Florida State wrapped up its spring on a high note with the Garnet and Gold game. After a solid month where the defense seemed to take a step up from last year, we were fortunate to see some new plays contribute to what Adam Fuller is trying to do on the defensive side of the ball.
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There was a lot of competition at all levels of defence, something we hadn’t seen for a few seasons. Let’s take a look at what the defense might look like as we head into fall camp.
- Derrick McClendon
- Patrick Payton
- Jared Verse
- Dante Anderson
We’ll get to Verse here soon, but Derrick McClendon had spring camp himself and was arguably the second-best defensive lineman of all time. McClendon arrived motivated and ready to take his place. After playing a reserve role for the past two seasons, he is now firmly entrenched as a starter.
Patrick Payton has been an alluring prospect since arriving on campus. The transformation he has seen with his body will allow him to be a force on the outside. Many believe he’s the team’s most natural passing thrower – he’ll play a ton in 2022.
Jared Verse is listed here because it will be moved to both sides.
Dante Anderson was a highly regarded rookie who signed up early as a walk-on. Anderson is similar to Payton in that he came to FSU needing to add weight but also having a knack for reaching the setter. Anderson would be better served as a redshirt this coming season, but he’s also shown he’s going to be better than your normal walk-on.
Defensive end (FOX):
- Jared Verse
- Denis Briggs
- Leonard Warner
- Byron Turner Jr.
- Aaron Hester
It will be a hotly contested battle as we head into the fall. One on hand you have the Spring breakout player in Jared Verse. It was flat dominant. More than anything, his average streak was a pleasant surprise for the staff. On the other hand, you have Dennis Briggs. Briggs was playing indoors in 2021 and had a phenomenal season before getting injured. I think it’s more of a 1a and 1b situation.
Leonard Warner has seen time with the first team but he will only play a reserve role. Turner Jr. is a player coaches really like and thinks he can play meaningful minutes after battling injuries in 2021.
FSU is in an ideal situation for Aaron Hester to redshirt in 2022. He was a forgotten rookie after committing early in the process. It flashed at times and has more juice than expected.
- Fabien Lovett
- Jarrett Jackson
- Joshua Farmer
Getting Lovett back was a coup for the coaching staff. He is expected to play at the All-Conference level in 2022. Spring was just the affirmation of that.
Jackson took a step forward – FSU’s interior line will be one of the best in the ACC. Jackson’s consistency has improved this spring, which bodes well for a consistent threat.
Farmer was one of the players who showed great potential in the spring. He has made an extremely impressive change to his body and it looks like he will be a force going forward. This spring, his play showed that FSU has three capable bodies here.
- Robert Cooper
- Malcolm Ray
There may not be a better 1-2 combo to the nose in the ACC. Cooper’s run-jamming ability is elite, and Ray can go after the setter. FSU is more than fine here.
- Tatum Bethune
- DJ Lundy
- Stephen Dix Jr.
Although we haven’t seen Bethune in the spring game, he’s firmly locked in as a starter here. He has quickly become a leader in defense and he brings a wealth of experience to this group. Getting Bethune out of the gate and into the spring was important for the coaches because the linebacker was a huge concern.
DJ Lundy has lost weight, which has helped his mobility. He is the best run-stuffer in this unit – his instincts are excellent and he goes down with determination. He’s looking better in the passing game after being a liability in 2021.
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If Dix Jr. can continue to improve, he will be part of the rotation. After playing early in the freshman year, Dix peaked in terms of development. It has been a solid spring for Stephen but he takes third place with the arrival of Bethune.
Weak Side Linebacker:
- Kalen DeLoach
- Amari Gainer
- Omar Graham Jr.
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Kalen was one of FSU’s best players this spring, building on an impressive 2021. Bethune and Deloach battled for the top linebacker spot, and it’s clear FSU has a super strong starting duo for 2022.
Amari Gainer is a bit of an enigma. Athletically one of the best on the list, he couldn’t settle into a permanent role under Adam Fuller. With the other linebackers expected to play, gaining after the setter might be something we see moving forward.
Graham Jr. will play in 2022. He’s an intriguing player for the future.
- Fox Green
- Azareye’h Thomas
- Kevin Knowles
It was something of a rebirth for Green. He came to FSU as a highly touted corner, playing as a freshman and even starting at the end of the season. Over the past two seasons, he’s gotten himself to safety while battling injuries. The word in Tour of Duty was how awesome Green has been, and that carried over into the spring. He is healthy and it shows. Along with Omarion Cooper, Green has been the most consistent corner in spring camp.
Thomas is an exciting player to watch. Yes, he’s a freshman, and yes some thought he was going to be a safety, but he had flashes of dominance in the spring. He will play a lot in 2022.
- Omarion Cooper
- Sam McCall
- Demorie Tate
- Jarrien Jones
We predicted that Cooper would be the best defensive back on the roster after the spring and it came to fruition. It’s not out of the question to see Green and Cooper freaking out, but Cooper is the bigger of the two. In today’s game of going the short side, you have a good cover guy who is aggressive in the running game at Cooper.
Sam McCall, another freshman, is a freak athlete. He is tall and lanky and has elite speed. It lived up to five-star billing this spring and took its place on the depth chart.
The arrival of Demorie Tate is a huge victory for the defense. He is healthy and confident. They need it to continue through the summer.
- Kevin Knowles
- Vance greedy
- Travis Jay
Knowles spent a lot of time as an outside corner in the spring as Fuller and Woodson played with a lot of different combinations. In the spirit of having your best players on the court, nickel Knowles is adapting as he played here in 2021.
Greedy Vance had a very slow start to spring but came on once he felt comfortable. Vance is another guy who saw time in the outside corner. It has a lot of versatility but we will plug it here after spring.
Travis Jay continues to be an enigma. He was dropped and sits in third place on all possible depth charts.
- Akeem’s Tooth
- Sidney Williams
- Travis Jay
- Shyheim Brown
The recurring theme throughout the spring is that FSU has skills in back defense, and Dent is right behind Cooper as the best overall on the roster. Simply put, Akeem has been extremely impressive this spring and it looks like he’s going to have a monster season this fall.
Sidney Williams can play both safety positions. It is filled as a starter, a luxury for this unit, and will play a ton.
The same can be said for Brown. Brown can play both safety zones and has been very impressive this spring.
- Jamie Robinson
- Shyim Brown
- Jarques McClellion
Robinson is fun to watch. He is very good and he talks a lot. He’s the alpha of the high school backend – we’re expecting another All-ACC-like season from him.
McClellion understands defense and as a member of the upper class, he is a respected leader on defense.
Stick with NoleGameday for more Florida State football coverage this offseason.
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