Student Sports/courtesy
With linebacker being one of the main needs for Florida State in the 2019 cycle, 5-star linebacker Nakobe Dean represents one of the main targets on defense for the Seminoles in the months ahead.

Florida State recruiting: Identifying top 2019 target at each defensive position

Stay tuned as Florida State marches on the warpath to the top of the recruiting rankings. Don’t miss the coverage from Sanjay Kirpalani and the DieHards.com team. Read his daily notebooks here at 8:30 a.m. ET Monday through Friday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Seminoles recruiting news.


Needs at DT, LB take focus

Earlier this week, we took a look into which prospects could make up the top options for Florida State coach Willie Taggart on offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles will have a few pressing needs to meet.

Defensive tackle, pass-rushing defensive ends, linebacker and safety are all positions the Seminoles would like to add quality and quantity to in the 2019 cycle.

Which players would make up the top targets at those spots and the other positions on defense?

Let’s try to identify which players could be the main priorities for Taggart and his staff on that side of the ball.

Defensive tackle: Ishmael Sopsher, 5-stars

While the Seminoles loaded up with defensive linemen in the 2018 class, they only signed one true interior prospect in Robert Cooper.

This year, defensive tackle figures to be an important position for the Seminoles. They currently hold a verbal pledge from 3-star Loganville (Ga.) Grayson DT Tru Thompson, but they could be in the market for at least two more players at that spot.

The main priority for Seminoles defensive line coach Odell Haggins is 5-star Amite (La.) DT Ishmael Sopsher.

The 6-foot-5, 279-pound Pelican State standout has already developed a tight bond with Haggins and he was on campus last summer for the Seminoles summer camp.

It will be tough to get him out of LSU’s backyard, but Haggins has a reputation as being one of the nation’s elite defensive line coaches and he’s already struck up a bond with Sopsher that should keep the Seminoles in the thick of his recruitment until he makes a decision.

Defensive end: Kayvon Thibodeaux, 5-stars

The Seminoles 2018 defensive line class featured a trio of thicker defensive ends who figure to be active in setting the edge against the run.

In this cycle, it appears as if the focus will be on edge rushers who are rangy, twitchy athletes who can get after quarterbacks.

While in-state prospects such as 4-star Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons DE Khris Bogle and 4-star Auburndale (Fla.) Senior DE Lloyd Summerall are definitely high on the wish list of coordinator Harlon Barnett, the ultimate prize for he and the rest of the defensive staff is 5-star Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian DE Kayvon Thibodeaux.

The 6-5, 235-pound Golden State pass rusher recorded 99 tackles—including 28 tackles for loss with 20 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal last season, according to MaxPreps.

It’s early, but Florida State is among the remaining 12 schools on Thibodeaux’s list.

Taggart and his staff worked magic in the state of California in the 2018 class and they will certainly try to do so again with Thibodeaux.

Linebacker: Nakobe Dean, 5-stars

With just six scholarship linebackers on the roster for the 2018 season, that position may represent the Seminoles biggest need on defense in the 2019 cycle.

While the argument can be made they will need multiple inside and outside linebackers, it appears as if the greater need might be for a true thumper in the middle of the defense.

With that in mind, 5-star Horn Lake (Miss.) linebacker Nakobe Dean rates as the nation’s top inside linebacker and the No. 24 player overall in the 2019 cycle per 247Sports.

Mississippi isn’t an easy area to pull the state’s top-rated recruit from, but the Seminoles were able to do it in the 2017 cycle with current star running back Cam Akers.

Taggart and his staff are hoping history repeats itself with Dean’s process.

Cornerback: Andrew Booth, 4-stars

Florida State signed four defensive backs in the 2018 class and three of them are projected to play corner.

Additionally, the Seminoles currently hold a pledge from 5-star West Palm Beach (Fla.) Palm Beach Central CB Akeem Dent — who rates as the nation’s top-ranked corner in the 2019 class.

Keeping him committed as schools such as Alabama and Miami try to flip him will be among the main goals for Barnett and the defensive staff in the months ahead.

However, there are a handful of other players the Seminoles will covet as cornerback is one position where the program has consistently developed talent over the years.

One top option the Seminoles would love to pair with Dent is 4-star Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer corner Andrew Booth.

The 6-0, 183-pound Peach State defender rates as the nation’s No. 4 corner and the No. 45 player overall in the 2019 class per 247Sports. He was present earlier in February for the Seminoles junior day event and he appears to be a player that will be heavily pursued by the staff moving forward.

Safety: Jaylen McCollough, 4-stars

Speaking of Georgia defensive backs the Seminoles covet, another top priority for the staff will be 4-star Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove safety Jaylen McCollough.

The safety spot figures to take priority with defensive back recruiting in this cycle since the Seminoles loaded up at cornerback in the 2018 class — although the practice of cross-training defensive backs is likely to continue under the new staff.

McCollough is a 6-1, 190-pound defender who 247Sports rates as the nation’s No. 4 safety and the No. 75 player overall in the 2019 class.

He has the type of range and athleticism to be a force in Barnett’s defense.

Alabama appears to be the top competition in McCollough’s recruitment at this stage, but the Seminoles are hoping to regain the momentum with him. That process will begin with getting him to return to Tallahassee soon.

Assuming that happens, the Seminoles could be in a good spot with him because of their need at the position.

Miss a previous edition? Find every daily Florida State DieHards recruiting notebooks right here.