Aug. 3, 2011
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As we continue our week-long camp preview, today’s two highlighted positions — offensive line and linebacker — share a common goal: they both must replace two starters that were lost to graduation.
Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett is charged with replacing Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon while linebackers coach Greg Hudson must find replacements for Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander.
Since he arrived at FSU five years ago, Trickett has worked tirelessly on the recruiting trail to formulate a depth chart full of his types of linemen.
That means having a position group that features student-athletes that are smart enough to understand the complexities of his blocking scheme, athletic enough to play all five spots on the line and tough enough to handle the fire-bellied coaching intensity that Trickett is most famous for.
The ones that haven’t met all three of those specific criterion have been weeded out or never made it through a full season. The ones that remain are part of a unit that is the backbone of the Seminoles’ offense.
Unfortunately for the ‘Noles, that backbone needed a brace this past spring.
The three returning starters — Andrew Datko, Zebrie Sanders and David Spurlock — and backup Blake Snider all missed the entire spring practice period with various injuries. Because of that, it made it nearly impossible for Trickett and the rest of the offensive coaching staff to fully evaluate what the line will look like without Hudson and McMahon, who both started four years in a row.
It wasn’t all bad, though.
When the Seminoles open camp on Monday, Trickett will trot his linemen on to the field knowing the strengths and weaknesses of all his young players.
WIthout the services of the three most experienced returners, Henry Orelus, Garrett Faircloth, Bryan Stork, Rhonne Sanderson, Sterling Lovelady, Jacob Stanley and Daniel Foose all had the chance to show what they could do in the spring. Junior-college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug did the best job of this as he blew Trickett away with his flexibility and natural fit at the center position.
With Fahrenkrug the likely starter at center and the now-healthy returns of Datko and Sanders to the left and right tackle spots, respectively, camp will be all about determining the guard positions and the slotting of the reserves.
Spurlock is currently listed as the first-team left guard. All indications are that he should be ready to go but concussions have been a concern. Stork begins camp as the starter at right guard but he will be in a heated competition with Orelus, who could also move to the left if need be. Snider is back to full health and Stanley and Foose are options as well.
Then there’s the matter of an impressive recruiting haul of freshmen that have made their way to Tallahassee.
Redshirts are obviously the most realistic possibilities for Bobby Hart, Ruben Carter, Josue Matias, Lovelady (a spring enrollee), Trey Pettis and Austin Barron. But remember, the best will play no matter what their eligibility says. Just ask Hudson and McMahon, who made a name for themselves early in their careers and never looked back.
Replacing Alexander and Smith means Hudson must find new first teamers at the strongside and middle linebacker positions.
Hudson’s group will begin practice knowing that the star of the bunch is Nigel Bradham, who is back for his final season in the garnet and gold and has the chance to cement his name in to a long list of great Florida State linebackers. With Bradham controlling the defense from the weak side, sophomore Christian Jones is No. 1 on the strong side after excelling there in the spring.
Jones saw action in all 14 games last year primarily as a special teams player but he did work his way up the depth chart and spelled Alexander on several occasions. His continued growth at the linebacker position should be fun for all FSU fans to watch.
In the middle, the battle begins Monday between Vince Williams and Telvin Smith.
Williams, possesses the prototypical “Mike frame” as he measures in at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds. Telvin Smith meanwhile looks more like an outside ‘backer standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 209 pounds. Hudson will be keeping a close eye on this competition where Williams boasts unique power, strength and awareness and Telvin Smith is one of the quickest linebackers anywhere in the country.
As far as backups are concerned, young returners Jeff Luc, Nigel Terrell and Holmes Onwukaife and freshmen Terrance Smith and Arrington Jenkins face the task of not only jockeying for position on the depth chart but also being physically and mentally prepared to play. Because of the multiple fronts that defensive coordinator Mark Stoops could use this season, four linebackers could see the field at the same time on a frequent basis depending on the defensive play called and the opponent’s offensive tendencies and each of them could rotate in as need be.
Luc is currently backing up Bradham, Onwukaife is behind Williams/Telvin Smith and Terrell is behind Jones. That order could still change though.
FSU has traditionally produced a handful of talented linebackers each season and that has a lot to do with the cross-training mentality of the linebackers coaches. When Hudson took over for Chuck Amato, that ideology remained the same. This has always helped in not just getting the best linebackers on the field but also in making sure that should injuries occur, guys could be shuffled around accordingly.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a write-up on the wide receivers and cornerbacks. Tight ends and safeties will then be highlighted on Friday. Once camp gets started on Monday, Aug. 8, Seminoles.com should be the first website all FSU fans access each day. We will have written features, video interviews, head coach Jimbo Fisher and player quotes, pictures of all the veterans and newcomers and so much more through fall camp and leading into the 2011 regular season.