Florida State’s defense finished off 2021 showing major improvement as the season went along. The defense is one of the reasons there is optimism that the Seminoles can return to the postseason this fall.
When you look at the defense, the defensive line is the anchor on that side of the ball and it’s a major reason why experts think FSU makes a bowl in 2022.
Can this unit be the best in the ACC this season?
The conversation has to start with Clemson. They arguably have the most talented defensive line in the country this upcoming season. Bryan Bresee returns from injury, and Myles Murphy and Tyler Davis help form a fantastic interior. Xavier Thomas is back. KJ Henry is a former five-star that is a rotational player for them, and he’s a guy that’s made plays when given the chance. The same can be said about senior Justin Mascoll.
With losses in the back 7 this unit will have to stay healthy, which has been an Achilles heel, and play up to their potential for Clemson’s defense to not feel the loss of Brett Venables.
Pitt had an explosive offense in 2021, but many people forget how good their defense was for their ACC Championship team. Their defensive line has been nasty for years, and this season shouldn’t be any different.
Calijah Kancey is coming off of an All-American season in 2021, and there are SEVEN players inside that look to contribute this season.
They return defensive ends Haba Baldonado and Deslin Alexandre. John Morgan looks like the next man up after a stellar spring.
They return over 30 sacks and 40 tackles for loss in 2022.
That’s what FSU is competing with in the ACC. Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper are as good a starting combo as any, and there is experienced depth with Malcolm Ray, Jarrett Jackson and Joshua Farmer behind them.
What will dictate the success, and ultimate place amongst the best in the ACC, will be the defensive end play.
Losing first round pick Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas are big blows, but we saw some flashes of brilliance from Jared Verse in the spring. Derrick McClendon is primed for a break-out season, and there is a lot of excitement about Patrick Payton. Don't forget about Dennis Briggs either, who was flexed out to defensive end in the spring but can also contribute inside.
If this unit plays up to the performance of last year’s team, this will be an interesting discussion to come back to when the season is over.
Stick with NoleGameday for more coverage of Florida State football throughout the summer.