Fall Depth Chart Projections: Defense

After releasing our first fall depth chart projections for the offense on Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the defense today. Florida State’s defense is set to look slightly different schematic-wise with Mike Norvell and new defensive coordinator Adam Fuller taking over in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are switching over to a hybrid 4-3 look compared to the mainly 3-4 scheme they used under former defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett

That means we’ll see at least a few changes position-wise for a couple of guys across the roster. Fuller’s scheme should be particularly interesting due to the hybrid positions he employs at all three levels of the defense; Fox defensive end, Stud linebacker, and Buck safety. Though the unit has underperformed in recent seasons, there is still a ton of talent on this defense. Fuller, and other additions such as defensive ends coach John Papuchis, linebackers coach Chris Marve, and defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson, along with veteran defensive line coach Odell Haggins, will be tasked with getting the defense back amongst college football’s elite.

NoleGameday takes a shot at projecting the starting unit and rotation as fall camp inches close. As with the offense, this list is subject to change throughout camp, especially with the little live-action Florida State was able to have in the spring.

Fox Defensive End:

1. Janarius Robinson

2. Dennis Briggs

The Fox is a defensive end/linebacker position that changes depending on the package or situation. This will require the defensive ends at this spot to be set, stand up, and also drop into coverage. Basically, athleticism and versatility will be key to finding playing time. Redshirt senior Janarius Robinson is one of the more athletic ends on the defensive front and one of his main strengths is his play against the run. Robinson has improved his pass-rush steadily throughout his career and would be a steady option.

Briggs is listed as a defensive tackle but has gotten most of his playing time at defensive end during his career so far. He’s flashed potential in backup duty over his first two seasons in garnet and gold, which should only continue in 2020. Redshirt freshmen Derrick McLendon and Curtis Fann could also get some time here.

Defensive/Nose Tackle:

1. Marvin Wilson

2. Robert Cooper

Star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson surprised most of the experts around the country when he elected to return to Florida State for his senior season. He could fit in at either spot on the interior of the defense but it makes sense to pair Wilson with Cory Durden in the starting lineup, so the Seminoles have their two strongest defensive linemen sharing the field. Regardless, junior Robert Cooper will see plenty of snaps, creating a potential three-headed-monster on the defensive line.

Wilson is expected by many to be the most talented defensive tackle in college next.

Defensive Tackle:

1. Cory Durden

2. Fabien Lovett/Tru Thompson

After starting 12 games in 2019 and drawing NFL interest, Durden should only improve with another year under Haggins. The talent in the rotation should allow FSU to keep its defensive linemen fresh. Tru Thompson has reshaped his body during the offseason and will have a role at DT. Touted Mississippi State transfer Fabien Lovett is expected to receive a waiver for immediate eligibility, if he does, Lovett will also be a factor on the defensive line. Depending on the futures of Durden and Cooper, Lovett could be in line to start in 2021.

Elsewhere, Louisville transfer Jarrett Jackson and redshirt freshman Malcolm Ray are two other guys in a crowded room battling for snaps.

Defensive End:

1. Joshua Kaindoh

2. Quashon Fuller

Joshua Kaindoh was on pace for a breakout junior season before being injured in just the third game of 2019. He redshirted the season and retains two years of eligibility as we enter 2020. The potential is there for the 6-foot-7 defensive end to develop into a star but it’ll rely on him staying healthy. The staff will also need to build depth behind Kaindoh.

Fuller redshirted last year and has spent the offseason developing his frame for the college level. Some other names to look for here are true freshman early enrollee Josh Griffis and redshirt freshman Jamarcus Chatman. Griffis, in particular, is a guy some other ‘Noles have gushed about so far.

Stud Linebacker:

1. Amari Gainer

2. Kalen DeLoach

The Stud is a spot with linebacker and safety hybrid elements. Though redshirt sophomore linebacker Amari Gainer (up to 231 pounds) can slot in at multiple positions on the defense, starting him at Stud gives Florida State the luxury of fielding the best 11 overall players on the unit. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get snaps across the different linebacker spots and at the Fox. DeLoach has the skillset to be an athletic, roaming outside linebacker. He’s an interesting option.

