Photo courtesy of Florida State athletics
Linebacker play has been wildly inconsistent for Florida State since the likes of Terrance Smith, Reggie Northrup, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, among others were wearing the garnet and gold during the 2015 season.
However, head coach Mike Norvell and Co. seemed to turn a corner with the linebacker position as redshirt junior Kalen DeLoach went on to have a tremendous 2021 season. He finished with 69 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. His confidence seemed to grow as the season progressed.
Over the Seminoles’ last two contests against Boston College and Florida, he totaled 15 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one interception. DeLoach was awarded FSU’s Most Improved Player Award on defense for his outstanding performance.
Change at the Helm
Fast forward to the offseason, former linebackers coach Chris Marve has parted way with the Seminoles. Marve accepted a new position at Virginia Tech as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach. As a result, Florida State decided to hire a new linebackers coach internally and named senior defensive analyst Randy Shannon to the role as well as co-defensive coordinator.
At the time of his hire, Florida State fans had been vocal about the lack of linebacker recruiting over the past two recruiting cycles. This was because no linebacker prospects acquired in the 2020 cycle and there was only one acquired during the 2021 cycle (three-star Omar Graham Jr.).
However, once Shannon came into the program, he made his mark on the linebackers room and helped add UCF redshirt junior Tatum Bethune via the transfer portal. It certainly helped that Shannon had the relationship with Bethune from his time as Knights defensive coordinator from 2018 to 2020.
The Miami native had a productive three-year career in Orlando where he had 185 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and five quarterback hurries. The tandem of DeLoach and Bethune has the chance to be special in Tallahassee. At this moment in time, the Seminoles have seven scholarship linebackers on their roster:
- Amari Gainer, RS Jr.
- Tatum Bethune, RS Jr.
- Kalen DeLoach, RS Jr.
- Brendan Gant, RS Jr.
- Stephen Dix Jr., RS Soph.
- DJ Lundy, RS Soph.
- Omar Graham Jr., Fr.
Recent Linebacker Recruiting Struggles
With the current linebacker corps being such a veteran group, there could be some attrition after this offseason. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller mostly utilized a 4-2-5 defensive scheme which places a ton of pressure on the WILL and MIKE linebackers.
With that said, the coaching staff seems to not prioritize recruiting linebackers as much as it likes getting defensive linemen and defensive backs in the scheme. The Seminoles have seen numerous prospects commit/trend elsewhere:
- 4-star Troy Bowles
- 4-star Raylen Wilson (Michigan commit)
- 4-star Raul Aguirre
- 4-star Andrew Harris
- 4-star Jayvant Brown
- 4-star Grayson Howard
- 4-star Michael Harris
- 4-star Dee Crayton
- 3-star Justin Cryer (Northwestern commit)
- 3-star Caleb LaVallee (North Carolina commit)
Who is FSU Pursuing?
That is a difficult pill to swallow for Florida State fans given the talent level in Florida and Georgia. During last year’s recruiting cycle, it seemed as though the Seminoles “put all of their eggs in one basket” to acquire four-star Wesley Bissainthe. However, he ultimately chose to commit hometown Miami.
The coaching staff was left with no viable options as a backup plan. Fast forward to this recruiting cycle, it appears to be much of the same narrative. These are the linebacker prospects who Florida State is currently pursuing:
- 4-star Blake Nichelson
- 3-star Caleb Woodson (safety projected as a linebacker by FSU)
- UR DeMarco Ward
- UR Quindarrius Jones
- UR JUCO Justin Jefferson
The current targeted list is quite underwhelming for the position group. It seems that the coaching staff will offer more linebackers as we navigate through the summer. But the solution to these linebacker recruiting woes is simple: Produce positive results on the football field.
The truth of the matter is that Florida State has a 26-33 record over the last five seasons. Recruits want a product to be excited about. As a wise man once said, “Winning cures everything.” If the Seminoles find a way to become successful in what is such a pivotal third season for Norvell and staff, recruiting the linebacker position will take care of itself.