TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State entered the season with arguably the best tandem of pass rushers in the nation.
Brandon Jenkins, a senior preseason All-American, and Bjoern Werner, a junior wunderkind from Berlin, were expected to dominate opposing offensive lines on their way to first-round selections in April’s NFL Draft. A little more than two months into the season, those expectations have come true, though not in the way anyone expected them to — at least anyone outside of FSU’s locker room.
“It’s not only me and Brandon, it’s me, Tank [Carradine] and Brandon,” Werner said in the offseason when asked about teaming with Jenkins.
“Tank’s playing on a level that’s just amazing; for him to be called a backup is just crazy because he’s as good as me and Brandon. All three of us know that, and it’s going to a three-way sack [race].”
Just one game into the season, that point was seriously tested when Jenkins sustained a Lisfranc injury that ended his senior season and forced FSU to turn to Carradine to be his replacement. Carradine has not missed a beat.
Through eight games, Carradine and Werner are tied for fifth nationally with eight sacks each, by far the most by any tandem of pass rushers in the country.
“Brandon was a leader. I had big shoes to fill, but I feel that I’m hanging in there, I feel like I’m getting the job done,” Carradine said. “I still feel like there’s more I can do to help the team, but as the season goes on I feel I’m progressing as far as, like, technique-wise. And then knowing assignments and being able to make plays, I feel like I’m helping out a lot.”
That’s an understatement.
Despite losing their most established player on defense, the Seminoles still rank second nationally in total defense and second against the run. The FSU defensive line has earned its distinction as one of the deepest in the country. In fact, Carradine and Werner have been so effective in getting after the quarterback that offensive linemen have begun using any means necessary to stop them.
Seminoles fans are quick to point out the rash of uncalled holding penalties against Werner and Carradine this season. Last week, the entire officiating crew from Florida State’s victory over Miami was given letters of reprimand by the ACC.
“During timeouts and like commercial breaks and stuff there’s ways you can talk to the refs, just say, hey, this guy’s holding me, can you look out for this. …,” Carradine said.
He admits it’s rare to actually get the call.
“Uh ... not really; I got like one in the N.C. State game, but not really,” Carradine said.
So far this season, a handful of jersey has been all that has kept Carradine from clawing his way past offensive linemen and up NFL Draft boards.
“I haven’t really been paying too much attention, but you hear about it from the guys and friends who keep up with you,” said Carradine, when asked about his draft stock. “But I try not to pay too much attention. I just hope that it is going up, I just hope that I’m doing enough to prove myself to the scouts and everyone that I can perform at the next level as well.”
So far, so good. After playing his entire career on the left side of the line, Carradine has settled in on the right and is devouring opposing lines at a rate of one sack per game. While Carradine said switching sides still feels a little unnatural to him, it certainly hasn’t looked that way on film.
“Yeah, I’m starting to get used to it now,” Carradine said. “Rushing the left is easy, but I’m adjusting to it; I feel like I’m making things happen over on the right. I’m holding it down for Brandon.”