FSU football's Kalen DeLoach should make linebacker room dynamic beside Tatum Bethune

·4 min read

The countdown to the 2022 Florida State football season is underway.

Mike Norvell's third season atop the Seminoles will be a critical one to his long-term chances in Tallahassee. The roster continues to be shaped more in his desired image as he looks to guide FSU to a bowl for the first time in his tenure.

To begin that look ahead to the upcoming season, it's time for the Democrat's annual list of the 40 most important FSU football players, continuing today with No. 18.

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Our list of the 40 most important FSU football players was compiled on June 9 by aggregating the rankings submitted by beat writers Curt Weiler and Carter Karels. Any players added to the roster after that date were not considered for this list. All ties were broken by discussion.

No. 18: Redshirt junior linebacker Kalen DeLoach

Like a few players mentioned earlier on the list, the 2021 season was going to make or probably end DeLoach's FSU tenure.

The former four-star linebacker recruit from Savannah, Ga. arrived ahead of the 2019 season. It was thought he was ready for a rotational role at linebacker in 2020, but this proved to not be the case as he made one start and appeared in nine games but recorded just seven tackles and graded out at 47.8 according to Pro Football Focus.

So there was some understandable skepticism when DeLoach was again setting up to start at linebacker in 2021. It was a definite case, though, of one year making a mountain of difference

FSU linebacker Kalen DeLoach, No. 18 on our countdown, will look to build upon his breakout 2021 season for the Seminoles this fall.
FSU linebacker Kalen DeLoach, No. 18 on our countdown, will look to build upon his breakout 2021 season for the Seminoles this fall.

DeLoach had quite possibly the single biggest breakout season of anyone on the FSU roster last year. He started 11 of the Seminoles' 12 games and appeared in all of them.

His much higher level of comfort was evident from the many smart downhill plays he made after quickly identifying the offensive play, with no greater example than his forced safety in the win over Boston College.

He finished the 2021 season with 69 tackles, tied for third-most on the team, 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack, three quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and his first career interception against Florida.

If DeLoach carries over his remarkably strong finish to the 2021 season into the 2022 campaign, it should make for quite a dynamic starting linebacker duo with him alongside UCF transfer Tatum Bethune.

Florida State football most important player countdown

No. 40: Defensive tackle Jarrett Jackson

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 40

No. 39: Safety Shyheim Brown

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 39

No. 38: Kicker Ryan Fitzgerald

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 38

No. 37: Defensive end Patrick Payton

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 37

No. 36: Defensive back Sam McCall

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 36

No. 35: Defensive back Azareye'h Thomas

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 35

No. 34: Wide receiver Ontaria Wilson

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 34

No. 33: Wide receiver Ja'Khi Douglas

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 33

No. 32: Defensive tackle Malcolm Ray

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 32

No. 31: Linebacker Amari Gainer

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 31

No. 30: Linebacker DJ Lundy

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 30

No. 29: Offensive lineman Maurice Smith

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 29

No. 28: Running back Lawrance Toafili

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 28

No. 27: Offensive lineman Bless Harris

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 27

No. 26: Quarterback Tate Rodemaker

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 26

No. 25: Defensive end Dennis Briggs Jr.

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 25

No. 24: Wide receiver Johnny Wilson

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 24

No. 23: Cornerback Renardo Green

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 23

No. 22: Offensive lineman Kayden Lyles

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 22

No. 21: Tight end Camren McDonald

More: Florida State football most important player countdown: No. 21

No. 20: Wide receiver Malik McClain

More: Florida State football's Malik McClain may bring highest long-term upside among WR group

No. 19: Offensive lineman D'Mitri Emmanuel

More: How Charlotte OL transfer D'Mitri Emmanuel could start for Florida State football

Reach Curt Weiler at cweiler@tallahassee.com or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU football most important player countdown: No. 18, LB Kalen DeLoach

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