FSU Tries to Replace Pass Rushing Production of Johnson, Thomas

Photo courtesy of Florida State athletics

For 2021, Florida State had the pleasure of utilizing the services of defensive end transfers Jermaine Johnson II and Keir Thomas.

Those two went on to have a combined total of 112 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. However, both defensive linemen have exceeded their eligibility and moved on to the NFL with Johnson being drafted with the No. 26 overall selection by the New York Jets and Thomas signing an undrafted free agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams.

With those two large voids, many are left wondering how FSU will create pressure in 2022. As it currently stands, the Seminoles have nine scholarship defensive ends on their roster:

•Leonard Warner III, RS Sr.

•Dennis Briggs Jr, RS Jr. (hybrid DE/DT)

•Derrick McLendon II, RS Soph.

•Jared Verse, RS Soph.

•Patrick Payton, RS Fr.

•George Wilson, RS Fr.

•Byron Turner Jr, RS Fr.

•Shambre Jackson, RS Fr. (hybrid DE/DT)

•Aaron Hester, Fr.

Who Stands Out?

With that said, Derrick McLendon II is the only returning Florida State defensive end who recorded a sack last season (3.5 sacks). McLendon has been one of the most consistent defensive end options during Florida State’s spring practices. He even expressed an intense level of confidence.

“Honestly, I feel like I am the best defensive end coming out this year,” he told reporters in March.

However, the talk of Florida State’s offseason was centered around the acquisition of Albany transfer and redshirt sophomore defensive end Jared Verse. Verse was a first-team All-CAA selection and an FCS All-American during the 2021 season. He finished the year with 53 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

Verse has a workable 6-foot-4 and 251-pound frame. But the question still remains: Can his skill set translate to the FBS level?

Florida State redshirt junior Dennis Briggs Jr. could also bring value to a position room searching for consistent play. But he inherits a durability issue considering the fact that he suffered a season-ending lower body injury against Louisville last September.

The coaching staff expects him to serve as a successor to Thomas at the FOX position. There, Briggs would be utilized as a stand-up edge rusher, drop into coverage at times as well as help out on run stunts inside. He will likely slide inside on third-down opportunities.

Will Florida State see production out of redshirt senior Leonard Warner III? A former blue-chip prospect, Warner is in his sixth season with the Seminoles and also coming off a season-ending injury. There are plenty other question marks like redshirt freshmen Patrick Payton, who is up to 247 pounds and George Wilson, who is still trying to add weight.

Byron Turner Jr. is also coming off a season-ending injury. Shambre Jackson, on the other hand, could be used in a defensive end/tackle hybrid role. True freshman Aaron Hester could also be in the mix. While all unknown, FSU desperately needs someone to step up.


Overall, there is potential at the position group. But can the Seminoles bolster a collective effort in terms of sack production when they have to play the following quarterbacks during the 2022 season:

  • Jayden Daniels/Myles Brennan (LSU)
  • Malik Cunningham (Louisville)
  • Phil Jurkovec (Boston College)
  • Sam Hartman (Wake Forest)
  • Devin Leary (NC State)
  • Tyler Van Dyke (Miami)
  • Anthony Richardson (Florida)

Who do you believe will have the best statistical season from the defensive end position for the Seminoles? Let us know in the comments section.