No. 7 Seminoles debut new offensive line in opener

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is introducing a new offensive

line in Saturday’s opener against Murray (Ky.) State.

The seventh-ranked Seminoles’ hopes for getting back to a BCS

bowl for the first time in seven years depend on their younger and

bigger offensive front keeping quarterback EJ Manuel healthy.

Protecting the quarterback has been an issue in Fisher’s first

two seasons at Florida State where injuries have knocked Manuel out

of the lineup just like they did his predecessor, Christian Ponder,

not to mention limiting the running game.

Fisher released his depth chart for Saturday’s game and will be

going with two tackles making their first college start on the

offensive line along with two guards each making their second

start. Junior center Bryan Stork is the veteran of the group with

10 previous starts for the Seminoles.

The coach is convinced bigger is better up front not only for

protecting Manuel, but giving the QB time to throw to a heralded

group of receivers and igniting a dormant running game.

”The size and athleticism, a different group of guys, different

cats,” Fisher said Monday. ”We have made some really good strides

in that area. They’ve got to go do it Saturday.”

The recast unit averages 319 pounds per man with the lightest of

the interior offensive linemen (Stork) at 312 pounds.

Sophomore guards Josue Matias and Tre’ Jackson are each

approaching 330 pounds. Both made their first, and only, start in

Florida State’s 18-14 win over Notre Dame in the Champs Bowl.

In a most closely watched position battle, 320-pound Menelik

Watson held off Daniel Glauser in a battle of European athletes at

the right tackle position. Watson is from Great Britain, and the

305-pound Glauser, who is penciled in as the primary backup at both

tackle spots, is from Switzerland. Both transferred earlier this

year from junior colleges.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Cameron Erving is starting at the

critical left tackle spot following his offseason move from

defense. He initially rejected the idea of making the switch after

a lifetime of playing on defense before he embraced the idea after

Fisher made a second overture earlier this year.

”Football is football to me,” shrugged Erving. ”On defense

you can just go for the most part. On offense you know what’s going

to happen, but you have to react to what’s going on.”

Manuel said Monday he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from

the rebuilt line during practices.

”They’re going to be confident,” Manuel said. ”I think

they’ll do a great job.”

Offensive line coach Rick Trickett has some experienced depth

too. Austin Baron, Jacob Fahrenkrug, Garrett Faircloth and Bobby

Hart combined to make 30 starts for the 2011 Seminoles.

In another tight competition, sophomore Nick Waisome edged

freshman Ronald Darby at the cornerback position which was up for

grabs after Greg Reid was kicked off the team a month ago for

repeated violations of team rules.

The rest of the team is comprised almost solely of returnees

although senior Chris Thompson regained the starting job at

tailback after missing most of last season with a back injury.

Trickett’s son, sophomore Clint Trickett, will be Manuel’s

backup with redshirt freshman Jacob Coker the third team

quarterback.

Lou Groza Award finalist Dustin Hopkins will handle field goal

and kickoff duties, Rashad Greene takes over from the departed Reid

on punt returns, freshman Caso Beatty inherits Shawn Powell’s

punting role while Karlos Williams and Lamarcus Joyner will be deep

on kickoffs.

Starting defensive tackle Anthony McCloud will likely to miss

the opener with a pectoral muscle tear. Sophomore Timmy Jernigan

would start in his place.