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FSU linebacker breakdown: Where things stand after early signing period

With at least seven players expected to return at the position, linebacker wasn't a huge area of need for Florida State in this recruiting cycle -- at least from a numbers standpoint. The Seminoles are switching back from a 3-4 defensive front to a 4-3 in 2020, and they return five linebackers with starting experience.

FSU is losing three seniors at the position to graduation, but only one of them -- inside linebacker Dontavious Jackson -- was a key contributor this past season. He ranked ninth on the team with 43 tackles. The others, Josh Brown and Adonis Thomas, combined to record 11 stops on the year.

While numbers aren't a major issue, the Seminoles definitely could use an upgrade in talent and production. And new head coach Mike Norvell's staff believes the addition of 2020 signees Stephen Dix Jr. and Jayion McCluster is a step in the right direction.

Both players are four-star prospects, with McCluster checking is at the nation's No. 21 inside linebacker and Dix ranked No. 14 at outside linebacker.

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Jayion McCluster is one of two four-star linebackers that signed with Florida State on Wednesday.
Jayion McCluster is one of two four-star linebackers that signed with Florida State on Wednesday. (Rivals.com)

Here's a closer look at the Seminoles' expected returners at linebacker, along with quotes from Norvell and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller about each of the 2020 signees.

Returning Linebackers

Emmett Rice, senior -- After battling injuries earlier in his career, emerged as a starter in 2019 and finished the regular season second on the team with 65 tackles.

Leonard Warner, senior -- Has started several games at inside and outside linebacker over the past two seasons. Ranked fifth on the team with 52 tackles.

DeCalon Brooks, junior -- After starting several games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, saw his role decrease this past season. Recorded 15 tackles in 11 games.

Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, sophomore -- Started as a redshirt freshman and in the early portion of 2019 before going down with a season-ending injury. Could stay outside linebacker or move to safety -- his original position -- in 2020.

Amari Gainer, sophomore -- Moved into the starting lineup at outside linebacker after Lars-Woodbey was sidelined, and he soon emerged as one of the defense's top playmakers. Ranks third on the team with 63 tackles, while also recording three sacks and being credited with four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

Jaleel McRae, sophomore -- Saw the most action of a talented trio of true freshman linebaackers. Has recorded 13 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, while playing mostly inside linebacker and special teams.

Kalen DeLoach, sophomore -- Played in seven games and recorded two tackles.

Kevon Glenn, redshirt freshman -- Has only seen a few plays in one game (Alabama State), so will still have four years of eligibility remaining.

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