When Florida State lost its most productive defensive player, senior end DeMarcus Walker, from last season, there were those who figured it would be a costly blow to the Seminoles’ defensive front. Walker was a relentless force last season, racking up 16 sacks en route to being drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round.
While Walker was an impact player, Florida State’s defensive line actually might be stronger in his absence.
Defensive ends Josh Sweat and Brian Burns certainly look the part, and they should become one of the most feared pass-rush tandems in the country. Sweat and Burns combined for 18.5 sacks in 2016 — Burns had 9.5, the most of any freshman in the nation — and will be expected to increase that number this season.
Sweat, a former five-star prospect from Chesapeake, Va., is a junior who will be expected to take on the leadership role Walker embraced.
First, he has to continue to shake the lazy tag that many have placed on him. Sweat made great strides toward shaking the label at the end of last season. In the final three games of 2016, he had 18 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Fans finally saw a glimpse of what he could be and won’t expect anything less than a continued improvement this season.
Burns, a former four-star prospect from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was expected by many to redshirt as a true freshman to add weight and bulk. He was listed at 6 feet 5 and 222 pounds on National Signing Day. But Burns didn’t redshirt, and instead used his speed to his advantage. Burns’ sack total was most by a freshman for FSU since Ron Simmons in 1977.
Burns, like Sweat, knows he will be relied upon heavily this season to produce, and all reports indicate he has fully embraced the expectations. If the duo can stay healthy, expect FSU’s defensive line to return to its ferocious status of years past.
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