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Florida State of Recruiting: Who are the 2022 linebackers you need to know?

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The prototypical measurements are changing.

Wesley Bissainthe

As we formally turn the page to the Class of 2022, we’re ramping up our Florida State of Recruiting series once again. As a reminder, this is meant to be a snapshot in time of the current prospects committed to, trending with, or known to have mutual interest in the Florida State Seminoles football program. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list, so expect to see names added/removed (as needed) throughout the ’22 cycle, including any transfer portal options that may become available. Uncommitted targets aren’t presented in any specific order.

Previous articles:

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles

Tribe ‘22 State of Recruiting: Linebackers

The Committed

None... yet.

The Targets

Demario Tolan: 6’2”, 205 lbs (Orlando, FL)

Tolan holds a rating of 90 (4-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 242nd best player in the nation (9th best ILB and 28th best player in Florida). He has nearly 40 offers and has four official visits set up in June for Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, and Miami. Florida State will fight against programs like Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, and Texas A&M to land his fifth OV, but Tolan has made no secrets about his fondness towards FSU.

Tolan is extremely athletic and shows excellent ability and necessary speed to cover tight ends and wideouts from sideline to sideline (he qualified for districts with a 15.88 sec 110m hurdle time). He flies around the field and arrives at the ball carrier with bad intentions. Seriously, watch his highlights and see how quickly he arrives at the ball. He also plays running back, helping his footwork and diagnosis of which holes to exploit in the line. Perhaps my favorite quality about Tolan, however, is his status as an honors student and his excellent GPA. The son of military veterans, Tolan is an extremely high-character individual who will provide leadership to whichever program he chooses.

EJ Lightsey: 6’2”, 210 lbs (Fitzgerald, GA)

Lightsey holds a rating of 87 (3-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 547th best player in the nation (22nd best ILB and 53rd best player in Georgia). He holds over 20 offers with FSU and Florida thought to be the leaders in his clubhouse. Having loved his time at the spring game, Lightsey is scheduled to take an official visit to Tallahassee on June 11.

Lightsey split time between DE and LB last season and helped lead his team to the state championship game. He shows his 4.5 speed in his highlight package, blazing through traffic to bring down the ball carrier unassisted. Lightsey shows nice ability to diagnose a play and wastes little time or motion in getting to the ball. The fourth play on his highlight reel shows me the most, though- he misses the tackle twice because he tries using his arms alone but refuses to give up, finally finishing the job on the third attempt.

Mekhi Mason: 6’1”, 220 lbs (Opa Locka, FL)

Mason holds a rating of 84 (3-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 951st best player in the nation (32nd best ILB and 127th best player in Florida). He holds 15 offers and FSU finds itself among his leaders along with Indiana, Syracuse, and West Virginia.

Mason shoots gaps well and doesn’t rely on arm tackling. He shows good closing speed through traffic and can diagnose plays quickly. He loves contact and fights through blocks. I’m not sure whether his offer is committable at this time but FSU will remain in contact with him and push for an OV.

Wesley Bissainthe: 6’1”, 200 lbs (Miami, FL)

Bissainthe holds a rating of 95 (4-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 113th best player in the nation (7th best OLB and 14th best player in Florida). Holding nearly 30 offers, Bissainthe is shaping up to be a good ol’ fashioned FSU-Miami recruiting battle with Penn State as a dark horse. He has an OV set for June 18 in Tallahassee.

I haven’t been shy when talking about Bissainthe as my favorite LB in this cycle. I feel he is the definition of the new prototypical LB that needs to be as strong in coverage as they are in run defense. Last year he was named a MaxPreps Junior All-American and Miami Herald 8A-6A All-Dade first-team selection. Bissainthe regularly has bigger blockers and linemen thrown at him, yet he fights through and gets to the ball. He has excellent play diagnosis and a high football IQ- his coaches have stated he is mature beyond his years and he became a starter (and a leader) at Miami Central as a sophomore. Outstanding in coverage with top-notch instincts. Also plays varsity basketball. Just watch his highlights and see what I mean. This kid is a stud!

Daniel Martin: 6’2”, 195 lbs (Marietta, GA)

Martin holds a rating of 94 (4-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 144th best player in the nation (12th best OLB and 16th best player in Georgia). Nearing 20 offers, Clemson, LSU, Georgia, and Vanderbilt are among Martin’s top choices alongside the ‘Noles. He visited for the spring game and FSU will push for an OV during the season.

Martin plays LB, DB, and WR for his high school. He is very athletic and his background at DB will help him greatly as he diagnoses plays and covers tight ends at the OLB position, where he translates best in college. He is committed to play in the All-American Bowl and tallied 896 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 51 catches along with 43 tackles and three sacks last season. Just watch the first highlight from his sophomore season to see how he can annihilate a ball carrier...

Omar Graham, Jr.: 6’2”, 225 lbs (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

Graham holds a rating of 86 (3-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 575th best player in the nation (38th best OLB and 76th best player in Florida). Graham holds over 40 offers and has an official visit set for FSU on June 11. As of now, his other OVs include Auburn, Penn State, and Miami, with Michigan in strong position for his 5th.

Another excellent example of the shifting LB prototype, Graham got experience at LB and rush end during his shortened 2020 season. It should be noted he has a 4.2 GPA and that intelligence carries over to the football field in his ability to diagnose plays and take proper angles. He’s a slippery and quick-footed rusher who can get to the ball carrier in a hurry and shows good coverage ability. He’s still a work in progress like every other prospect on this list but there’s a whole lot to like about this young man.

Jaron Willis: 6’2”, 220 lbs (Leesburg, GA)

Willis holds a rating of 93 (4-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 150th best player in the nation (13th best OLB and 17th best player in Georgia). Willis committed to Georgia Tech over FSU a few weeks ago but still plans on taking official visits, likely including a trip to Tallahassee, so the ‘Noles aren’t out of it quite yet.

Willis played most of his snaps at safety for his high school this past season, which was the primary selling point Georgia Tech used to land his commitment (despite many, myself included, believing that Willis translates best to LB/hybrid at the next level). He doesn’t just tackle the ball carrier, he flat-out destroys the ball carrier. Nice athleticism and a very good ability to cover, he seeks out contact and often wins the battle with the blocker. FSU will keep pushing and try to convince Willis to change his mind.

Devin Smith: 6’2”, 235 lbs (Orange Park, FL)

Smith holds a rating of 86 (3-star) in the 247 Sports Composite ranking and is considered the 681st best player in the nation (45th best OLB and 90th best player in Florida). Smith holds 11 offers right now and his top group consists of UF, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, and Nebraska... but he LOVES Florida State. In my opinion if given the green light, he would commit immediately.

Smith was injured for part of his 2020 season and is somewhere in between the traditional linebacker and the new prototypical linebacker, both of which push him lower down the rankings. In 4 games he accumulated 34 tackles, 2 TFLs, and a sack. He’s very strong and built like a tank, sporting a 335 lb bench press and 485 lb squat, but he isn’t quite as fast as other prospects on the list with a 4.8 40. He’s a violent hitter (watch the first play on his highlights) and shows good form tackling, lowering his shoulder and keeping his eyes up. He is a player FSU will keep in contact with throughout the process.

As always, head over the the Tribe ‘22 Recruiting Thread for more!