The Florida State defense had its questions heading into the season opener, but those were put to rest (for now) after Sunday’s night performance against Notre Dame.
Across the board, young players stepped up in their first opportunities on the big stage. Not only is this a reflection of coaching, but also a representation of player development on the field and in the weight room.
Below, I touched on five Seminole defenders' progression and why they’ll play a pivotal role in the defensive unit moving forward.
Kalen Deloach, Linebacker
In his first two seasons in Tallahassee, Deloach was stuck in a logjam at the linebacker position and logged just one start (Georgia Tech, 2020).
On Sunday night, the redshirt sophomore finally got his shot and looked as comfortable as anybody. He led the defense with eight tackles, including four for loss. He brings quickness to the linebacker position that the program has missed for quite some time. Unlike FSU linebackers in recent memory, Deloach is capable of stopping the run, while also being plenty serviceable in pass coverage.
Deloach could be the guy to help revamp the linebacker position. He has a great opportunity to lead the ‘Noles in tackles when it's all said and done, and should continue to impress throughout the season.
Brendan Gant, Linebacker/Defensive Back
Gant brings a physicality to the BUCK position that the ‘Noles desperately need. In the loss versus Notre Dame, the redshirt sophomore managed to record four tackles (two solo) and seemed to be around the ball quite often.
He still has room to grow in pass coverage but should be a key piece to the Seminoles for the rest of 2021. He's one of the most impactful hitters on the team.
Sidney Williams, Linebacker/Defensive Back
Williams, who splits time with Gant, finished with five tackles (three solo). Similar to his counterpart, Williams is a tackling machine who isn’t afraid of contact.
As he gains more experience, Williams could become an X-factor with his combination of tackling and coverage skills. The redshirt freshman’s aggressiveness should earn him plenty of playing time under defensive coordinator Adam Fuller each week.
DJ Lundy, Linebacker
As a redshirt freshman, Lundy earned a starting gig after totaling 12 tackles in seven contests in 2020. Against the Irish, Lundy finished with four tackles, including one for loss.
His physicality and willingness to make contact with the runner elevates the entire linebacking core. Lundy has all the makings to be a key contributor, specifically at stopping the run. As he gets more comfortable in his new role, don't be surprised if Lundy challenges for the 'Noles leading tackler.
Quashon Fuller, Defensive Lineman
Fuller finished with three tackles (1.5 for loss) on Sunday evening. He also recorded his first career sack, which came just a play after he made a tackle for loss.
After reshaping his body, the improvement in Fuller’s game is noticeable. The redshirt freshman should have more opportunities with offensive lines focused on Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas.
In conclusion, this group of second and third year players have clearly bought into head coach Mike Norvell’s system. If the Notre Dame game was any indication, they could have major impacts across the defense in 2021.