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Florida State star defensive end Jared Verse announced Saturday that he is returning to the Seminoles for 2023 after a breakout 2022 season. Verse earned first-team All-ACC honors as a redshirt sophomore in his first season with the Seminoles after transferring from Albany, where he shined after flying under the radar as a high school prospect in the 2019 recruiting class.

Verse ranks No. 11 in the 2023 CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, making him arguably the most high-profile draft prospect this season to spurn the pro ranks in favor of another college season. In a recent mock draft from CBS Sports NFL Draft Expert Ryan Wilson, Verse went at No. 9 overall.

The return of Verse is just the latest bit of good news for No. 13 Florida State, which finished 10-3 in 2022 with a win over Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl under third-year coach Mike Norvell. Verse played a key role in the Seminoles' improvement after a 5-7 campaign as he led the team with 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

Florida State finished the 2022 season ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense and tied for 11th in sacks. It was a significant display of improvement for the Seminoles after they finished 66th in total defense during the 2021 season.

Building a contender

Verse's return is the latest sign that Florida State is building an ACC title contender for the 2023 season as the league scraps its divisional format to instead pit the two teams with the best league records against each other in the ACC Championship Game. The change means the Seminoles will no longer be living in Clemson's shadow as they did for much of the past decade in the ACC Atlantic.

In addition to Verse, star quarterback Jordan Travis is also returning for another season with the Seminoles after he began to master Norvell's offense in 2022. With key playmakers like running back Trey Benson and receiver Johnny Wilson back as well, FSU's offense should be in good shape.

Verse's return should help the defense stay among the ACC's best. Reinforcements are also on the way as part of an FSU transfer haul that ranks No. 1 nationally. Among the defensive headliners of the transfer class is former Western Michigan defensive lineman Braden Fiske, who made 12 tackles for loss and 6 sacks in 2022. Combined, Verse and Fiske will make for a menacing, veteran duo of disruptors on the Seminoles' front line.

Positive vibes for Florida State

It was just over a year ago that Florida State was left in a lurch when five-star defensive back Travis Hunter backed out of a longstanding commitment to the Seminoles to instead play for Deion Sanders on Jackson State. His flip sent shockwaves through the sport during last December's early signing period and added more uncertainty to Norvell's tenure after he struggled to an 8-13 mark in his first two seasons.

What a difference one year makes. After defeating LSU in New Orleans on Sept. 4 and closing the season with six straight victories, Florida State's momentum is strong. The program is coming off its first 10-win season since 2016 and has its best players on both sides of the football returning in Verse and Travis. With Clemson slipping slightly from its peak under Dabo Swinney and Miami trying to find its way under Mario Cristobal, the outlook for the Seminoles is stronger than it's been in a long time.