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Florida State Defensive Preview: This Will Be Tough

Florida State's defense returns eight starters from its national championship season. The burning questions though lie at the feet of the linebacking core. Returning only one starter, the chances for Oklahoma State to succeed will rely on their play.

Terrance Smith tackles an Auburn player in the 2014 BCS National Championship game.
Terrance Smith tackles an Auburn player in the 2014 BCS National Championship game.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Florida State recruits well. The Seminoles recruit very well. They have a national brand that puts them into the list of top schools in the country in any recruits' mind based on name recognition alone. Why does all this matter for their defense. They reload. They lost some, but they have guys just as good waiting in the wings.

The biggest attrition came at the linebacking postion, Terrance Smith returns at the Mike linebacker, and will command the defense as he did with the 2013 squad. The junior made 59 tackles a year ago, 34 of them solo. Smith averaged almost 5 tackles a game, which isn't much compare to many others at his position. Part of the reason that Smith didn't have as heavy of a load at linebacker was due to the mammoth defensive line that the Seminoles had last season. A line that saw star Timmy Jernigan leave for the NFL, but they return star defensive tackle and end Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards.

Edwards and Goldman were two of the best players out of their recruiting class back in 2012, and now they are becoming exactly what most thought they would be. Absolute monsters up front. Allowing only 3.26 yards per carry this last year, the Seminoles will be ready to put up similar numbers again, starting with the Cowboys.

The Cowboy offensive line is one of the big mysteries of the 2014 season. With a new offensive line coach in Bob Connelly and new names starting on the line, its play will be pivotal against a seasoned group of All-American and All-ACC potential defensive lineman.

The Seminole secondary is one of the best in the country. A mix of elite speed and exceptional size, make for a tough day on the Cowboy receivers, and newly announced starting quarterback J.W. Walsh. The FSU secondary average a height and weight of 6 feet and 200 pounds.

So the question is, where can the Cowboys exploit this tough defense? The answer will lie in the middle of the field. It is going to take speed and toughness to be able to weather the storm. The players that will need to step up are pretty obvious, but nevertheless, J.W. Walsh, Tyreek Hill, and Marcel Ateman. The first two have been the main topics of discussion since National Signing Day, but Ateman may be the surprise of the entire game, and for that matter the entire Cowboy season.

Ateman is the one player on the team right now with lots of game experience and has the size to not be pushed around by the physical secondary of the Seminoles. The 6'4'' receiver should see plenty of balls go his way, and if completed, should stretch the defense out enough horizontally, for Walsh, Hill and company to make quick plays over the middle.

There are no shortage of questions for this matchup but for now, the Cowboys looked outmatched. Hopefully that will be different come Saturday night, but on paper, this will be tough.

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