Getting on line: No. 10 Florida State’s O-line settling down
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) A lot of the attention on Florida State’s offense has been focused on the Seminoles’ quarterbacks, and deservedly so.
But what kept coach Jimbo Fisher up most nights has been his young offensive line, and concerns about whether they could develop consistency.
Going into Saturday’s opener against Texas State, the 10th-ranked Seminoles have only one returning starter on their offensive line. Five players graduated with 176 starts and three were taken in the NFL draft, including Cameron Erving in the first round by the Cleveland Browns with the 19th overall pick.
Over the past two weeks, the line has progressed to the point where Fisher was biting his tongue about how well things were going. Fisher said that they threw every blitz package at them and that they passed when it came to making adjustments.
”To me that’s a very big sign of where your offensive line is because that’s where all the stress comes in those situations,” Fisher said. ”We put them under some unbelievably stressful situations on purpose to do that. Their continuity, their size and athleticism, I think we’re probably more athletic than we’ve ever been.”
Defensive end Nile Lawrence-Stample noticed a big improvement the last two weeks of camp, particularly when it came to technique.
The lone returning starter on the line is at the most important position – left tackle. Roderick Johnson started the final five games last season and is on the Lombardi Award watch lists though he is only a sophomore. While Johnson has the most starting experience, he notes that there are linemen who have been on campus longer than he has and are more familiar with the offense.
Johnson also agrees with Fisher’s assessment that this group is more athletic than last year.
”When we go back and watch the film, the footwork is better along with the speed,” Johnson said. ”We are pretty much to par filling up those shoes from last year’s group.”
Kareem Are, a junior college transfer, won the left guard spot early in camp. Sophomore guard Wilson Bell and redshirt freshman tackle Derrick Kelly will lineup on the right side while redshirt freshman Corey Martinez has emerged at center with Alec Eberle battling injuries.
Fisher would like to go nine deep on the line. So redshirt freshman tackle Brock Rublem, true freshman guard Cole Minshew and junior tackle Chad Mavety are also expected to see extensive playing time.
If there was a year for Florida State to start the season with an inexperienced line, this year seems to be the one to do it as they are heavy favorites against Texas State.
The past two years, the Seminoles have opened at Pittsburgh and with a neutral-site game against Oklahoma State. Florida State has neutral-site openers the next two seasons against Ole Miss and Alabama.
The line also gets an added advantage in Everett Golson winning the starting quarterback job due to his running ability and elusiveness out of the pocket. Even with an elusive quarterback, the line’s job remains the same.
”In the end you are still supposed to block to the whistle. It is never like a four second count,” Bell said. ”So even if a guy is scrambling, I am still supposed to be holding onto my man. Even if a guy is sitting in the pocket the whole time, I am still supposed to have my guy.”