Kalen DeLoach’s stop on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line on Saturday was a pivotal moment — in Florida State’s win but also potentially for the development and confidence for the linebacker as well as the belief that the defense can make stops in crucial situations.
DeLoach made the initial stop and then received help from safety Sidney Williams and others on the play, which helped ensure FSU’s 33-30 win over Syracuse.
“He’s not the biggest linebacker in the country,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “But what he is doing is he is playing with good pad level and he’s striking people. We knew he’d be athletic, we knew he would take command of the defense. He’s got a good passion about him. He’s got leadership capabilities to him. It’s just over the course of the season, how physical will it be week in, week out?”
DeLoach is just 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, on the smaller side for a linebacker. But the redshirt sophomore has made 32 tackles and has 1.5 tackles for loss while starting four of five games in 2021.
FSU’s linebackers are relatively inexperienced and learning on the fly. They are making mistakes that are testing the patience of coaches and fans alike. But it’s also fair to be curious if a moment of success on the field can build confidence that may carry over.
“Kalen DeLoach, you talk about form-fitting tackle and playing with great pad level and running feet, that was a huge play,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “And then the swarm of the defense to keep him out of the end zone, those are things you can definitely build upon. And because you’ve been through it, because you now have that example that you can build a little of that positive momentum, I think it can do wonders for you as you move forward.”
Value in versatility
Darius Washington started the first three games for FSU at left tackle, then the next two at right tackle. But Washington also takes snaps at center in large part due to Maurice Smith’s injury.
While Baveon Johnson has started the last four games at center, and Smith returned to the field against Syracuse, Washington has shown he is capable of filling in at center and playing a position that he has not lined up at prior to the last month or so.
“I don’t think it’s challenging at all it’s just your focus level,” Washington said of his mindset as he adjusts positions. “Just being able to shift my focus from each position. Being able to shift my focus from each position and when it comes to game time just knowing that whatever happens I need to be ready.”
Honors for Johnson, Mastromanno
Defensive end Jermaine Johnson has been named to the Bednarik Award watch list. Johnson leads the ACC with six sacks and also leads the league with eight tackles for loss.
Punter Alex Mastromanno has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. Mastromanno averages 43.8 yards per punt.
Howell revenge tour
One-time FSU commit Sam Howell had a good statistical night a year ago against the Seminoles, completing 20 of 36 passes for 374 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. But most of those yards and all three touchdowns came in the second half as Howell tried to engineer a rally that fell short, 31-28.
Now Howell and the Tar Heels host FSU again on Saturday (3:30 p.m. on ESPN) in a date that it’s clear the quarterback has had marked on his calendar since the schedule was released.
“We had everything we wanted in front of us and we kind of lost it all right there,” Howell told UNC writers. “We definitely, definitely want this one bad.”