After the Raiders’ rookie minicamp, the team thought highly enough of three prospects to offer them three-year contracts. One of those players was former Florida State DE Chris Casher.
Despite sitting out his senior year of high school due to eligibility restrictions, Casher was a top-30 national recruit and one of the crown jewels of the Seminoles’ recruiting class that included future first overall pick Jameis Winston. The duo would become roommates at FSU, and eventually go on to win the 2014 National Championship.
For most athletes, a National Championship would denote a highly successful collegiate career, but that wasn’t necessarily the case with Casher. Despite the accolade, his college career was equally defined by drama off the field and a series of significant knee injuries.
He planned to redshirt his first season at FSU, but injuries on the team forced him to step into game action right away. Unfortunately, Casher quickly succumbed to injury, blowing out his knee after just three games.
The following season, he tallied 25 tackles and 2.0 sacks en route to the National Championship win.
In 2014 he didn’t have a huge impact either, racking up a mere 28 tackles and 1.0 sack for an FSU team that went 13-1 and losing in record fashion to the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl.
Casher’s final season at FSU in 2015 was marred by injury once more, and after just eight games, he had to have arthroscopic knee surgery.
In addition to never getting fully healthy during his time as Seminole, the Mobile, Alabama native also often found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons. He found himself reading apology statements and facing suspension for incidents involving himself and Jameis Winston more than once and was ultimately dropped from the team altogether in 2015 for an alleged poor academic standing.
For his final season of college eligibility, Casher enrolled in Faulkner University of the NAIA, where he was determined to prove he had matured both on and off the field. Faulkner’s coach Charlie Boren told the Montgomery Advertiser that Casher “didn’t come in with an attitude of ‘look who I am’.” Casher led the team in sacks (8.5), tackles for loss (14.5) and tackles (60).
Bench: 22 Reps
Vertical: 30 1/2”
Broad Jump: 8’10”
**All testing numbers taken from South Alabama’s Pro Day and made available by www.NFLDraftScout.com
Stats (Florida State)
2015 – 6 GP, 8 TKL, 0.5 TFL, 0 SCK
2014 – 12 GP, 28 TKL, 3.5 TFL, 1.0 SCK
2013 – 10 GP, 25 TKL, 5.0 TFL, 2.0 SCK
Casher’s pedigree and potential coming out of high school was clearly high. Ideally he would’ve stayed healthy, grown up faster and been Myles Garrett two years before anybody had ever heard of Myles Garrett. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
It appears he found peace of mind during his time at Faulkner though, and became more focused than ever on his goal of becoming a professional athlete.
If he has put the trouble behind him and his body is healthy, that could be a scary combination for NFL quarterbacks. It was never a question of ability with Casher, but simply whether or not he could harness his energy properly and maintain his health.
At 6-4, 265 pounds, he has prototypical size for an edge rusher in the pros. He got through an entire season at Faulkner without sustaining any major injuries, so the Raiders will hope that his knees are fully recovered and ready for an NFL workload.
In the high-flying ACC, Casher couldn’t stay on the field. For the two seasons he did manage to play 10 games, his production was average at best. He never managed to live up to his five-star pedigree during his collegiate career.
He put up somewhat pedestrian numbers at Florida State, not breaking out until he joined the NAIA, against lower level competition putting up 60 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
He also got into regular trouble off the field during his time at FSU, often with Jameis Winston. He and Winston were briefly detained in 2012 after they were observed walking along a trail with a black gun, according to AL.com. It turned out they were “squirrel hunting,” with a pellet gun. Rather than learn from the incident, Casher and Winston went on to have a pellet gun fight in an apartment complex that same day, breaking 13 windows, which they would later pay for.
Casher was also present during the night from which Winston’s infamous rape charges would stem. Casher burst into the room and created a recording of the encounter, which is prohibited in the FSU student code of conduct, and would later issue a public apology.
In 2015, AL.com reported that Casher had been kicked off the team for academic reasons, citing a source. The Montgomery Advertiser article that praised Casher’s resurgence in 2016 also stated that he “had his share of academic struggles.”
What he brings to the Raiders
Casher had his two best seasons at Florida State under Raiders linebackers coach, Sal Sunseri, who was the Seminoles’ defensive line coach in 2013-14. So, Sunseri knows the player the Raiders getting with Casher and in turn Casher has a familiar face on the Raiders’ coaching staff.
Casher has a one-year-old daughter Sariah who is an inspiration for him and he also no longer needs to worry about the challenges of a college classroom on top of his football studies and preparation.
Now he will enter a new classroom, where the textbooks are 10 times as large and the projector screens never stop flowing with new information. The courses will have names like Film Study 101 and Playbook Memorization 220A.
Five years ago all indications were that Casher wouldn’t have been ready for such a challenge. In that regard, his experience the past five years may have better prepared him for what lies ahead.
Editor’s note: Levi Damien contributed to this article. Also, Montgomery Adviser has been corrected to Montgomery Advertiser.