When head coach Mike Norvell and his staff arrived in Tallahassee late in 2019, the offensive line was in complete disarray while the defensive line lacked consistency and depth from top to bottom. Considering the importance of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles were in quite a predicament.
Over the last two years, the staff has slowly rebuilt each room with a mix of additions from the high school level and transfer portal.
Finally, the offensive line showed clear progress for the first time in at least half of a decade in 2021. When the starting five were healthy, Florida State had success on offense. However, there were multiple games where the Seminoles missed one or multiple starters and the dropoff in performance was noticeable.
Adding depth to shore up the unit for the present while stockpiling talent was a goal this offseason. After signing ten offensive linemen during the 2022 class, it appears that the standard was met. Four of the newcomers are transfers that have started games at other D1 programs; D'Mitri Emmanuel (Charlotte), Kayden Lyles (Wisconsin), Jazston Turnetine (South Carolina, and Bless Harris (Lamar). Emmanuel, Lyles, and Turnetine are all graduate transfers which means they'll be off the books after the fall.
The other six offensive line signees are true freshmen that likely won't contribute this upcoming season. Regardless, this is a group that is ripe with potential as evidenced by Julian Armella and Jaylen Early, who were two of the most highly regarded players in their class. Daughtry Richardson and Kanaya Charlton have been on campus since January while Qae'Shon Sapp and Antavious Woody recently enrolled alongside Armella and Early. There were question marks over Woody's academic status but he took care of business and made it to Tallahassee last week.
On the other side of the ball, Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas were standouts for the Seminoles off of the edge last season. Replacing them will be no easy task but Florida State does return plenty of experience in the middle. Out of the five incoming scholarship additions on the defensive line, former Albany star Jared Verse will have the best opportunity to make a significant impact on the team.
Regardless, like the offensive line, this unit is ready to compete now and over the next few years. Verse was the lone transfer that the Seminoles brought in but they also signed four true freshmen; defensive end Aaron Hester, defensive tackle Bishop Thomas, defensive tackle Daniel Lyons, and defensive tackle Ayobami Tifase. That's not even counting true freshman defensive lineman Dante Anderson, who joined the program as a preferred walk-on and will likely be put on scholarship in the near future.
A year of development will only benefit Hester, Thomas, Lyons, and Tifase throughout their careers as they learn under experienced veterans. The Seminoles return four interior defensive linemen who will soak up the bulk of snaps this fall in Robert Cooper, Fabien Lovett, Jarrett Jackson and Malcolm Ray. Joshua Farmer could also work his way into the rotation. Off the edge, Verse and redshirt sophomore Derrick McClendon are in a position to be starters. Dennis Briggs and Patrick Payton will see their fair share of playing time as well.
In total, Florida State is bringing in 15 scholarship players on the offensive and defensive lines. Five of those are transfers while the other ten signed with the Seminoles out of high school.
There's been an uptick in the staff's urgency to rebuild the trenches in all three of head coach Mike Norvell's classes thus far. In the 2020 transition class, the Seminoles signed eight total linemen. That number increased to 11 in 2021 before jumping up another four spots to 15 in 2022. It reflects the commitment that the program has made to flipping the roster.
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