Wally Aime and Florida State’s coaches were on the same page. A position change made the most sense for Aime and the Seminoles.
FSU is loaded with talented defensive tackles, one of the deepest positions on the team in 2018. But defensive end is a different story, with the Seminoles losing Josh Sweat and Jalen Wilkerson as early entries to the NFL Draft.
“The coaches have seen that I have the athletic ability to go out there and play in space,” said Aime, a former Olympic Heights High standout. “I’m glad they have seen that and I can capitalize on the opportunity.”
The move could pay off for the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Aime. The redshirt senior has 35 tackles, four quarterback hurries and has also blocked a pair of extra-point attempts in his two seasons at FSU (he transferred after playing one season and missing another due to injury at a junior college in Kansas).
FSU has a speedy edge rusher in junior Brian Burns, who had 48 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season. But coaches are looking for another defensive end on the other side of the line, a run-stopper who can also pressure the passer. Aime has by far the most experience of the backups who are now in position to fight for starting jobs this fall.
“He’s a bigger guy, first and foremost,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “He’s a little more athletic than you think he would be. For a guy that played for the most part to the strength of the opposing team’s offense, he’s a guy we think can get out there and dominate.”
Aime discussed the move in January with assistant Odell Haggins, who coaches FSU’s defensive tackles. It’s also a selfless decision, changing positions for his final college season as he attempts to help the Seminoles while also potentially making himself more visible for NFL teams.
So far, Aime says he is happy with the decision and enjoys his new position. He can see the improvement each day in practice and is beginning to feel more comfortable at defensive end, where he will often face tight ends instead of a double-team when he was at defensive tackle.
“Playing D-tackle, you have to do things a lot quicker,” Aime said. “Defensive end, it’s more of a transition time. You have more ability to work in space, and get off the ball and build up to what you have to do.”
What Aime has done so far is show his athleticism and ability to wrap up running backs. He also prepared in the offseason by watching film of one of the NFL’s most dominant pass rushers.
“I watch a lot of J.J. Watt film,” Aime said of the Houston Texans’ star. “I see the way he gets off (at the snap) and the way he uses his power. I would say I’m similar to him in height, weight, strength and power, so I try to emulate him as best I can.”
Nobody at FSU is expecting Aime to produce like Watt. But Aime’s dedication to film study and hard work on the practice field has shown in the first week of FSU’s spring practices.
New defensive ends coach Mark Snyder has also been a frequent voice in his ear, encouraging Aime and refining his pass-rush skills.
“Coach Snyder plays to your strengths and your abilities,” Aime said. “I commend him for that. Obviously I may not be as quick as Brian Burns but I feel like I can contribute to this team with my power and my intelligence. He helps me maximize my abilities.”