Dennis Briggs will miss the rest of the season after suffering an undisclosed injury, coach Mike Norvell announced on Monday. Briggs left the Louisville game when he was chop blocked, but he later returned.
“Unfortunately he’ll not be able to play the rest of the season,” Norvell said. “Really, just, the growth that I got to see from him throughout the early part of the year and the work he put into the offseason, especially the play it happened on, is just something that he showed tremendous toughness coming in and playing the rest of the game. Excited about what Dennis’ future holds and what he means to this team.”
Briggs had six tackles and two quarterback hurries for FSU, but the stats didn’t really reflect how much he could impact plays and allow linebackers as well as others around him to make plays.
It was Briggs who returned to the team in the middle of October 2020, helping play significant snaps and contributing to FSU’s upset of UNC.
FSU will lean on starters Robert Cooper and Fabien Lovett at defensive tackle while continuing to develop younger linemen. Jarrett Jackson, Malcolm Ray and Joshua Farmer are among the backups. The Seminoles also have used Keir Thomas on the inside, often on third downs.
“It’s really next man up inside,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “Fabien has been playing well, Coop has been playing well, Jarrett Jackson got more snaps last week, and we need to continue that development. Then Malcolm Ray, who didn’t play last week but should be available this week, is somebody that’s made probably the most growth. But just like anything if you’re six and two guys are out, you become fourth real fast. The expectations of what that position needs to do when he’s in there doesn’t change, even though the jersey number may.”
Depth charts for FSU and UNC can be found here.
Fuller said the Seminoles missed 10 tackles. Norvell said it amounted to about 130 yards for Syracuse’s offense. In what was a tight game, one in which FSU could have had well under control, the yards accumulated after contact and points added up for the Orange.
One that the coaches frequently referenced was by Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader, who broke a would-be tackle by Jermaine Johnson at the line of scrimmage and ran 55 yards for a touchdown. A drive later, Syracuse had four plays of 10+ yards — including a 16-yard run by Shrader — to score a second touchdown.
“The number of missed tackles showed up on really a handful of plays,” Norvell said. “A lot of that came down to tracking issues. Their quarterback was a big, tough guy to handle in some situations and still just things we work every day when it comes to tracking and making sure we put ourselves in the best position to have success. Looking at this season, we have been a much better tackling team as a whole. In the open field. Now, those things, about 130 yards of offense that were produced off of missed tackles. That has to get corrected. It was really limited plays where we didn’t tackle very well. But those are the ones that are going to hurt you. We came back yesterday and it’s still the same process of growth when it comes to fundamentals.”
Shrader later had a 32-yard run in the third quarter to set up a touchdown, and he added a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter on a drive that allowed the Orange to tie the game at 30 with a field goal. To Fuller, the defense must see tackling improve to limit chunk plays and keep opponents fighting for first downs.
“You tackle well, you get off the field on third down, you stop them in the red zone, you make them kick field goals,” Fuller said. “You don’t give up explosives. We can do that.”
The return of Maurice Smith, not as a starter but as a center who was able to play significant snaps, made a difference up front for FSU on Saturday. FSU started, from left, Darius Washington, Dillan Gibbons, Baveon Johnson, Devontay Love-Taylor and Robert Scott.
It was the second straight week that line has started after four consecutive weeks of different lineups. The Seminoles are limited in the number of experienced linemen who are healthy, which is a relative term in week 5 of a college football season as most linemen are battling some ailments.
“It was really good,” Norvell said. “Baveon has battled, he’s been battling through some ailments physically as well. We knew he was going to be available Friday, and totally confirmed that Saturday in pre-game. … I think Maurice did a very nice job for the opportunities that he had. That’s going to allow us to continue to grow and build that continuity that we had. Still managing guys that are getting their bodies right, a lot of adversity has faced that group through the early part of the season. But they’re working hard at it and it’s good to get Maurice back in the swing of it.”