Florida State disclosed its first public depth chart of the 2021 season on Monday afternoon. While some of it felt like common knowledge, there were a couple of surprises like with the linebackers.
Stephen Dix Jr. will not begin the year with the starting linebackers as DJ Lundy and Kalen DeLoach will take the field opposite of Amari Gainer. Plus, Head coach Mike Norvell has still not publicly named a starter, signified by the OR between Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton.
This is still an extremely young team as the Seminoles only have eight total seniors listed in their two-deep. That number will bump up to nine once Emmett Rice is healthy enough to play. Six true freshmen made the depth chart, with three being named primary backups. The youth movement is real and it will continue throughout the course of the season.
Here are three true freshmen that could make an instant impact during their first seasons in Tallahassee.
1. Malik McClain, wide receiver
Malik McClain hit the ground running this offseason after enrolling early at Florida State. He was able to go through winter conditioning and spring practice with the team. While there were a few concerns early, McClain overcame them and was playing his best football by the spring game. He finished the exhibition with three catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
The IMG Academy product has continued to see his confidence grow during fall camp. He presents an interesting mismatch out wide with his mix of size and athleticism. There was even some talk that he could open the season as a starter but it looks like the Seminoles decided to go with experience at wide receiver. Regardless, expect to see McClain get involved early and often on Sunday night against Notre Dame.
2. Shyheim Brown, defensive back
The major surprise of camp, defensive back Shyheim Brown didn't enroll in Tallahassee until the summer but that didn't hinder him from making his presence known out of the gate. He recorded at least four interceptions during fall camp, including forcing a turnover in each of FSU's scrimmages. When the depth chart was released on Monday, Brown was listed as a co-backup at buck safety along with redshirt freshman Sidney Williams and starter Brendan Gant.
Brown came into FSU with a chip on his shoulder after catching flack on social media from some members of the fanbase due to his recruiting ranking. To this point, he's proved everyone wrong and will be a contributor on the defense throughout 2021.
3. Kevin Knowles II, defensive back
Another defensive back, Kevin Knowles was able to benefit from enrolling in January. Like McClain, he was able to participate in offseason workouts and the spring practice slate. Knowles was a name we heard often during the spring and he even came away with an interception on Tate Rodemaker during the annual garnet and gold game.
The Florida native will start off the season as the primary backup to Jammie Robinson at the nickel position. Knowles will be in Florida State's defensive back rotation with an opportunity to see his role grow by the end of the year.