FSU in search of next great defensive end

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The face of Florida State's defensive line will change this fall, as the Noles' lost last season's top defensive end, Everette Brown, early to the NFL, and the coaching staff is expecting to hear within a day or two whether Kevin McNeil, who is listed as a starting defensive end on the preseason depth chart, will be cleared academically.

While the interior line is deep and strong, the end positions are a question mark, though Markus White is the clear front-runner to take over for Brown on the right end.

"They're going to look for the guy who can make all the sacks," White said of FSU fans. "They're going to look for the standout guy. That's what they're used to. There's always been a dominant defensive end. Now that Everette's gone, who's the dominant guy? I want to step into that role, but only time will tell."

The Saturday scrimmages will help, and so will Wednesday's practice, which will be the first day in pads, but defensive ends coach Jody Allen said the defensive line won't be "near as talented" as it was last year without Brown, but that White has the intangibles it takes to be an aggressive end.

"He plays football with a very mobile and hostile attitude," Allen said. "He's got a good motor, and he plays hard, and he plays mean. He's a super person, but on the field he's a football player."

Allen said maybe one player can't replace Brown, but if he gets a collective effort from four players, the ends might be better as a group than they were last year. Everett Dawkins, Jamar Jackson, Brandon Jenkins, Dan Hicks, Craig Yarborough, and Toshmon Stevens are all candidates to help.

"The interior looks real good but our outside, they have the talent they just need to learn," White said. "They need somebody to learn from. The coach can only do so much, but as a player I can help them, too."

"He looks great," defensive tackle Budd Thacker said. "His confidence level is definitely way up there, I promise you that. He'll hustle, he gets to the football all the time. He knows the playbook front and back, and that's what we need."

Thacker said the unit's goal is to get more pressure on the quarterbacks, get the ball out of his hands, cause some more picks and get some more sacks. FSU had the best pass defense in the ACC last year, but only had nine interceptions. The only ACC team with fewer picks was Miami with a measly four. With Brown in the lineup, FSU led the ACC with 39 total sacks.

White said he's been working on two primary counteraction new moves this summer to help him keep those sack numbers high.

"Last year we had Everette Brown and he would always get pressure on the quarterbacks even if it wasn't sacks, but I got too much pressure and not enough sacks," White said. "This year instead of getting pressure I want to get to the quarterback, get past the guy, be able to grab him and tackle him."

If he does, White just might be the Noles' next "dominant defensive end."