FSU linebackers’ versatility, progress please position coach Randy Shannon
Florida State linebackers coach Randy Shannon knows that for the Seminoles succeed this season, they’ll need to create negative plays on defense
Through the first two weeks of preseason camp and after Saturday’s scrimmage , Shannon’s group has met those expectations.
“We felt like we’ve got a good group of new kids, guys that can do a lot of different things, playing different positions and making a lot of negative plays,” said Shannon. “We felt like we created more negative plays. We’re excited by the group and excited about what direction we are going.”
The linebackers are among the most well-rounded units on the team.
The addition of UCF transfer Tatum Bethune has solidified a group that features experience with Kalen DeLoach, Amari Gainer, DJ Lundy and young talent in redshirt sophomore Stephen Dix Jr. and true freshman Omar Graham Jr.
“We’re doing a lot of rotation with the linebackers,” said Shannon. “Everybody’s playing with the ones and everybody’s playing with the twos, everybody is with the threes. It’s about getting better and building at depth at linebacker.”
Bethune reunites with Shannon, who recruited him when he was defensive coordinator with the Knights from 2018-20. The Miami native is coming off an All-American Athletic Conference season, where he led the team with 108 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. The redshirt junior has provided a calming presence in the middle of the defense.
“He’s always been a quiet leader,” said Shannon. “He doesn’t say much, but when he says something it bothered him at that particular time. You’ll see him directing traffic on the football field a lot because his mindset is that everybody is on the same page. He does a tremendous job for us.”
Another veteran making an impact is DeLoach, who finished third on the team in tackles (69) after starting 11 of 12 games.
“He’s got to continue to improve overall as a person at what he’s doing,” said Shannon. “It’s about getting guys lined up, making plays and doing those types of things. But he also knows he’s got to be at his best because those guys are competing right now and they do a tremendous job. So, he’s always on top of his game, always doing his best.”
Lundy, who started alongside DeLoach last season, also has made noticeable strides in camp after shedding some weight at the behest of his coach.
“Sometimes guy’s mindset is that linebackers have to be to 240 to 250 [pounds],” said Shannon. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you cut some weight off because I need you to be 238 to 240 by the end of spring football,’ and he did. As the summer went on, he got down to 232, which made a difference for him. He’s still strong and physical but feels he can run better and make more plays.”
Graham displayed the athleticism that coaches expected from the 3-star talent out of Fort Lauderdale.
“He’s a freshman, but he’s taking the next step,” said Shannon. “He flashed in the scrimmage and I was like, ‘OK, that’s the guy we know. That’s the guy we recruited.’ So, he keeps flashing. Now, he’s got to be a consistent part of it. Do it all the time.”