March 14, 2014
There aren't many programs that have the luxury of winning the national championship and then kicking off spring practices a few months later with an all-senior starting offensive line.
But Florida State isn't most programs.
Despite losing Bryan Stork, the nation's top center in 2013, to graduation, FSU returns rising senior standouts Cameron Erving (left tackle), Josue Matias (left guard), Tre' Jackson (right guard) and Bobby Hart (right tackle). And Stork's replacement at center is another senior with starting experience in Austin Barron.
Games are won and lost in the trenches and with five senior starters poised to pace the offense, the Seminoles are certainly in good shape in 2014.
But they have to stay healthy.
The four returning starters are some of the best at the respective positions in the Atlantic Coast Conference but that doesn't mean they are impervious to injury -- and FSU doesn't have much depth behind them. The `Noles were extremely lucky to field a healthy offensive line all season in 2013 and that had a lot to do with why they won a championship. To have that same luck this year would be great, but it can never be expected.
Ruben Carter is the most experienced of FSU's second-string offensive linemen, having earned valuable backup minutes during the Seminoles' many blow-out victories last year. Wilson Bell earned some early-season snaps as Erving's backup at left tackle early in the year but he went down with a season-ending injury. Ryan Hoefeld redshirted in his first year with the program.
In addition to Stork, FSU lost backups Jonathan Wallace, Jacob Fahrenkrug and Sterling Lovelady to graduation and would-be redshirt freshman Ira Denson is only taking classes this semester so his status is up in the air. The nation's No. 1-rated junior-college college guard enrolled at Florida State in the spring, but Jimbo Fisher confirmed that Kareem Are is still working into shape and might not be available for spring ball.
With so little depth, FSU's starters have to balance the fine line of improving this spring without pushing their bodies so hard that injury risk becomes more prevalent. Florida State is set to restock the roster with a bevy of incoming freshmen linemen.
Until then, it's all about keeping the starting crew healthy while maximizing the potential of a trio of key backups.
2014 Seminoles.com Spring-Practice Preview Series: