NoleGameday

Bold Prediction No. 2: FSU leads the nation in sacks

As we creep closer to the start of the season, we here at NoleGameday are making some early bold predictions for the 2017 season. There are many interesting aspects about this upcoming squad and storylines that we may start to take shape throughout the course of the season. From who leads the team in receiving yards to the state of the backup quarterback unit, let’s take a look at how things might turn out next year.

Last year, Florida State had a fantastic year of rushing the passer. The Seminoles totaled 51 sacks throughout the season (second only to Alabama’s 54) and lead the nation with 3.92 sacks per game.

This was in large part due to the All-American effort put forth by DeMarcus Walker, who was second in the nation in sacks with 16.0. The hybrid defensive end/tackle was a monster on the defensive line, consistently providing penetration and occupying double teams for other players to exploit. His effort was a big reason why Brian Burns led all freshmen with 8.5 sacks, Josh Sweat had a breakout sophomore campaign with 7.0 sacks and Derrick Nnadi had a good year in the interior with 6.0 sacks.

But Walker is gone, drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the NFL Draft.

However, despite his absence, Florida State’s defense could improve as a pass rushing unit in 2017.

The reason?

The return of Derwin James.

Since his freshman year, I’ve been adamant that James is the best pass rusher on the team. One has to go no further than James forklifting Florida offensive tackle Mason Halter in their 2015 matchup to see what I mean.

gif courtesy of @cinefunkmedia

James moonlights as a pass rusher in specific third-down pass rushing packages, as seen by the .gif above. While he’s technically undersized as a pass rusher at 6-3, 211-pounds, his freakish athleticism more than makes up for it. Even as a true freshman, offensive tackles simply could not account for his speed off of the edge. Even when they were able to get a hand on him… well just look what happened to Mason Halter.

Even with the return of James, Florida State still boasts an impressive pass rushing roster. Former five-star recruit Sweat is finally returning to his pre-knee injury form and showed a good staple of moves in the latter half of last season. Burns was deployed in a variety of different ways and still led all freshmen with 8.5 sacks. Nnadi isn’t known as an excellent pass rusher but was still able to get pressure from the interior.

Want some more names? Five-star recruit Joshua Kaindoh enrolled early for spring practice and looks to be an immediate impact off of the edge, along with redshirt freshman Janarius Robinson and redshirt sophomore Jalen Wilkerson. At defensive tackle, Demarcus Christmas is a returning starter and Walvenski Aime, Fred Jones and five-star recruit Marvin Wilson will help shore up the depth chart.

Oh, and that’s not even to mention the various ways that Florida State will deploy guys like Jacob Pugh, Matthew Thomas and Trey Marshall as pass rushers as well.

In short, Florida State’s pass rushing potential is through the roof.

That’s why I will call for Florida State to lead the nation in sacks… and in sacks per game, which they did last season.

Between guys like James, Sweat, Burns and Kaindoh, the Seminoles will have no problem getting to the quarterback. Good luck, everyone else in the nation.

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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