FSU’s Josh Sweat Taking On Increased Leadership Role

    FSU defensive end Josh Sweat is expected be a big part of the team's success in 2017. The Seminoles are hoping to return to the top of the ACC.

    March 21, 2017

    FSU defensive end Josh Sweat is expected be a big part of the team’s success in 2017. The Seminoles are hoping to return to the top of the ACC.

    Florida State returned to spring practice on Monday after a 10-day break, holding its fourth of 15 practices before the team’s annual spring game on April 8 at Doak Campbell Stadium. Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher is preparing his team for the first scrimmage of the spring, which is scheduled to take place next Monday.

    Josh Sweat will be one of the focal points of the team not just throughout these 15 practices but during the entire 2017 college football season, as the defensive end is being depended upon to pick up some more of the line’s pass-rushing slack with Demarcus Walker gone.

    Walker ranked second in the nation with 16.5 sacks as a senior last season, so Sweat is looking forward to the challenge of being the team’s top pass-rush specialist. He also knows that he needs to be more of a presence as a leader for a squad that has College Football Playoff aspirations in ’17.

    The Seminoles had a bit of a disappointing 2016 campaign, getting blown out by eventual Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson and Louisville before getting knocked out of the CFP race rather early in the season following a home loss to UNC. The ‘Noles played eventual ACC Atlantic division champion Clemson tough, but the Tigers once again became king of the conference on their way to their first national championship since 1981.

    Fisher’s squad could have packed it in, but it didn’t. The ‘Noles managed to win 10 games, including the Orange Bowl over Michigan. However, Sweat is not about to let another early season stumble tarnish what could be a big upcoming season for the ‘Noles.

    When spring camp opened less than two weeks ago, Sweat wanted to immediately give maximum effort to send a clear message.

    “We lost by a little bit, [and] sometimes a lot, but when it really mattered, we didn’t pull through,” Sweat said of the Seminoles’ 10-3 ’16 season. “Some of the bad habits started in practice. It’s easier to say it, but we need to work on some of those things.”

    FSU certainly felt the void of star safety Derwin James throughout the year, as he was lost very early in the season and didn’t play another down. But Sweat is taking it upon himself to make sure the defensive line plays its best as Charles Kelly’s defense looks for a bounce back season.

    The ‘Noles don’t lack for talent up front, as sophomore Brian Burns and early enrollee true freshman Joshua Kaindoh are former five-star talents just like Sweat. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Wilkerson and redshirt freshman Janarius Robinson are also getting a chance to prove themselves this spring.

    Sweat dealt with a meniscus injury last season but finished with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in his last three games. On the year, had 7.0 sacks in 10 starts. He is nursing a surgically repaired finger this spring but is expected to be 100 percent and ready for his expanded role in the new season.

    “To be honest, if it doesn’t go well in our group, I don’t think we can get it done this year,” Sweat said. [I’ve] got to move up to that leadership role.”

    Sweat also knows that maximum effort will be needed at all times, especially after he and linebacker Matthew Thomas were caught jogging behind a crucial play in the loss to UNC last fall. Fisher wanted to make sure all of his players were dedicated to max effort this time around, so he assigned players one of three jerseys based on their performance in various offseason drills. An orange one meant that the individual loafed at the previous session. It meant that you were essentially a marked man in the eyes of his teammates and coaches. The gimmick came after a season in which Fisher had players sign promise letters to give more effort after the team suffered two losses in its first five games.

    FSU finished last season in strong fashion. But, again, Sweat and Co. want to make sure a slow start never happens again.

    “I came out here the first day and started to run out to the ball and everybody just followed,” he said. “Everybody wasn’t doing it at first, and I made sure I was the one doing it. That’s the reason we lost—I’m just going to flat out say it. But everybody gets on the same page when they see it.”

    Sweat has never been the most vocal player, but he can lead by example both on the practice field and on game day. And that body language alone should help improve a unit that it too talented to once again underachieve.

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