Erving's transition to offense key for FSU
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Cameron Erving never played on the offensive line in high school. He never had to protect – it was always pursue.
But this spring, he is making the move from defensive tackle to left offensive tackle. It’s a challenge to say the least, and one that will be under intense scrutiny as the man who Florida State coaches are looking to protect EJ Manuel’s blind side.
And while FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett is considered one of the game’s best teachers, there may be no better way to learn than by battling All-American defensive end Brandon Jenkins every day in practice.
Jenkins and Tank Carradine will test Erving. And in the fall, Erving will likely also line up against Bjoern Werner, who had seven sacks in 2012 but is out for the spring with an injury.
“They’re great players,” Erving said. “I played beside them last year and practiced with them for two years. Now I’m just reacting off what they’re doing. Of course it’s hard because they’re great players, but I feel like I’m adjusting.”
And the defensive ends are already adjusting to Erving, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound blocker who has long arms and quick feet.
“The scary part is they win and he wins,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You block those guys, then you can block everybody else.”
Jenkins is used to either disrupting the passer or drawing the attention of double-teams. He recorded 21.5 sacks the past two seasons and has been a nuisance for opposing linemen.
But he has found a good battle with Erving, a player he lined up next to just three months ago in a bowl game.
“I have been having trouble with him and his set,” Jenkins said. “He has a good set. Great hands, long, strong arms. He's going to be great.”
Those daily battles could help Erving become FSU’s starting left tackle in the fall. Erving had 19 tackles and a sack as a redshirt freshman defensive tackle last season, and he figured to be part of a solid rotation there for years to come.
But when Fisher approached him about flipping to offense, Erving talked with family and coaches and decided to make the move – one he called a “business decision.”
While not saying specifically that the NFL was a long-term consideration, it’s clear that Erving has the desired skill set of a prototype NFL offensive tackle.
“If these coaches, who do this for a living, feel like I can step in and make an impact at a certain position I feel like I have to look into it,” Erving said.
Erving said he’s happy with how the transition has gone so far. He’s accepted that he will learn from his mistakes, and he’s trying to use his defensive tackle experience to get into the mentality of the men that he is now assigned to stop.
One technical difference for Erving has been how to effectively use his hands.
“On defense, you are shooting your hands straight up,” Erving said. “On offense, you are taking your steps and you put your hands in your holsters like from your hips (and shoot) to the person. That’s just different.”
But Fisher doesn’t think the adjustment will be much of a problem. That same burst that Erving had coming off the ball at defensive tackle is evident at offensive tackle.
“I am going to tell you what – that joker is quick,” Fisher said. “He has initial quickness. And he can really bend in his lower body.”
Erving has become confident in his abilities to pick up a new position. But he also realizes that it’s a job that entails a big responsibility – keeping pass rushers away from Manuel.
“You think about it,” Erving said. “But I don’t think about it as much. He has a lot of faith in me already. He knows I have the ability to be a great tackle. I don’t feel any extra pressure to keep him from harm because I’m going to work hard to keep people off of him.”