April 15, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- With nine freshman-year starts in his credit, Bobby Hart entered camp last fall ready to entrench himself as Florida State's long-term right tackle.
But a combination of the arrival of freak-of-nature junior-college signee Menelik Watson and Hart's own consistencies derailed the 17-year-old's plan. Instead of building off a rookie year that saw him start all but a third of the season as the right-side bookend, Hart was relegated to a backup guard position for his sophomore campaign.
For a student-athlete that was used to having a meaningful impact dating back to his days at powerhouse high school St. Thomas Aquinas, serving as a backup was unfamiliar and painful. Still, Hart knew his demotion happened for a reason -- a reason he wasn't about to let alter his plan again.
"Sitting on the bench as an athlete, it hurts; it does something to you," Hart said. "But when you sit back and start maturing and understanding the bigger scheme of things and understand what you did to get there and know that you never want to go back, you don't want to say it's a good thing but it definitely motivates you."
"You can't do what you did to put yourself in that predicament," he added. "You just work hard and you listen to everything that your coaches say and you just do anything in your power to keep getting better and making an impact."
With Watson and fellow junior-college signee Daniel Glauser no longer on the roster, Hart entered spring camp last month with a new outlook, new motivation, and a new job -- albeit a job he had already held -- at right tackle.
And while FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and offensive line coach Rick Trickett experimented with different personnel along the line throughout practices, Hart remained the most likely starting option at right tackle through camp. He even capped off the spring with a strong showing as a starter in the Garnet and Gold Game.
His improvement from last year has been evident.
"From fall when I used to pass rush against him to now, him with his hands and quickness he has gotten a lot stronger," sophomore defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr. said.
Hart credits that improvement in large part to his situation last season.
In addition to the humbling experience of falling down the depth chart and having to work himself back into a position of playing time, his role as a guard helped too. Now that he has experience practicing on the interior of the line, he has a better grasp of the collective process required by all five offensive linemen for pass protection and run blocking success.
"It helps you better understand what the guard is thinking and as a tackle if you know what they are thinking, you can help them out and communicate better," Hart said. "You know what it's like for them and what they have to do so you can better understand how the whole line needs to play."
With spring practices in the books, Hart plans on finishing off the semester strong in the classroom and then spending his summer in the weight and film rooms. "I want to get a lot stronger in my upper and lower body," he said. "I am going to be watching a lot of film and studying all the blitzes that the defense runs so I can be prepared for camp. And overall, just keep working on my craft and getting better."
Hart still talks with Watson and calls the soon-to-be NFL player a "great friend."
Watson is quick to share words of wisdom and remind his young pal of the importance of hard work, attention to datail and trust in his coaches; a trio of tactics that have helped Watson become one of the top offensive tackles in this year's draft.
And above all else, Watson has told Hart, focus on getting better every day.
"And I feel like I have done that," Hart said. "But I feel like I also have a long ways to go to be a great player. But it's just a process and you just keep working and it'll get better with time. You just keep trusting in Coach Trickett and everything will work out."