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Who will lead Florida State in sacks in 2022?

The Seminoles are replacing their top two pass-rushers from last year.

One of the key components of an elite defense is getting after the quarterback. Florida State ranked 36th in the country last year in total sacks with 33. Half of the sack production was from ACC defensive player of the year defensive end Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas. The two transfers wreaked havoc on opposing signal-callers with Johnson totaling 12 sacks and Thomas reaching 6.5. The dynamic duo will showcase their talents on Sundays which will create opportunities for someone to put their stamp on getting after the QB. 

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The defensive line is viewed as a strength by most with the top guys returning in the interior of the defensive line. On the outside is where there will be more of a question mark due to the top two guys departing, but the upside and talent are there for this unit. Transfer defensive end Jared Verse from Albany is expected to fill the role of Jermaine Johnson. His speed and athleticism have many optimistic about the impact he will have this season. Last year he totaled 10.5 sacks and was a first-team all-conference selection. 

Redshirt junior Dennis Briggs appeared in the first four games last season before a season-ending injury. He has experience playing in the interior but has taken snaps on the outside here at Florida State. He will be asked to fill the Keir Thomas role with his size, and might occasionally move inside in passing situations. 

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One of my potential breakout players this year Derrick McLendon has the tools of being a good pass rusher. As a reserve, he saw action in all 12 games getting to the quarterback 3.5 times. I expect to see him on the field more this season and don’t be surprised if the redshirt sophomore potentially doubles his total from 2021. 

Let’s break down who I believe will have the most sacks this season.  

Redshirt sophomore Jared Verse: 8.5 sacks

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Redshirt sophomore Derrick McLendon: 6.5 sacks

Redshirt junior Dennis Briggs: 4.5 sacks

Redshirt freshman Patrick Payton: 3 sacks

Redshirt junior Fabien Lovett: 2.5 sacks

You can’t replace two NFL players in one season on the defensive line but, if the unit can come together and provide a solid rush collectively, I expect quality results. In my opinion, this will be a better run-stopping unit than pass-rushing, and there may be growing pains early in the season. 

As the year progresses, I believe the pass rush will cultivate and become a favorable group by the end of 2022. A good deal will depend on the new faces Jared Verse, and Payton providing a spark along with Dennis Briggs, and McLendon.   

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