TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Baveon Johnson is wearing a broad grin as he walks out to Florida State’s practice fields on Wednesday morning, and for a few different reasons.
For one, Johnson this spring has the inside track to be Florida State’s next starting center after serving as an understudy to veteran Alec Eberle for the last three years.
Not only that, but Johnson has found a welcome change in the form of new position coach Randy Clements, who uses an encouraging, instruction-heavy style on the practice fields.
“He’s different, because I’m used to getting yelled at by my previous O-line coach,” Johnson said with a smile. “He’s a chilled-back type of dude. I’m used to getting cussed out.”
Not so much anymore.
Clements has a big job ahead of him as he renovates Florida State’s offensive line, and Johnson figures to be a big part of his blueprint.
A former prep All-American, injuries and a crowded depth chart have limited Johnson to just four appearances since his arrival in 2016.
But those three years have included a few hundred practice sessions and maybe countless snaps with Florida State’s scout team.
So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Johnson is feeling confident in his expanded role.
“Spring is going good,” he said. “I’m running with the ‘ones’ right now, doing pretty good, progressing the way I want to, competing the way I want to compete.”
Johnson certainly looks the part.
At 6-foot-3, 307 pounds, Johnson has the frame typically found on the interior of the line, and his powerful base has allowed him to hang in there against the likes of veteran defensive tackles Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden.
Blocking, of course, is a big part of the job, and Johnson said that he’s already seeing progress in that regard thanks to Clements.
More than that, though, Johnson knows that the best blocking linemen in the world won’t amount to much without a good, clean snap from center.
Florida State has sometimes struggled with snapping in recent years, and Johnson is determined to make that a thing of the past.
“I had to get more consistent,” Johnson said, noting that he’s so far only had one misfired snap this spring. “I’m trying to progress. Every bad snap, I’ve got to punish myself some way.”
Being a multi-year veteran also provides Johnson a unique opportunity to assume a leadership role despite being the “new guy” on the line.
While Clements will no doubt tinker with his combinations over the next few months, the Seminoles do have four returning regular starters from a year ago.
But Johnson is from the same 2016 signing class that produced Landon Dickerson, Jauan Williams and Mike Arnold, and he’s got a year on Brady Scott.
So when Johnson speaks, whether in the huddle or the locker room, he’s speaking to teammates who have known him for their entire careers.
“Baveon is doing a great job leading the O-line,” quarterback James Blackman said. “Man, I just love the way he’s leading his guys. And he’s having fun doing it.
“He’s even leading me. He looked back and gave me a little ‘Chirp, chirp’ the other day to make me get right.”
The Seminoles don’t kick off against Boise State for another five months, but Johnson isn’t shy about his goals between now and then.
After a trying 2018 campaign, Johnson said that Florida State’s offensive linemen know they need to “redeem” themselves, and that they want to bring a “good name” back to the O-line room.
That starts, Johnson said, by becoming respected and feared by their teammates. Do that, and they’ll be well on their way to becoming respected and feared by their opponents.
“We want to be the best in the ACC,” Johnson said. “That’s our goal, and we will achieve that goal.”