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Position Previews: FSU has one of the country’s best defensive lines

From top to bottom, tackle to edge, the Seminoles’ defensive line depth is solid and should only take a step forward from last year.

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

For all the positions that Florida State has been so closely aligned with over the years for success in the collegiate and professional ranks, the defensive line has had more than its fair share of glory and production.

While that success faltered a bit in the Seminoles’ recent down years, it never fully nosedived — and now, heading into 2023, Florida State once again can stake claim to one of the country’s best lineups in the trenches.

Homegrown talent and transfer portal infusions define FSU’s roster, but perhaps nowhere more than on the line where Florida State fields the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as a future first round pick — and that’s just on the edge.

From top to bottom, tackle to edge, the Seminoles’ defensive line depth is solid and should only take a step forward from last year.

Florida State Seminoles football: Defensive line

Main name to know

Jared Verse, defensive end

The breakout star of the 2022 season, Verse lived up the hype in his first year with Florida State, putting up production from the jump and elevating the play of the entire defense — even when he was partially hampered by a minor injury. He is especially dominant in the pass rush game, logging nine sacks over the course of the season (tied for No. 8 in the country), a trait that was on full display throughout the year.

Verse was a popular projected first-round pick but still chose to return to Tallahassee for 2023, betting on himself and his team to reach new heights.

From PFF:

Verse likely would’ve been a top-20 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft if he declared. Instead, he returns to Tallahassee as the best edge defender in college football. His 24.4% pass-rush win rate last season was fourth among Power Five edge defenders while his 10 tackles for loss/no gain tied for sixth.

Returning players

Defensive tackles

  • Redshirt senior Fabian Lovett

Lovett’s presence was missed for a bulk of FSU’s major games last season, as the redshirt senior struggled to find his way onto the field as he tried get healthy. Returning in 2023 to try and elevate his draft stock and finish off his Tallahassee career on a high note, Lovett has a chance to make some major noise on the defensive line for the Seminoles.

  • Redshirt junior Joshua Farmer

Farmer flirted with the transfer portal this offseason but ultimately decided to return to Florida State — a major win for the Seminoles’ depth in the trenches. In 2022, he had 15 tackles (6 for loss) and two sacks, with his tackles for loss leading all freshmen in the ACC.

  • Redshirt senior Dennis Briggs Jr.

One of the most experienced players on Florida State’s 2023 team, let alone on the defensive line, Briggs Jr. has established himself as a key rotational player in the trenches, having started three games in 2022 and recording 21 tackles (3.5 for loss) and three sacks — a major accomplishment considering his season ending in 2021.

  • Redshirt junior Malcolm Ray

Having made five starts last season (logging 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss two sacks, and one fumble recovery), Ray has accumulated plenty of on-field experience as he enters his fourth year in Tallahassee. He stepped up in a major way with Lovett’s injury struggles — especially when dealing with injuries of his own — and helps solidify FSU’s defensive tackle depth as perhaps the nation’s best.

  • Redshirt freshman Daniel Lyons

Lyons got the chance to earn as much playing time as possible last season, appearing in four games across the season including the Seminoles’ bowl game win over the Oklahoma Sooners. A former four-star product, Lyons will get the chance to prove himself this season if he can fight his way into the rotation.

  • Redshirt freshman Ayobami Tifase

Tifase, who reclassified to enroll as part of Florida State’s 2022 recruiting class, redshirted last season as he worked to acclimate to the collegiate game. He’s got the talent and build to be a contributor this season, but with the depth across the line, he’ll have to take advantage in practice and in any on-field appearances.

Defensive ends

  • Redshirt sophomore Patrick Payton

The 2022 ACC Rookie of the Year, Payton is the ideal complement for Verse this season, the former capable of affecting the game in his own right as teams struggle to deal with the latter. He had 31 tackles (six for loss) and five sacks last season, alongside a forced fumble, and only figures to take a further step forward this season with confidence and experience under his belt.

  • Redshirt sophomore Byron Turner, Jr.

The redshirt sophomore recorded just three tackles last season, but continues to work to find his way onto the field despite the players in front of him. He saw a bit more usage in the late part of the season and entering into his third year in Tallahassee, could establish himself as a depth piece if he can stay healthy.

  • Redshirt freshman Aaron Hester

Hester, who appeared in three games last season while recording three tackles, was unavailable for the spring, putting a damper on hopes of taking a step forward in the rotation this upcoming season. He’ll still have chances, but with the depth around him, he’s going to have to push for playing time.

New faces

Defensive tackles

  • Redshirt senior Braden Fiske

One of the prize snags of the offseason for Florida State, Fiske is expected to step in immediately and contribute — but the main questions surrounding him are his ability to transfer his talents to the Power Five level. Last season at Western Michigan, he recorded 148 tackles (27.5 for loss), 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recovers and blocked a kick. Over the last two years with the Broncos, according to PFF, he had 81 pressures (No. 5 in FBS) and 47 run-defense stops (No. 3).

If he can adjust, then he’ll be able to be key part of what will be one of the best defensive lines in the country.

  • Junior Darrell Jackson Jr.

Another transfer portal addition this offseason, Jackson’s ability to contribute this year is currently in question as his application for a waiver remains in flux. He came over from Miami, where over the course of two years, started 12 games and logged 49 tackles (4.5 for loss) and three sacks. 11 of those starts came last season, where he was one of the few, few, few, few, few, few, few bright spots on the Hurricanes defense.

  • Freshman K.J. Sampson

A four-star recruit in the 2023 signing class, Sampson was considered the No. 29 defensive lineman in the country by 247Sports (No. 24 by On3). An athletic lineman who also played basketball in high school, Sampson will have the chance to get a little burn in some of the easier-to-handle games this season while maintaining a redshirt.

Defensive end

  • Redshirt junior Gilber Edmond

Another major transfer portal addition, Edmond will likely occupy the role left open by now-Colorado Buffaloes defensive end Derrick McLendon II. The South Carolina transfer had 39 tackles (nine for loss) and two sacks last season for the Gamecocks, and is capable of serving in a co-starter role with both Verse and Payton.

  • Redshirt sophomore Jaden Jones

Jones was a diamond-in-the-rough find identified by FSU’s scouting department, a JUCO prospect who started his career with Hutchingson CC in Kansas. Jones has taken extremely well to an enhanced training regimine and has fit in nicely already in offseason work. If his trajectory can continue, chances are good on Jones finding his way onto the field frequently for the Seminoles in 2023.

  • Freshman Lamont Green Jr.

Committed to Florida State since 2021, Green Jr. is a legacy player who came to Tallahassee as a four-star prospect. He’s got a bit of way to go developmentally, but has the tools and foundation needed to complement the work ethic.