Florida State made progress developing linebackers, with Kalen DeLoach emerging as a consistent tackler and DJ Lundy showing some of his potential in 2021. But the Seminoles needed an experienced and productive linebacker.
After four practices, including the last two in pads, it is evident Tatum Bethune will help the Seminoles. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Bethune sees plays develop and seeks out runners or receivers, showing that he has acclimated well to what his old position coach, Randy Shannon, is asking him to do in the FSU defense.
“He is an accelerator,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “You look at his body type, he’s strong. He weighs a lot more than what he looks like. He’s a powerful player, but when he sees the ball or he’s got to get to a place in coverage, he just accelerates to it. And he’s got a great knack for what he sees and being able to decipher information quickly. I think he’s going to bring great experience and athletic playmaking ability.”
Bethune had 185 tackles at UCF from 2019-21, averaging 9 tackles per game last fall and indicates he will be consistent at wrapping people up. He feels there are similarities to Shannon’s schemes from UCF — Shannon was there for a few years before joining FSU as an analyst in 2021 and becoming the linebackers coach this year — and that the coach brings out the best in him.
“Coach Shannon, tough love,” Bethune said. “He’s going to make sure I work hard, he’s going to make sure everybody in the group works hard. That’s what I loved about him since I was at UCF and he was recruiting me. He never let me quit, he never let me give up. Sometimes I was hard on myself. … I love that guy.”
Coaches are a long way from deciding who will start, while opponents as well as down-and-distance situations will determine if FSU uses two or three linebackers. Bethune has shown his versatility and fits in well with what the Seminoles want to do. He was understandably hesitant to compare the level of talent at FSU to UCF, on offense or defense, but he recognizes a commitment to improve from his new teammates.
“They love to be here,” Bethune said. “They love to play football. I feel like that’s what stood out to me. Those guys are in the weight room and stepping out on the field, they wanted to be here, they wanted to get better.”
Bethune is aiming to do the same. He said he came to Tallahassee without a promise of a starting job or playing time. That’s just the way he wanted it, too.
“They didn’t tell me I had a secure spot,” Bethune said. “No one ever has a secure spot. But they did confirm to me that I was going to be able to work hard, they were going to make me work hard. I don’t want a coach that allows me to be lazy and lets me do whatever I want. I like to work.”
Bethune’s work ethic and what he has shown on the practice field has resonated with teammates.
“I love him,” defensive tackle Fabien Lovett said. “That’s my dog. I like how he attacks the ball and how he does his job. He’s an enforcer.”
FSU still has work to do to improve at linebacker and on defense. But with addition of Bethune to DeLoach, Lundy and Amari Gainer, the depth is notably improved. There are also reserve options, some with experience (Stephen Dix Jr. and walk-on Cortez Andrews) as well as those making a move to linebacker (Jadarius Green-McKnight and Brendan Gant) and a talented freshman (Omar Graham Jr.).
“Those guys have a lot of talent,” Bethune said. “Me just coming in and adding on to that I feel like we have a great group, we are a dominant group. Now I’m just learning from them.”