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
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
Starting defensive tackle Anthony McCloud will likely to miss
the opener with a pectoral muscle tear. Sophomore Timmy Jernigan
would start in his place.