Whether it was playing both sides of the ball in high school, dominating in the FCS or staring at an LSU offensive lineman before racking up eight pressures in just his second game at the FBS level, Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse has never been short on confidence.
“The reason I play football is because I love competition,” Verse said. “I love to look at another person and think, ‘All right, you’re in my way, my goal of what I want to do. I’m going to get you out of my way, whether you want to voluntarily move out of the way or you want to get moved.'”
Verse has been doing a lot of people-moving this season. So far, he leads FSU in pass-rushing grade (85.6), sacks (4.5) and total pressures (17). The first-year Nole, but third-year college player, has been on a unique journey that has led him to this point, putting on a show in college football and climbing draft boards.
|Pass-Rush Win %||22.6%||1st|
The now-6-foot-4, 250-pound pass rusher seems like an X-factor in every game he suits up, but he wasn’t always sought after as one. As a player who split time between tight end and defensive end in high school, Verse was hardly recruited by the bigger programs. That seems shocking for a player who not only had reps on both sides of the ball, but a track background, too. As a 6-foot-3, 200-pound high schooler, Verse ran the 100-meter and 200-meter, participated in the high jump and was even part of a state championship 4×100 relay team. If you’re wondering where the speed and explosiveness you see on Saturdays today came from, now you know.
But after all that, he didn’t have a single FBS offer in front of him when his high school senior season wrapped up. However, he did have an opportunity to make his mark with the Albany Great Danes at the FCS level. And he took it — especially since they let him focus on the side of the ball he wanted to play most: defensive end.
“I had a lot of fun scoring touchdowns, but I was really good at blocking, too,” Verse said. “I said this aggression could be used somewhere else. My dad told me I was a defensive end at heart. When Albany offered me, they asked me what I wanted to play, and I said I wanted to play defensive end.
“I just feel like I’m better suited [at defensive end],” Verse said. “I feel like I could use my talents better. I feel like [at defensive end] you can make a lot more plays, a lot bigger plays that affect the game.”
Verse arrived at Albany in 2019 but redshirted his true freshman season. The following year, the Great Danes' season was canceled due to the pandemic, but that didn’t stop Verse from making sure he still improved his game.
Since Verse couldn’t get reps in on the field, he did so at the gym — his home gym. It consisted of one bench, a jump rope and two sets of dumbbells: 120s for the compound lifts and 35s for accessory work. The days were repetitive. For six to seven months, he did the same schedule of workouts: a steady diet of flat, incline and decline bench with heavy leg days and Bulgarian split squats thrown in.
He was also eating more. A lot more. His breakfast, for example, was five eggs, five strips of bacon, two biscuits and cereal, with water, orange juice and milk on top. The results of that consistency were Verse going from 210 to 250 pounds by the start of Albany’s next football season in 2021. And he actually dropped 2% in body fat while doing so.
Verse was on a mission that next season. In his first year as a starter, he was a first-team all-conference selection and an FCS All-American with 11.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. All that led to him being named CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But that was only the beginning for the goals he set for himself.
“When I got to Albany, I was like, ‘All right, I’m still a little dog here. I still have a lot to prove.’ All these dudes here had multiple offers. They had choices of where they wanted to go. I had to prove I was the best of those guys. Once I was able to do that, I entered the portal and I thought, ‘I have to prove I’m not just the best at my school, but the best in the nation.’”
When Verse entered the transfer portal, it was a much different experience than when his initial recruitment. This time around, it felt like he had his pick of the litter. Ultimately, he landed on Florida State. For that, he credits former Seminoles pass-rusher Jermaine Johnson II. He said Johnson was completely genuine with both what he loved and what he didn’t at Florida State. Verse was drawn to that kind of transparency, that realness. He felt the same from head coach Mike Norvell, who didn’t make any crazy promises to Verse, but instead emphasized that every day he would give Verse nothing short of his best as a coach and as a mentor.
Verse was sold.
Seven months later, Verse suited up to face Duquesne, a game where he recorded an elite 91.1 pass-rush grade, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. The following week was against LSU, where he recorded eight pressures, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
|Opponent||Tackles For Loss||Sacks||Pass-Rush Win %||Pass-Rush Grade|
Those were his “I’m here” moments, and since then, it’s been Verse proving that kind of play is a constant rather than a flash in the pan. To do so, he’s been studying up on the best in the game.
“When I first got into college, Jadeveon Clowney was someone who I watched a lot,” Verse said. “I wanted to figure out his quick twitch and how he got off the ball. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve got J.J. Watt and Myles Garrett up there. But recently over the last year, I’ve watched a lot of Maxx Crosby. Just watching that guy play. … He’s so fast off the line, he’s got every move in his bag.”
Verse currently sits at No. 21 on PFF’s 2023 NFL Draft big board as the No. 6 edge rusher in the class. That was right about where he was ranked on the transfer portal list before this season, too. And just like then, he’s looking to prove he’s even better than that ranking — an attitude that has never wavered throughout his unique journey.
“I never really had to prove it to myself,” Verse said. “I came in and thought, ‘OK, I’m not just going to try to lead my team or the ACC, I’m going to lead the country. I’m going to show them and put everyone on notice.'”