FSU likes additions along offensive live

Florida State’s finish on National Signing Day yielded just two offensive linemen but that was arguably the Seminoles greatest need on the roster. The offensive line was easily the weakest position on the field in 2018 and it was clear from the get-go that this unit needed an influx of talent.

“Someone kind of whispered that we probably needed to recruit more offensive linemen,” David Kelly said during the National Signing Day party last week. “We were committed to doing that as a staff.”

Though FSU did end up missing on higher rated prospects such as five-star tackles Evan Neal and Charles Cross along with four-star Will Putnam, the coaching staff were able to sign five skilled linemen in the class while also adding grad-transfer Ryan Roberts. Four-star guard Dontae Lucas, three-star JUCO offensive tackle Jay Williams, three-star offensive tackle Darius Washington, three-star offensive tackle Ira Henry, and three-star center Maurice Smith. We also expect the staff to continue pursuing grad-transfer guards R.J. Proctor and Parker Braun.

“I feel like we met our needs,” head coach Willie Taggart said at the ‘Noles National Signing Day party last week. “I feel like we added some competitive depth to our offensive line, something we needed.”

While most of the linemen who signed in this class won’t be ready to contribute immediately, they certainly raise the immediate floor and future ceiling of the programs offensive line. Lucas and Williams will likely be expected to contribute during their first years on campus but prospects like Henry, Washington, and Smith look like they could develop into studs in the future. They each have room to add to their frames in the weight room for a season or two before seeing playing time but who knows with how the rest of the unit played a year ago.

“Some guys played this year that weren’t ready to play,” Taggart said on 2018. “The guys we brought in, they’re very talented and they’re going to challenge our guys that are here to be on their ‘A’ game. It was so important to get depth up front, some big guys, some people-movers. I love the way they play. The thing I love most about them is that they love to finish their blocks.”

FSU has added some road-graders up-front and three of those guys, Maurice Smith, Ira Henry, and Jay Williams, were each singled out by coaches during the event. Offensive line coach  Greg Frey was not in attendance due to a family emergency but some of the other staff members stepped up in his place to talk about the signings.

“Coach Frey liked him,” running backs coach Donte Pimpleton said on Smith. “We had him in camp and he did a good job of dominating the guys that were here. Versatile player and is a competitive guy. I think he’s going to come in and do great things for us.”

Smith will likely redshirt as a true freshman but he’s got the ability to do something before his time in Tallahassee is up. He’s a physical blocker that keeps his feet moving and he also has good hand placement when blocking. He does need to keep working at pass blocking and adding the necessary strength to battle with college defensive linemen.

One guy that will probably contribute in some capacity next season is Jay Williams and coach Kelly added some comments on him.

“He started out as a skill position player on offense,” Kelly said of Williams. “He moved to the defensive side of the ball, then finally figured out he could play the game a lot longer on offense. He’s already on campus.”

Williams began his career as a tight end before switching to defensive end and then finally settling on offensive tackle. He caught 17 touchdown passes and notched 22 sacks during his time in high school prior to his stint in JUCO. So, he’s definitely athletic and versatile.

Finally, Kelly also talked about three-star offensive tackle Ira Henry. The Saint Louis product already has the body for the next level and he has one of the highest ceilings of any lineman on the entire roster. He’s a physical blocker but he’ll have to keep finetuning his skills before he hits the field.

“Extremely excited to get him.” Kelly said. “Very highly recruited. Looking for great things from him. Strong, intense recruiting battle. Went down to 1:00 or 1:30 today [with Auburn] and we’re very fortunate it went our way.”

After adding a total of six offensive linemen, this class was certainly a win for Florida State. It’s disappointing to miss out on higher-rated prospects who could’ve been potential day one contributors but needs were met that will better the future of the unit. As mentioned above, the Seminoles are still active with multiple grad-transfers and that’ll be something to track in the spring and possibly into the summer.

We’ll have more information out Tuesday on the targets that the staff is pursuing in the 2020 class. FSU already has six players committed and a top-10 class in the country but they haven’t added any offensive linemen yet. We’re expecting them to try to sign around five OL’s by the end of the cycle.


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