Florida State cruised to an easy 69-3 victory over Murray State in Week 1, but the win came at a heavy price. Senior defensive end Brandon Jenkins suffered a season-ending foot injury, which is a huge blow to one of the nation’s best defenses.
In his first three seasons in Tallahassee, Jenkins recorded 21.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for a loss. He also forced two fumbles and registered 116 tackles.
Even though Florida State has depth on the defensive line, losing a player of Jenkins’ caliber will hurt its chances of making a run at the national title. And it's the second departure on the Seminoles' defense, as Greg Reid was dismissed from the team in the preseason.
Junior Bjoern Werner is an underrated performer on one side of the line, and he will be forced to pickup more of the pass rush the rest of the season. Werner had five tackles for a loss and four sacks in Saturday’s victory over Murray State. With Jenkins out, look for Werner to see more attention from opposing offensive lines the rest of the year.
While losing Jenkins doesn’t eliminate or knock out Florida State from the national title picture, it definitely hurts its chances. The Seminoles still have one of college football’s top defenses, but with an offense that’s finding its footing, the defense needs to carry this team early in the year.
Werner is clearly locked into one spot, but the other end position will be watched closely the rest of the season. The Seminoles listed redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry as Jenkins’ backup for the opener against Murray State, but senior Cornellius Carradine is expected to slide into the starting role. Newberry ranked as one of the top 100 prospects coming out of high school and recorded two tackles in the opener. Carradine was a huge junior college recruit and played in all 13 contests last year, registering 38 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Considering it usually takes a year for junior college recruits to adjust to FBS play, Carradine’s performance in 2011 was impressive. And he continued to build on that performance with nine tackles and one sack in the season opener against Murray State. Carradine could be an All-ACC player for Florida State this season, but the Seminoles should be concerned about the depth.
With Carradine sliding into a starting role, senior Toshmon Stevens and true freshman Mario Edwards Jr. will have to see a few more snaps each week. Edwards was one of the top recruits in the country and was expected to redshirt before Jenkins’ injury. Although Edwards is talented, it may take him a couple of weeks to get acclimated to FBS play.
Even though Florida State is equipped to handle the loss of Jenkins, an injury to Werner or Carradine would be devastating.
Jenkins has a redshirt season available, so he could return to the team in 2013. However, he was expected to be a top defensive prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft and may not decide to return to Tallahassee.
Jenkins was one of the nation’s top returning defenders, as he ranked as Athlon’s No. 9 defensive end for 2012 and the No. 6 overall player in the ACC. He was also a third-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2012 and a first-team All-ACC selection.
by Steven Lassan
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