Thornton (Prichard, Ala./Vigor.).

Long-term grade: B. The stockpile of talent already in Tallahassee is both young and impressive, but the lack of experience means there are still questions, and there may not be a lot of margin for error in the short term. The loss of Eliot, who coached the trio of FSU ends heading to the NFL this year, also brings question marks. Still, the 2013 signing class added some much-needed depth, and a strong haul again in 2014 should keep this a position of strength for the next few years.