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Derrick Nnadi is the next great FSU Defensive Tackle

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It’s first down and ten.

Derrick Nnadi is matched up one-on-one versus the center. As soon as the ball is snapped, Nnadi has his hands on the center. Using he left arm, Nnadi drives the center backwards, his sheer strength overpowering the hopeless player. Back and back they go until Nnadi nearly pushes the center right into his quarterback’s lap. Nnadi disengages with the block and wraps up the hapless quarterback.

Sacked.

Derrick Nnadi was perhaps the most underrated player on Florida State’s defense last season. A sophomore out of Virginia, Nnadi started all 13 games for Florida State this season and finished with 45 tackles and two sacks. While players like DeMarcus Walker and Derwin James got more national coverage for their big-play ability, Nnadi quietly had a very dominant season for the Seminoles in the interior of the defensive line.

Much like former Florida State star and current Baltimore Raven Timmy Jernigan, Nnadi’s best trait as a defensive tackle is his lower body strength. He is basically unmovable along the defensive line. Nnadi has such a firm base that interior offensive linemen have a very difficult task in moving him. In the play below, Nnadi is double teamed by two Boston College linemen, but still splits the double team and makes a stop on the running back.

On a similar play, the South Florida offense is faced with a third and short versus the Florida State defense. Normally, a simple handoff to star running back Marlon Mack would easily give the Bulls offense a first down, but not in this case. Nnadi has a great initial push, but then disengages with the block and uses his strength to drag Mack back to prevent a first down.

But while Nnadi is without a doubt a dominant run stopper, he still has to develop as a pass rusher. He was only credited with two sacks in 2015, but often provided a helpful push in the interior while outside rushers such as DeMarcus Walker, Josh Sweat and Derwin James cleaned up the sack. Part of his lack of production as a pass rusher stems from his lack of pass rushing moves. Nnadi has an incredible bull rush ability, stemming from his powerful lower body, but could stand to improve the use of his hands on pass rushing situations.

On the play below, Nnadi uses his power to initially drive the Clemson center back into the quarterback. But then he uses his right arm to rip and disengage from the center and get the easy sack on Deshaun Watson.

In the play below (as described in the introduction above), Nnadi uses his power to drive the Boston College center all the way back into the quarterback. Nnadi gets leverage on the center, pushes him back, and wraps up the quarterback for the sack on first down.

Nnadi’s presence in the interior of the defensive line will be especially important if Florida State is to make a run at the playoffs in 2016. While he will be joined by blue-chip players such as Demarcus Christmas and Walvenski Aime, Nnadi will be counted on to be the playmaker.

If we can take anything away from the Garnet and Gold spring game, it’s that Nnadi should be even better in his junior year. Nnadi was simply unstoppable against the Gold offensive line and most likely would have had two or three sacks if the quarterbacks were live. He showcased a better use of his hands on pass rushing situations and showed some promise of being the interior pass rusher that Florida State has lacked for the past couple of seasons.

As Derrick Nnadi prepares to enter his junior season, he will presumably draw interest from NFL Draft analysts. The 2017 draft projects to have a weak defensive tackle class, which means that Nnadi will have every opportunity to prove himself as the best interior player in the class, should he decide to declare early. While Walker and James will undoubtedly draw more national attention as the 2016 season approaches, Nnadi has a chance to put his name in contention with other great Florida State defensive tackles such as Darnell Docket, Timmy Jernigan, and Eddie Goldman.

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.



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