March 14, 2013
The Florida State football team starts spring practice March 20 and Seminoles.com has you covered with daily looks at each position on the roster. We continue today with a glance at the offensive line.
Florida State saw a resurgence on the offensive line last season thanks to the additions of tackles Cam Erving and Menelik Watson, the emergence of guards Josue Matias and Tre' Jackson, and the steady leadership of center Bryan Stork.
After ranking 10th in the nation in sacks allowed in 2011, FSU's offensive line finished last season ranked 59th in the country in that same category.
This year, the bulk of that unit is back and could be even better -- but they'll have to do it without Watson, who turned his short stint at FSU into a likely top-two-rounds NFL Draft selection next month.
Watson's early exit to the NFL stings but 'Noles offensive line coach Rick Trickett has some nice options for his replacement at right tackle. Junior Bobby Hart played sparingly last year as a reserve at both tackle and guard but has starting experience after being in the starting lineup for nine games as a 17-year-old freshman in 2011.
How well Hart plays this spring could be a deciding factor in what happens to Stork, though. If Hart isn't able to lock down the right tackle job, Stork could slide back over to the spot he used to play. If Stork were to make that move, it could potentially thrust Austin Barron into the starting lineup at center, where he was a starter for three games in 2011.
"You've got quite a few guys," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I think Bobby Hart has had a good off-season. Stork and those guys can do what they've got to do there. There's different guys we can put in there that we can have a rotation there."
"The best guy will play," FSU's fourth-year coach added.
Perhaps someone like Ruben Carter or Sterling Lovelady could find their way into the discussion at right tackle, too. Fisher was complimentary of both at the conclusion of 4th Quarter Drills last week and both could be a factor with strong performances during the spring.
The 'Noles also boast reserves Trey Pettis, Daniel Foose and Henry Orelus. Seniors Jacob Fahrenkrug and Garrett Faircloth are both back but Fahrenkrug will miss all of spring with injury and Faircloth is coming off an injury that shelved him for the duration of the 2012 campaign. Both have starting experience.
As for the Seminoles' returning starters, Erving's breakout season at left tackle after switching from defensive tackle last spring should mean good things this time around as he has a full season of work to build from. Erving had minor off-season surgery but isn't expected to be limited when practices get started March 20.
Matias and Jackson are perhaps the ACC's best guard tandem and will benefit from another spring working together and Stork's final spring in Tallahassee could see him once again line up at multiple positions should the situation call for it.
What was a weakness as recently as the 2011 season is now a strength as FSU's offensive line should be one of the conference's best this coming year. Locking down the right tackle job will only add to that expected success, so who is going to step up and seize the opportunity?