2017 Spring Preview: Offensive Line

There has not been a position group on Florida State’s roster as scrutinized as the offensive line has over the past two years. Ever since they had four seniors graduate in 2014, the Seminoles have not found consistency along their line. Due to poor play and injuries, 12 players have started along the offensive line since the beginning of the 2015 season. Poor offensive line play is one of the reasons why Florida State has not been able to compete for a national championship in two years. If the Seminoles hope to get back to the mecca of college football, they’ll need to figure out their offensive line question.

Starting from the middle and moving outwards, we begin with the center position. Longtime starter Alec Eberle (redshirt junior) returns, but his poor play has left much to be desired. Eberle knows the offense well and has a good tandem with QB Deondre Francois, but often gets physically overmatched against the better interior defensive linemen on the schedule. Just go back to last year and see what Clemson was able to do against him.

Due to surgery, Eberle will be out for spring practice. This leaves many snaps for other players to take as they challenge for the job. A pair of young players in Baveon Johnson (redshirt freshman) and Andrew Boselli (redshirt freshman) look to be the main competitors for the job. Johnson was the No. 1 center recruit coming out of high school and has the physical tools that FSU is looking for. Meanwhile, Boselli is the son of Jaguars great Tony Boselli and certainly has the genes to be a great offensive lineman. With Eberle out for spring, those two players, along with Corey Martinez (redshirt junior), will give Florida State fans a glimpse at what could be the future of the center position in Tallahassee.

At guard, Florida State returns an interesting pair in Landon Dickerson (sophomore) and Cole Minshew (redshirt sophomore). Both started multiple games last season and showed some promise at the guard position. But both have major health questions. Dickerson tore his ACL in November, which sidelined him for the rest of the season and he will not be participating in spring practice. Minshew, on the other hand, has dealt with a few concussions during his time in Tallahassee and his status is always a question mark.

Assuming Dickerson and Minshew are healthy, they can be penciled in as starters. If not, there are several options behind them. Derrick Kelly (redshirt junior) has started at guard before and David Robbins (redshirt sophomore) is entering his third year in the program. Mike Arnold (redshirt freshman) was a highly-rated prep recruit and could play if need be. The Seminoles will also add Brady Scott (freshman) this summer, who projects as a guard.

The tackle position is where the major questions lie. With three-year starter Roderick Johnson moving on to the NFL, there is a big hole at left tackle. Meanwhile, right tackle has been a literal revolving door for the past two seasons.

It seems fairly certain that Rick Leonard (senior) will occupy one of the two tackle spots. Leonard, a former defensive end, moved to offensive tackle last offseason. He played poorly to begin the season, was benched, and then came back to have somewhat impressive performances to end the year. The coaching staff will have to decide whether to keep him at right tackle or kick him to the other end at left tackle to protect Francois’ blindside.

Apart from Leonard, the player who has started the most games for Florida State at tackle is Brock Ruble (redshirt junior). Ruble is a mammoth of a man, but often plays like he is a mouse. Ruble is not the most athletic player in the world, but he can start in spots for you and be a reliable backup. If he is your starter, then there are going to be problems. He is likely the first man up at right tackle this spring if Leonard moves to left tackle, but there will be challengers for the job.

There are several young, athletic options on Florida State’s roster for the tackle positions. Josh Ball (redshirt freshman) and Jauan Williams (redshirt freshman) both redshirted in their first year on campus, but have the athletic profile that the coaching staff looks for in their tackles. Abdul Bello (redshirt sophomore) is somewhat of a forgotten man after tearing his ACL as a true freshman, but is healthy and back in the mix as well. Keep an eye on Ethan Frith (junior) as well. He was Johnson’s backup for two seasons and has taken more snaps at the left tackle position than anyone not named Johnson since 2015.

Figuring out the offensive line will be a major test for Rick Trickett. Essentially, none of the five job along the line are solidified going into 2017 and each has several competitors for the spot. If they can solidify the line and give Francois adequate protection, then Florida State will be ready to return to the national championship spotlight.

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