Sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi came to Florida State with very high expectations. He was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 77 overall prospect coming out of high school. When he got to Florida State he immediately started to impress the coaches, and found himself in the rotation at defensive tackle very early in the year.
Nnadi wasn't able to maintain that spot in the rotation and he did not play in a couple games during the middle of the season. Towards the end of the season, however, things finally started to click for the true freshman. When he had to step in against Georgia Tech he finally felt ready for the moment.
“I wasn’t even focused [on Goldman]," Nnadi said. "At the moment, I saw Eddie go down and I was like ‘dang’ and I was like ‘I got you, I got, I got you bro.’ And they told me I was going to be playing. ‘Im ready. Ive been ready for this moment.’ I wasn’t worried about anything else. I just have to do my job and worry about what we have to do.”
Florida State defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample was sidelined with an injury for that game, but said that he was impressed with the way Nnadi handled himself.
"I think he played pretty well to be honest," Lawrence-Stample said. "Especially with an unconventional offense. I think he actually did pretty good in terms of what we practiced that week and putting his hands down and trying to stay low and stuff like that. Especially for a big time game like that. That was pretty impressive."
Nnadi played in 9 of the 14 games last season and recorded 18 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss during his time on the field. Lawrence-Stample has been on the Florida State rostern for almost four years now and was extremely impressed with what Nnadi was able to do as a freshman.
"You really don’t see it too often because it’s all really, really small details," Lawrence-Stample said. "It’s hard to get those small details to become muscle memory. Like a receiver being able to run those routes can be pretty quickly taught, but being able to put your hands where they need to be is pretty difficult. Especially when you have to exert so much power and energy doing it."
Now after having a full off season under his belt Nnadi feels like he was able to adjust mentally.
“With me coming in here, I was a kind of skeptical like ‘what do I gotta go, what do I gotta do.’ I’m used to being back home in Virginia, back in high school doing whatever and I’ll make a play. Up here it was a lot different. You had to adjust mentally when you got here. But I feel like I’ve gotten better.”
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said that Nnadi was one of the two defensive linemen that were standing out to him the most in camp.
"There are two of them," Fisher said. "Nnadi and Nile are playing pretty well. Pugh, Sweat, and Demarcus Walker. Those guys are doing some really good things. The rest of them have a ways to go, but that first group is doing a really good job."
Lawrence-Stample, the other defensive lineman that Fisher said was standing out, has continued to be impressed by how Nnadi has progressed from last season to now.
"He’s very impressive," Lawrence-Stample said. "Especially being a defensive tackle as a freshman it’s kind of hard to run on the field immediately and he was able to do that last year and help us. That was really impressive. He has a really good mental aspect of the game and trying to comprehend it and trying to listen to coaching and trying to be able to use what’s being used to coach in the actual game itself and team in practice. I like that about him a lot."
Nnadi was listed as the starter at defensive tackle alongside Lawrence-Stample to start the season, and with the progress that he's made it's hard to see him relinquishing that starting spot any time soon.