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Just days separate us from the start of spring practice for Florida State as the Seminoles look to put their worst season in more than four decades behind them.
Despite a strong start to the 2018 campaign, the FSU defense allowed more points per game than at any other time in program history. Under second-year defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, the Seminoles will definitely look to improve.
As the spring gets underway, here are five defensive players to watch for Florida State:
1. Xavier Peters, DE
With Brian Burns off early to the NFL, Florida State will have to find a way to get pressure on opposing passers in 2019. Burns accounted for 10 of FSU’s 28 total sacks last season and no other player had more than 3.5. Perhaps best equipped to take on that role will be redshirt freshman Xavier Peters. The Cincinnati-area native is relentless off the edge and possesses speed and athleticism similar to Burns’. Peters flirted with the transfer portal this offseason, but ultimately decided to return after totaling just a tackle and a pass break-up in two games last season.
2. Joshua Kaindoh, DE
As mentioned with Peters, Florida State desperately need to find a way to get production from its defensive ends with Brian Burns off to the NFL. Although he’s more of a strongside defensive end, Kaindoh has the athleticism and versatility to be a force if he ever puts it all together for the Seminoles. A former 5-star prospect, Kaindoh finished with three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss last season. Barnett and the FSU defense desperately needs the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Kaindoh to take a considerable leap as a junior.
3. Robert Cooper, DT
With veterans like Demarcus Christmas and Fred Jones having graduated, Florida State will be looking for a defensive tackle to start next to junior Marvin Wilson. Many would consider Cory Durden the early favorite, but don’t sleep on sophomore Robert Cooper. Cooper arrived at FSU pushing 400 pounds, but has reportedly shed some bad weight and is expected to make a bigger impact in 2019. Cooper will be used primarily as a run stuffer, but already athletic for his size, a slimmed down Cooper could be much more of an every-down player.
4. Asante Samuel, CB
As a true freshman in 2018, Asante Samuel Jr. had an inconsistent year, but showed real signs of promise. Although he’ll have to fight his way into a starting role, he showed real toughness and led the team with nine pass break-ups. The Seminoles are deep at the position, but veterans like Kyle Meyers haven’t been real consistent while others like Levonta Taylor, Carlos Becker and Isaiah Bolden are all coming off nagging injuries.
5. Akeem Dent, CB
The highest-rated member of Florida State’s 2019 class, Akeem Dent will arrive as an early enrollee hoping to make an impact. Dent is the brother of walk-on wide receiver Adarius Dent and is in many ways, similar to Levonta Taylor when it comes to style and demeanor. With a number of FSU corners coming off injuries, Dent could see a lot of reps during the spring and is expected to make an immediate impact in 2019.