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NoleGameday

2019 Spring Practice Focus: Offensive Line

Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire

This is another installment of NoleGameday’s spring practice focus on the Florida State football team. The Seminoles are set to kick off their spring practice slate on Monday, March 4, culminating with the annual Garnet & Gold game at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 6. We’ll be breaking down each position on offense and defense while also highlighting the special teams unit leading up to the first day of practice. This piece will focus on the offensive line.

Previous spring practice focuses:

– Quarterbacks

– Running Backs

– Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Florida State’s offensive line was arguably as bad as it has ever been in 2018. That’s no understatement. Most of the time, the offensive linemen could barely line up right let alone block the man in front of them. At times, it was ridiculous just how inferior they were to the competition. Sure, injuries and the offseason departures of David Robbins, Corey Martinez, Andrew Boselli (who’s now back), Ethan Frith, Brock Ruble, and Josh Ball didn’t help, but the unit didn’t take any noticeable steps forward throughout the season under Greg Frey.

As I stated in the running back focus earlier this week, what could you really expect out of them with the kind of blocking they were getting? The ‘Noles recorded just six games of over 100 rushing yards and maxed out with a total of 156 yards on the ground against Boston College. For reference, in 2017, when the offensive line still wasn’t much to write home about, the offense rushed for over 100 yards nine times and hit 200+ yards six times.  Cam Akers averaged .9 yards less per carry (5.3 to 4.4) in 2018 than the year before and the dropoff for Jacques Patrick was a whopping -2.1 yards from 2017 (5.6 to 3.5).

FSU actually only allowed four more sacks in 2018 than in 2017 (36 to 32) but it’s obvious the numbers don’t tell the full story here. Former quarterback Deondre Francois was under pressure just about every time he tried to throw and just like the past two seasons, he took some huge hits that took a toll on him throughout 2018. Eventually, his confidence was shot and he was more worried about the pass rush than reading defenses and it showed. All of those frustrations boiled over and culminated with the dismissal of offensive line coach Greg Frey earlier this offseason.

Now, the Seminoles can focus on moving forward and bouncing back under new coach Randy Clements. Clements and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles have worked together Baylor and Houston in the same capacity. They have a cohesiveness and know how to work well off one another and that led to consistent consistent success at their previous stops. It may not come altogether immediately but it’s definitely expected that the offensive line will work better due to the chemistry of Clements and Briles.

Departures

Alec Eberle, redshirt senior

Derrick Kelly II, redshirt senior

Arthur Williams, redshirt senior

Florida State lost just three offensive linemen to graduation this offseason but two of them were some of the most experienced players on the roster. Alec Eberle ended his career with an insane 44 straight starts while Derrick Kelly made 28 starts of his own as a ‘Nole. They both received criticism from fans and the media over their careers, both should be remembered as true Seminoles who put their bodies on the line to do as much for the team as they possibly could.

Williams started five games at left guard after converting to OL from defensive tackle in the preseason. He struggled with the position after spending so little time at it but you can’t question the effort he put into his career over his five years despite spending the majority of it as a backup.

Returnees

Cole Minshew, redshirt senior

Abdul Bello, redshirt senior

Landon Dickerson, redshirt junior

Baveon Johnson, redshirt junior

Mike Arnold, redshirt junior

Jauan Williams, redshirt junior

Brady Scott, redshirt sophomore

Christian Meadows, redshirt freshman

Jalen Goss, redshirt freshman

Chaz Neal, redshirt freshman

Christian Armstrong, redshirt freshman

The Seminoles bring back 11 offensive linemen and that includes six upperclassmen with just two seniors. This is a younger group that still has a lot of potential it could fulfill. As we wrote about earlier this week, nine of the 11 returning OL’s are now over 300 pounds and seven of those 11 have already put on weight this offseason. They have been working hard following the failure that was 2018 and it shows they’re determined to turn this mess around.

Cole Minshew and Landon Dickerson have proven themselves as starters when they’re healthy, well, after dealing with injuries for most of their careers, they’re both due for a good streak of luck (hopefully). The jury is still out on guys like Baveon Johnson, Mike Arnold, and Jauan Williams but they still have time to put it all together. It’s possible Clements could help draw that talent out of them, especially with a hole at center. Brady Scott has shown some talent and he’s likely to be a contributor if not starter in 2019 depending on how things shake out.

Then you have the four members of #Tribe18 who redshirted last season. Christian Meadows and Christian Armstrong look physically ready to play at the college level. Chaz Neal has added some weight and strength this offseason and he’s coming along quicker than expected. The disappointment is four-star Jalen Goss who is still just 270 pounds after losing weight so far this offseason at 6-foot-7. He just might not be big enough to play yet.

Newcomers

Jay Williams, junior

Dontae Lucas, true freshman

JUCO tackle Jay Williams and four-star guard Dontae Lucas are FSU’s early enrollees among the offensive line. They’ll gain valuable experience by being able to participate in offseason workouts and spring practice. Both players are vying for playing time in their first seasons in Tallahassee. Williams has a shot to earn snaps at tackle after the disaster there a season ago and Lucas already has the physicality to battle inside at guard.

Watch out for how these two look as the spring goes on.

Spring outlook

No job along the offensive line is safe after 2018 and you can bet that coach Clements is going to get after this group all spring to try and bring the best out of them. The cream of the crop will rise to the top and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these redshirt freshmen and maybe even a true freshman push the veterans for playing time.

The key this spring will be to start identifying the top lineups and who fits best together along the offensive line. You can be sure the offensive line will receive more attention than just about any other spot on the team. Florida State is trying to set the standard for the program it wants to be and it all starts up front.


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