In the coming weeks, the Osceola staff will take a look at each Florida State position group. Next up: Defensive tackles.
2021 stats: Robert Cooper (39 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks), Fabien Lovett (28 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks), Malcolm Ray (24 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), Jarrett Jackson (16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks), Dennis Briggs Jr. (6 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss), Joshua Farmer (one tackle), Tru Thompson (1 tackle, 0.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks).
2022 projected defensive tackles: Cooper, Lovett, Briggs Jr., Ray, Jackson, Farmer and Shambre Jackson plus signees Daniel Lyons and Bishop Thomas.
Departure: Thompson entered the transfer portal in December.
State of the DT room: Experienced and deep, especially if Lovett opts to return. (Underclassmen have until Jan. 17 to announce their NFL Draft decision, with a full list here.) Cooper has been good against the run and his decision to return next season strengthens the group. FSU’s most consistent position groups last fall on defense were the ends and tackles, and it would appear the interior linemen would be in a good spot to take another step forward in 2022. Lovett saw considerably more playing time in year 2 at FSU, displayed leadership in encouraging coaches to start Ray at UNC and doubled his tackle total from 2020 to ’21 (14 to 28). Briggs was lost for the season with a leg injury after just four games due to a chop block, but he has shown his energy and could also be used as an edge rusher. Ray played in 10 games and gained needed experience, notably in the win at UNC (a start in which he recorded a season-best four tackles). Jackson has had a quiet few seasons at FSU, but he had four tackles in the win over UMass. Farmer didn’t get much playing time but has added weight and shown to be a hard worker.
The new guys: Daniel Lyons and Bishop Thomas signed with FSU in December and are enrolling early. Lyons accumulated 58 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and six sacks in 10 games as a senior in 2021. Thomas made 37 tackles and 7 tackles for loss as a junior. Typically, defensive tackles aren’t leaned on heavily as true freshmen as Odell Haggins has a good rotation of veterans. There are some exceptions as Timmy Jernigan had 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2011 but tackles like Eddie Goldman (eight tackles in 2012), Derrick Nnadi (18 tackles in 2014) and Marvin Wilson (seven tackles in 2017) were primarily backups as they developed their technique.
Shopping in the transfer portal: It depends on Lovett’s decision. Unless a difference-maker becomes available, it’s not likely with the amount of depth FSU has as it’s not a priority compared to defensive end or linebacker.
Final thoughts: If Lovett does come back, all of the 2021 starters will be returning: Cooper started 10 games, Lovett started nine games, Briggs and Ray started two and Jackson started one. The group appears to be in good shape from the standpoint of experience and depth, although Lovett’s decision will impact how we feel about the outlook for 2022.