July 10, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State began off-season preparations for 2012 with several items on its to-do list but few of those tasks were more important than finding new starters at outside linebacker and left tackle.
With Nigel Bradham and Andrew Datko no longer on the roster, FSU's coaching staff was charged with finding replacements for two stalwarts that played in a combined 93 games for the 'Noles from 2008 to 2011.
Losing players to graduation and the National Football League is commonplace but the manner in which the Seminoles wound up replacing Bradham and Datko was anything but normal this past spring. Instead of having reserves or younger players waiting in the wings transition from understudies to starring roles, FSU coaches elected to make position changes.
When head coach Jimbo Fisher announced the moves in late-February, Moody's switch to linebacker made the most sense. A three-year contributor and occasional starter in the secondary, Moody always seemed to be at his best when playing in the box and helping the defense’s ability to stop the run.
His memorable tackle of Florida's Jeff Demps in Florida State's 31-7 victory over the Gators in 2010 was the Philadelphia, Penn., native at his best -- playing downhill and using his vision to sniff out the run before making a highlight-reel hit to turn the lights out on a ball carrier.
When they made the decision to move Moody, FSU’s coaches weren’t just looking at the boost he’d give to the depleted linebacker corps. They were thinking about his professional future as well.
"It would be a better fit at the next level,” Moody said.
Upon making the change, the coaches also unleashed him in the weight room. Already a gym rat as a chiseled 6-foot-2, 230-pound safety, Moody immediately began hoisting more weight during his workouts and by the time spring practice came to a close in April he was up to 243 pounds without losing any speed or athleticism.
Moody admits that his junior season – a year in which he missed four full games with injury and was limited because of his health in others – was “frustrating.” His challenge now is to stay healthy while also continuing to get acclimated to the strong-side linebacker position in what is his final season in the garnet and gold.
While Moody will benefit this year from his prolonged experience as a safety and the similar responsibilities and assignments his old position shares with his new one, Erving enters the 2012 starting completely from scratch.
After a redshirt year learning on the sidelines and a rookie campaign that saw him make tremendous strides at his natural position, Erving appeared poised to take the next step and become yet another weapon for defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins.
But after playing in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman and registering 20 tackles, 2 ½ tackles for loss and one sack, the decision was made to move him to the other side of the ball – a surprising switch that raised a few eyebrows when Fisher made the announcement about Erving's move from defensive tackle.
Despite playing exclusively on defense since he was a youngster on the football fields in South Georgia, FSU’s coaches saw something in Erving that balanced the riskiness of moving a proven commodity at one position to a brand new and unproven one.
At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds with long arms and quick feet, Erving already looked the part of a prototypical NFL left tackle. But could he play like one despite his inexperience?
Whatever doubts there were about Erving’s ability to grasp his new job and learn from offensive line coach Rick Trickett were quickly erased. Erving quickly became the talk of spring, showing tremendous upside, athleticism and a desire to get better each and every day at practice.
Erving began spring as the starter at left tackle and that’s exactly where he ended it in FSU’s Garnet & Gold Game – a contest that saw him hold his own against FSU’s All-American defensive end Brandon Jenkins.
"It was a long process but it was fairly smooth," Erving said after the spring game. "I didn't know I could have this good of time on offense. It's been fun and I've grown a lot."
The Seminoles hope that Erving will continue to evolve, improve and build off his successful first few months on offense and become the team’s bookend left tackle for the next two to three years.
If Erving can do that and if Moody can help ease Bradham’s loss, both position-switched Seminoles will have direct affects on FSU's 2012 championship quest.