By Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
Offensive Line Recap:
It’s pretty amazing what a couple of strong recruiting classes and unique approach to the game of football can do.
After several years of struggles and lack of depth across the offensive line, Rick Trickett brought his brand of toughness and “lighter-but-meaner” mentality to the trenches of the Florida State football team.
There’s no doubting that FSU’s offensive line coach has quickly turned a position of weakness into one of strength.
The Seminole offensive linemen entered spring practice feeling good after a 2008 season in which their unit was perhaps the most consistent on the entire team. The unit’s specialty was opening holes for a rushing attack that churned out 2,328 total yards – the most yardage gained on the ground in a season since 2003.
Now as arguably the team’s deepest position with a stable of players that have bought into Coach Trickett’s teachings, FSU’s offensive linemen showed during the spring what to expect this coming season as they continue to get better – particularly in pass protection.
Led by All-America candidate Rodney Hudson at left guard, the offensive linemen helped pace a Seminole offense that had one of its most successful spring practice sessions in several years. When tailbacks Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones weren’t finding lots of room to achieve large gains on the ground, Ponder was getting more than enough time to find one of his receivers down field through the air.
FSU fans that attended the Garnet & Gold game had the opportunity to see a unit of players that is one year more knowledgeable after a 2008 campaign in which experience was not one of their strong suits.
A season after fielding a starting lineup of just sophomores and freshmen, the offensive line’s continued growth and overall performance in the spring practice period gives fans a lot to be excited about.
With two veterans in Hudson and Ryan McMahon and several second-year players with a lot of playing time under their belts, FSU’s offensive line could be one of the best in the entire country in 2009.
What to watch for:
There are some seriously talented offensive linemen set to enroll at FSU this summer and each of those players will have a bright future in Tallahassee.
But in all likelihood, the five players that start up front against the Miami Hurricanes on Labor Day shouldn’t be much of a surprise – except for maybe one position.
After spending the majority of his career as a backup, redshirt junior Brandon Davis filled in for sophomore David Spurlock, who has missed off-season work with a shoulder injury, as the starter at right guard this spring.
Spurlock started eight games at right guard as a true freshman last season and performed very well. But because of his injury, Davis received extended playing time and made the most of his opportunity. Davis’ strong spring performance and Spurlock’s return to action in the coming months means that the competition in two-a-days will be something to pay close attention to as both vie for the starting nod.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the other four starters this season should look exactly like they did in the spring.
Hudson and McMahon have the left guard and center positions locked down and true sophomores Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders are the bookends at left and right tackle, respectively.
Keep an eye on Antwane Greenlee, though. The massive 6-foot-6 and 293-pound right tackle has continued to improve over the course of his career after sustaining a scary cervical injury his first year at Florida State. His persistent improvement should provide Sanders with some competition at right tackle.
As for the true freshmen, there’s no telling what sort of immediate impact that John Prior, Aubrey Phillips and Henry Orelus will have.
Whether they take a redshirt to learn the system, earn backup roles or even crack the starting lineup, with Coach Trickett serving as their guide anything is certainly possible.
Seminoles.com Position Analysis Archive: