ROOM TO GROW
There is still work for Jared Verse to do at Florida State.
That's good news for the Seminoles, but not something the rest of the ACC wanted to hear -- neither did NFL front offices for that matter.
Projected by many media outlets to be a first-round NFL draft pick, going in the top 10 by CBS and Sports Illustrated, Verse put those professional aspirations on the back burner for one more season in Tallahassee.
It wasn't a decision the Central Columbia grad took lightly, taking two to three weeks after the season to mull over his options. All the while, he had friends sending him mock drafts, and, though tempted, he didn't look at them.
During that stretch, Verse mostly made it a personal decision, not seeking friends' and family's input. He did, however, turn to his parents' advice growing up by going over the pros and cons of staying or leaving Florida State.
"Going pro, I mean, it's pro. It's big money and it's the dream. It's the biggest stage and going against the best talent in the world," Verse said. "I could still use some development, I could use some growth."
Verse feels behind the curve with his edge-rushing peers because he spent much of his time at tight end for the Blue Jays, saying, "Everybody else has the growth on me, and I feel I can still get that and get much further by returning to Florida State."
Keeping his motives secret so opponents can't key in on his strengths and weaknesses, Verse mentions wanting to build on his experience. And don't think for a second that he's going to blame his knee injury that held him out for a game and limited him in a number of others as an excuse.
"[The injury] hampered some things, but I can't put everything on that. It's about preparation and I'm watching film and fixing some things," Verse said. "My main thing is decision-making and adding new moves to my repertoire."
Good luck keeping the man who had the game-ending sack in the Cheez-It Bowl against Oklahoma out of the backfield if everything works out according to plan. In fact, it hasn't worked to this point with Verse recording a team-high 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his first season with the Seminoles after transferring from Albany, where he was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award for the best freshman in the FCS.
He is the biggest returner on defense, but the Seminoles get some big names back on offense with quarterback Jordan Travis, leading rusher Ty Benson and leading receiver Johnny Wilson also foregoing the NFL.
That has some thinking Florida State could be in the running for both the ACC title and a potential New Year's Six Bowl spot. Those returning and the higher expectations played a role in Verse wanting to experience Tallahassee another season.
"[Teammates coming back] was a factor for me. It was about how much fun I had. I never had this much playing football. It's more fun," Verse said. "The NFL is a business. I couldn't give up another year of this."
At the end of the day, his goal is to help himself and the Seminoles finish better than they started.
"Everything on the field, I do at a very good level. I want to do it at the elite level," Verse said. "I want to be the best edge. I want to be the best in the draft."
That's good news for NFL teams having to wait another year. It's even better news for Florida State, looking to crush its competition like a pocket containing Verse.
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