Depending on how position battles shake out at other spots, Jaiden Lars-Woodbey is a name who could start at Stud. Sophomore safety Brendan Gant could fit in here as well.

Mike Linebacker:

1. Emmett Rice

2. Leonard Warner

Rice has stepped up as a leader over the offseason with his work ethic and he’s finally fully healthy after a couple of injuries over his career. He’s put on at least 15 pounds and has the size as well as physicality to step up at middle linebacker. If he can dodge the injury bug, Rice is in for a big year. Warner has struggled with consistency throughout his time in Tallahassee but can still be a reliable option off of the bench.

Redshirt freshman Kevon Glenn will likely battle for snaps here as well. He’s another hard-nosed backer.

Will Linebacker:

1. Jaleel McRae

2. Stephen Dix Jr

McRae had high expectations coming out of high school when he signed with FSU and he’s in the position to start living up to them as he enters his sophomore year. He’s bulked up over the offseason thanks to strength and conditioning coordinator Josh Storms and is fully bought into the new staff.

Early enrollee Stephen Dix Jr. is another guy whose frame has completely changed since he arrived in Tallahassee. He came into FSU at 210 pounds and just six months later weighs 235 pounds. It’s not bad weight either, folks. He’s going to be fun to watch and could play middle linebacker as well.

A couple of other names to look out for are true freshmen DJ Lundy and Jayion McCluster. They both bring a ton of talent to the linebacking corps and will raise the level of competition. The linebackers are one of the bigger unknowns on the defense and the battles for playing time will be fierce. Chris Marve demands a lot out of his group.


1. Asante Samuel Jr

2. Akeem Dent

Samuel will assuredly lock down one of the starting cornerback spots on defense as he’s begun to develop into a lock-down CB. This is the year where he has to take the next step in his development. Luckily, he doesn’t shy away from contact and can help stop the run to aid his work in pass-coverage. With Akeem Dent fully healthy following an ankle injury in the spring, the sophomore will probably compete with grad-transfer Meiko Dotson for the other starting cornerback spot.

If he loses out, Dent will still get plenty of playing time. Depending on the situation, FSU will shift in a nickel defense (five defensive backs), getting Samuel, Dotson, and Dent on the field together creates a nasty tandem.

Jarvis Brownlee and Carlos Becker will also be fighting to be apart of the rotation at corner.


1. Meiko Dotson

2. Isaiah Bolden/Demorie Tate

Florida Atlantic grad-transfer Meiko Dotson committed to FSU in February and it was quite a gift for the Seminoles. Dotson led the nation in interceptions a season ago and brings advanced cover-skills to Tallahassee. He has solid footwork and understands the importance of turning his head in coverage rather than playing blind.

Bolden was promising as a reserve last year and made the first start of his career in the Sun Bowl. True freshman Demorie Tate was the top-recruit in #Tribe20 and will be in the mix. Renardo Green also flashed some upside during limited snaps in 2019.

Buck/Weak-Side Safety:

1. Jaiden Lars-Woodbey

2. Brendan Gant/Travis Jay

This hybrid position will require the flexibility to work in pass-coverage and aid with stopping the run. Lars-Woodbey, back at defensive back, is up to 223-pounds and back fully healthy after a knee injury. His blend of physicality and athleticism makes for a tantalizing fit at Buck safety. Gant is a guy we also mentioned at Stud, as his game is flexible enough to fit multiple positions. He’s an athletic, hard-hitting safety.

The wildcard is Travis Jay, who also can play anywhere in the defensive backfield. Jay has an interesting skill set for the staff to work with.

Strong Safety:

1. Hamsah Nasirildeen

2. Raymond Woodie III/Cyrus Fagan

Another guy who is working back after an injury is senior safety Hamsah Nasirildeen. He’s been extremely reliable throughout his career and that shouldn’t change in 2020. He’s got an NFL future if he can stay injury-free. The depth behind him is the question mark. Fagan is what he is at this point in his career. Woodie showed some potential as a true freshman a season ago and will compete to be a member of the rotation. There’s also the question of where Mississippi State transfer Jarrian Jones will fit in if he gets a waiver for immediate eligibility.

One thing’s for sure, the combination of talented defensive backs that Florida State can put on the field has got to make Fuller and Woodson happy.

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