Fall Camp 2017: Position battles at center and tackle

Florida State enters Fall Camp next week as they begin final preparations for the 2017-18 season. The Seminoles still have multiple position battles ongoing who’s outcomes will be crucial to their success.

FSU is still looking to solidify starters on the offensive line. The guard spots are the only positions up front that have been filled. Sophomore Landon Dickerson has fully recovered from his ACL injury and is back in the lineup after starting seven games last season at right guard. The left guard spot will be held by redshirt sophomore Cole Minshew. Minshew dealt with injuries, most notably concussions, earlier in his career but showed tremendous potential and he finally realized some of that talent by starting the final three games of last season. Dickerson and Minshew should be solid pieces on the line as long as they can stay relatively healthy.

The battles for the starting jobs at center, left tackle, and right tackle should be close. The `Noles have a lot of talented prospects in contention for the open spots.

Position: Center

Contenders: Redshirt junior Alec Eberle, redshirt freshman Baveon Johnson, redshirt freshman Andrew Boselli

The Seminoles return Alec Eberle (15 consecutive starts) at center but his play was inconsistent last season. Eberle had some good moments, but when things went south, he sometimes looked like the worst player on the field. He was occasionally manhandled and driven back, causing disruption to Florida State’s offensive attack. Still, Eberle has had another offseason to improve and he is the most experienced center on the entire roster. He seems to have packed on the necessary to strength to help him if he earns the starting nod again.

However, the young talent is certainly making a push for playing time. Baveon Johnson was the No. 1 ranked center prospect in the 2016 class while Andrew Boselli got a chance to enroll early and get a head start on the college game. Nevertheless, Johnson struggled with his weight while Boselli was simply behind other linemen on the depth chart and both redshirted. Johnson has since gotten his weight under control and both players spent time with the starting unit during spring practice.

Johnson is a big body at 6’3” 325 pounds and his size could give him the leg up in this battle. He’s listed at about 30 more pounds than Eberle and 20 more pounds than Boselli. He is absolutely massive and has the talent to boot.

Projected Starter: Alec Eberle

Aforementioned, Eberle has started the last 15 games at center for Florida State. Coach Rick Trickett and the rest of the linemen are comfortable with having him at the head of the line. It seems like Eberle should earn the starting job to begin the season if he can have a solid camp. Watch out for Johnson though. He too could leap into the starting lineup with a big fall camp. Regardless, Johnson and Boselli will be nice pieces for the future of this unit.

Position: Left Tackle

Contenders: Redshirt freshman Jauan Williams, redshirt freshman Josh Ball, redshirt freshman Mike Arnold, redshirt sophomore Abdul Bello

Florida State thought they’d have experience at left tackle in 2017, instead, three-year starter Roderick Johnson declared his intentions to go pro. Johnson wouldn’t be selected until the fifth round and you have to wonder if he regrets not returning to school to raise his stock.

Now, the Seminoles have an influx of young, but inexperienced, talent at tackle. Jauan Williams, Josh Ball, and Mike Arnold all joined FSU as members of the 2016 recruiting class. All three redshirted during the 2016-17 campaign. Bello signed with the `Noles in 2015.

Williams and Ball were both consensus four-star prospects while Arnold was a three-star prep school product. Bello was a four-star top-100 recruit in 2015 according to the 247 Composite Rankings.

This is a big battle as the winner will be protecting starting quarterback Deondre Francois’s blind side. Williams and Bello are both physically ready to contribute at the collegiate level while Ball and Arnold still have some work to do on their bodies. Still, the four will compete for the job and we might see some different lineups depending on how the young bodies at left tackle transition over to playing actual competition.

Projected starter: Jauan Williams

Despite his inexperience, Williams has the potential to solidify the hole at left tackle over the next few seasons. He showed his flexibility by famously pulling his leg behind his head on National Signing Day as he chose the `Noles. Williams has the physicality to contribute in the run game on day one. He has good hand placement and leverage on his run blocks and is violent with his drives. Williams is great at washing defenders down. He’s a decent pass blocker but needs to work on his bend and leverage. He does have great hand placement and rhythm on his kickbacks. Williams should be a force on the offensive line with some experience under his belt.

Position: Right Tackle

Contenders: Senior Rick Leonard, redshirt junior Brock Ruble

FSU has to be happy with the experience they return at right tackle but you have to wonder why they aren’t trying one of these two guys out at left tackle. Rick Leonard converted from defensive end to offensive tackle and was a mixed bag of tricks in his first year at the position. He started six games, including the final three, and looks primed to carry that momentum over to the fall. Leonard looked more comfortable at his new position as the season progressed and he could be ready to lock the spot down as a senior. He really improved as a pass blocker and is already solid in the run game.

However, Brock Ruble isn’t ready to concede yet. The rising redshirt junior has started 13 games over the last two seasons and made seven starts at right tackle in 2016-17 that were in place of Leonard. Ruble provided valuable contributions with his run blocking and ability to open holes. He has really come along since his first season in the Seminoles program.

It’s clear that the Seminoles have two solid options to choose from at right tackle. Could the loser of this job get a shot at the open left tackle position?

Projected Starter: Rick Leonard

Leonard finished the season as the starter and came along at the position as the year progressed. He seemed to become more comfortable with the scheme and plays later in the season and was consistent in not getting called for penalties. Leonard is already a physical lineman in the run game and it will important for him to stay low to have leverage against defensive lineman. In the pass game, he needs to work on not over extending his hands when trying to engage rushers. Leonard should improve his game since he’s had another offseason to work on the transition. If not, Ruble will be waiting in the wings.

Dustin Lewis

Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in English Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Writer for FSView Sports and Hashtag Basketball.

One Comment

  1. Vince Nole

    August 3, 2017 at 3:20 PM

    Baveon Johnson should start at center. He was the number 1 center recruit in the country with the sheer talent, size, and speed to dominate and protect our quarterback in key games like Alabama and Clemson and the playoffs. He will never be manhandled and run over into Deondre. Can anyone honestly say that about the Eberle? Johnson is far more talented and should start over the Matador–as anyone who watched our Clemson game last year will recall too well.

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