FSU football: Emergence of Emmett Rice bright spot for ‘Noles defense

FSU football has had sup-bar linebacker play the past few years. Junior Emmett Rice was bright spot for ‘Noles defense.

FSU football went into the 2019 season with some experience at the linebacker position in senior Dontavious Jackson and junior Leonard Warner III.

There wasn’t a lot of experience behind those players, but the old regime did a good job of bringing in some talented linebackers in the 2019 recruiting class.

It’s a position group that largely has been unimpressive since Telvin Smith and Terrance Smith went on to the NFL.

Despite the Willie Taggart regime bringing in some talented players, it was a player from the Jimbo Fisher era who really shined in the second half of the season in junior Emmett Rice.

Rice was was three-star signee in the 2016 class who’s battled a ton of injuries which hindered his development, particularly the ability to put on some much needed size.

He played in all 12 games as a freshman in 2016 mostly on special teams and played in all 13 games in a similar role in 2017. Rice finished those two season combined with 26 total tackles before redshirting in 2018 after playing in four games.

The 2019 season saw him really emerge with Dontavious Jackson getting less playing time. He finished the season with a career high 72 tackles (4.5 tackles for loss) which equated to just over five tackles per game.

That doesn’t tell the entire story as 56 of those tackles (3 tackles for loss) came in the final seven games which bumps that average up to eight tackles per game.

His performance in the Sun Bowl Tuesday earned him the highest grade for FSU defenders according to Pro Football Focus.

Rice is now listed at 6’2′ 220 pounds after weighing less than 200 pounds coming out of high school. With his senior year to go and and an off season of strength and conditioning with Coach Storms, Rice could turn out to be one of the most valuable players on defense in 2020.