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Kalen DeLoach’s next step is crucial for FSU’s defense

“We could be the top defense, but we just gotta push each other every day to do that.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Notre Dame at Florida State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Linebacker Kalen DeLoach, a prized recruit in the class of 2018, hadn’t quite found his footing in Tallahassee after two years with the Seminoles. In limited action in 2019, he was effective — grading out at 72 overall in just 18 snaps.

2020 saw a slight increase in his field appearance — up to 86 — but still, despite an FSU linebacker unit in desperate need of consistent talent, the Savannah product hadn’t had a chance to live up to his blue-chip billing.

That changed last season, when his usage went up nearly eight-fold (to 685). Only three other players (defensive back Jarvis Brownlee Jr. and defensive linemen Jermaine Johnson II and Keir Thomas) were on the field at a more frequent rate — in the box, no player for Florida State received more snaps than DeLoach, who became an essential part of the Seminoles’ defense in each phase of the game.

Across the board, his play and presence improved — from game one and on, DeLoach was graded out as one of FSU’s top defensive players, serving as a consistent pillar while the rest of the defense began to find an identity. According to PFF, on the season, he missed just 10% of tackles (best amongst FSU’s linebackers) and was the Seminoles’ best linebacker in pass coverage and pass rushing. As far as production, he was second on the team in both tackles (52) and assisted tackles (50), highlighting his ability to not only create plays, but finish them.

While he had a major impact on Florida State’s wins, and valiant efforts in the losses, no play personified his elevation to a significant piece for the Seminoles than his safety against Boston College:

“I still think the best is yet to come for Kalen DeLoach,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said following that game. He said at that time that the team had invested in DeLoach’s success by giving him snap counts — and that the linebacker had “cashed in” on those snaps, becoming one of the best players on FSU’s defense.

Now, as he looks to continue to elevate his game, he’s also trying to grow further into his status as an elder statesman and leader for the Seminoles.

“I just take it day by day and do what I need to do,” DeLoach said in March, emphasizing that his comfort in the system and the players around him helped build the sort of success we saw from FSU on defense in the second half of the season.

“The next step is being able to push each other to be what we know what we’re capable of being. We could be the top defense, but we just gotta push each other every day to do that.

“I’m looking to push the younger guys to the standard we want because when I leave, they have to upload those standards.”