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Inside the huddle: Class of 2023 linebackers

FSU linebacker recruiting for close to a decade now has been a mystery for Seminoles fans. For a program that once produced players like Marvin Jones, Derrick Brooks and even recently Telvin Smith, FSU has not had an All-American linebacker in close to a decade now. From misses in recruiting to a lack of quality players brought in the position has not had much to smile about for close to 10 years. FSU did bring in UCF transfer Tatum Bethune and landed a freshman in Omar Graham, who was impressive this past spring. FSU is not in on a ton of talented guys in 2023 so it will be interesting to see how this position pans out in the coming years.

FSU’s 2023 LB targets

Blake Nichelson – 6-3, 200, Manteca (Calif.) High – Not often FSU travels to California to recruit a linebacker. Last time may have been for DJ Williams, who came out of De LaSale High School. Nichelson is a big, physical linebacker. He can get off a block and still make a play. Nichelson is very physical. He uses his hands well. We could see him playing on the outside but Blake may be better suited to play the MIKE. He can drop into coverage but that is not a strength of his game. 

Malik Bryant – 6-2, 235, Orlando Jones – Bryant has been on the radar since his freshman season at Jones. He left IMG Academy and now has returned home for his senior season. He has the size and speed that college recruiters are looking for in a linebacker. You can play him in coverage. He also is big and strong enough to get off blocks and be a force in the run game. You are looking at a kid who could be a day 1 college starter.

Andrew Harris – 6-2, 220, Lake Brantley – Harris is a big-time talent. Kid is a very good athlete. Turn on his film and you will see him make plays all over the field. He has the chance to be the very best linebacker in Florida this upcoming season. He can drop back into coverage or come up and play the run. There are not many others who have a complete skill set like Harris does.

Michael Harris – 6-0, 190, Lake Brantley – He is the twin of Andrew Harris. He is a more techniqally sound player then Andrew but does not possess the same upside as his brother. Michael is consistent on the defensive side of the football. He just lacks the great athletic ability as his brother. Both will end up playing college football together.  

Stanquan Clark – 6-2, 215 – Miami Killian – Clark was a defensive back. He is one of the best prospects in Dade County in 2022. He has the size and range to play safety but also has the size to play linebacker. His versatility makes him a priority in a day and age where linebackers are asked to do so much. Clark is a complete player and someone will get a heck of a football player in college.

Dee Crayton – 6-2, 215, Denmark – Crayton has burst and that is the first thing we noticed. He also is a good athlete. You will see him drop into coverage and make some athletic interceptions. He can get back and clog the passing lanes. You will see him line up off the ball and come down hill. When you turn on his film we like that he is always coming forward.

Grayson Howard – 6-2, 215, Jacksonville Andrew Jackson – We have seen Howard play everywhere from defensive line to cornerback. He is a very good athlete. College coaches are going to love his size and length on the outside. Howard has good coverage skills. Here is a kid that you sign and worry about where to play him once on campus. 

Troy Bowles – 6-2, 200, Tampa Jesuit – Bowles’ father is now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. He comes from a football family so understanding the game is big. He knows what other opposing offenses are trying to do. He is an all-around linebacker than can do multiple things for your defense. He is a kid that would give FSU a linebacker that not only understands the game of football but physically could play right away for the Seminoles. 

Final thoughts

FSU needs to improve this position. A trio of reserves have moved on via the transfer portal in Jaleel McRae (Florida Atlantic), Jayion McCluster (Alabama State) and Cortez Andrews. FSU landed UCF transfer Tatum Bethune and also returns an improving core group in Kalen DeLoach, Stephen Dix Jr., Amari Gainer and DJ Lundy. Also in the mix is Brendan Gant, who moved to linebacker, and FSU added early enrollee Omar Graham. While the position was a liability the past couple of seasons we expect linebacker to be respectable this season. If these guys can improve just a little the overall the defense should be improved as well.

2023 FSU recruiting

Inside the huddle: Defensive tackles

Inside the huddle: Defensive ends

Inside the huddle: Offensive linemen

Inside the huddle: Receivers

Inside the huddle: Running backs

Inside the huddle: Quarterbacks