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FSU football Spring 2020 preview: Linebackers

A return to glory?

NCAA Football: Florida State at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Miller is not walking through that door, Seminole fans. It wasn’t all that long ago the linebacker room was one of the worst at Florida State. After just a few years, it has the potential to be one of the better position groups in Tallahassee. New LB coach Chris Marve is seen as a step up when it comes to on field coaching after replacing Raymond Woodie.

This’ll be a spring of transition for the FSU defense thanks to defensive coordinator Adam Fuller coming aboard. Fuller brings with him a 4-2-5 defense which will be a transition away from the 3-4 the Florida State Seminoles experimented with last season. Fuller believes in an attack-mindset defensively, and his linebackers must fit down hill, while playing fast, physical, and smart.

This is a group looking for consistency, but between veteran talent, a new addition, and some up-and coming potential this group could be dynamic. It’s a group with question marks and a need to prove itself, but the upside is certainly there.

The Elder Statesmen

Emmett Rice is a 6’2 220 pound RS senior who brings a wealth of experience to the LB corps. Rice is a player who has teased Seminole fans for years, but has had trouble staying healthy. In 2019, Rice made nine starts, while playing in all 13 games. Rice recorded 72 tackles, ranking second on the team. As the season progressed and other players worked their way into the dog-house, Rice seemed to step up and seize the opportunity. Rice fits the fast, physical, and smart mold Fuller covets. Rice is poised for a big year, but it all starts with getting acclimated to a new system. Rice should start the season as the will LB in Fuller’s 4-2-5 defense.

Leonard Warner III is listed at 6’4 241 pounds. Warner is a bit of a lightning rod for Seminole fans, as he was put in a brand new position last year and not a fit for his playing style. Fans will surely recall running backs running by Warner, as he tried to cover them on wheel-routes. As the year progressed, Warner transitioned back inside and started to settle in. Warner finished with 57 tackles, including a season-high eight against the Florida Gators. Warner is a player who will fit nicely in Fuller’s defense as a mike LB. Warner will have to fight off the young and very athletic LBs sitting behind him.

Decalon Brooks is listed on the official roster, but there’s reason to believe he’ll not be with the team this spring.

The Young Up-and-Comers

Kevon Glenn is a 6’2 236 pound RS freshman who appeared against Alabama State and Arizona State last season. Glenn was highly thought of coming out of high school, so it was confusing he didn’t play more. This was an up-and-down position all season so Glenn seemingly should’ve gotten a chance. He’s a downhill thumper who should push for playing time. This is a big spring for Glenn, who profiles as a mike LB.

Sophomore Kalen DeLoach measures in at 6’1 211 pounds and played eight games last season. DeLoach was a blue-chip prospect coming out of Georgia, but didn’t make the impact last season many predicted. He was credited with just three tackles on the year. DeLoach (like Glenn) was a prospect fans kept calling for, but he never showed up on the field. DeLoach profiles as a will LB.

Fellow sophomore, Jaleel McRae, measures in at 6’2 233 pounds. McRae is a player who burst on the scene last spring as an early-enrollee. McRae made a big splash in the Spring Game, creating a buzz on message boards. Unfortunately, the hype didn’t carry over to the season. McRae played in all 13 games for the Seminoles, but only accumulated 15 tackles. There are certainly high hopes for McRae in 2020, but he needs to build on last year’s spring performance. McRae profiles as a mike LB.

The Man Without a Home

RS sophomore Amari Gainer measures in at 6’3 215 pounds. Will he play in the slot at the “stud” position? Will the staff bulk Gainer up in order to take on more of a pass-rushing role? Or will Gainer slide inside and play a more traditional role? The reality is Gainer could play any of these positions and be successful. The guess is that Gainer slides into the slot like his freshman season, but we felt it smart to list him in this preview.

Gainer made nine starts last season, but appeared in all 13 games. He racked up 69 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Gainer is a player who grew into his role as the season went on and became more comfortable. Fast-and-furious is an appropriate way to describe Gainer’s game. He might be a man without a home, but he’s certainly not lacking in ability. No matter where Gainer lines up next season the expectation is he’ll make an impact.

The Newcomers

Stephen Dix, Jr. is a true freshman early-enrollee who has been getting praised by the coaches. Head Coach Mike Norvell and LB Coach Chris Marve have talked highly about the impact he’s made in the weight room and “Tour of Duty” drills. Dix is a smart, physical player who should fit right in the middle of Fuller’s defense. There’s an opportunity with a new staff for even a true freshman to make an early impact. See these highlights against Osceola HS from his senior season. Can you envision this player in the middle of the Seminole defense?

The other new addition is not so “new,” but a transfer from Purdue. Cornel Jones will be walking-on with the Seminoles this spring. Jones is a senior LB who left Purdue and fully expects to be on scholarship this fall. Jones was a massive loss for Purdue, but a welcome addition to this defense. He provides much-needed LB depth. At Purdue, Jones made 15 starts and recorded 99 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.

Jones is an experienced player who was expected to be a starter for Purdue in 2020 and essentially a three year starter for the Boilermakers. Jones did battle injuries in 2019, but that should be behind him come the start of spring ball. There’s no substitute for game-experience, and that’s something Jones will bring to the defense. He should help bridge the gap between the old and the new for FSU. However, there are questions about whether he’ll be eligible, due to his need for a waiver.