Yes, an ambitious post of which I only address a small part with MHO. I have to say that I enjoy reading Tomahawk Nation because there is a great deal of knowledge here (and not as much bomb throwing as some other sites). With that in mind, I solicit your opinions about all things O-Line, Trickett and their future. I think much of this has been covered but, hey, at this point, with the last game of the season over and recruiting day still six weeks away, we have nothing else to do but chew the rinds of the 2008 season and speculate about the future. With that being said, here's my opinion on the offensive line to date:
I will have to say that strength and conditioning were the areas of most concern to me and are the underpinnings of much of what I have to write about. There was a noticeable lack of injuries to the o-line this year (actually the entire team in comparison to the last few years). I believe the strength and conditioning coach change was a MAJOR step in the right direction and cannot be underestimated. Whatever Stroud is doing, it runs circles around Jost. I always had a problem with Jost since we began to suffer injuries at a rate never before experienced at FSU under Van Halanger. Later, our lack of physical play made an even stronger case against the guy. It seemed like we lost a lot more guys to knee injuries than anything. If that doesn't make you stop and think you're doing something wrong, I don't know what would. Now, the o-line seems robust and durable in spite of being underweight and out muscled much of the time. Maybe it's the new blocking scheme but it seems there's more to it than that. I did see that Stroud includes stretching and yoga in his workout routine. Considering that the strength portion of most programs has athletes all getting massive with muscles that pull on tendons like overstretched rubber bands, this type of conditioning is a fantastic and, I would say, critical addition. With only 85 schollies, keeping the injury bug down is crucial. Here's a link with interesting info : http://www.fantasyfootballcafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8342.
When it comes to depth, we do have it, I’m just not sure what we are deep in. I heard an announcer say that we were basically going through a "youth movement" this season where older juniors and seniors were being shelved in favor of getting valuable playing time for the freshmen and sophomores. DW and Tonga were pointed to as examples of that decision. How many times during televised games did you see the graphic of how many freshmen and sophomores we were starting on our o-line? What amazed most announcers was only half the story. Three freshmen and two sophomores starting was certainly fascinating enough. But the fact that almost all the backups were freshmen and sophomores (except Tonga) was usually missed. I also thought that it was a youth movement and wondered what had happened to all the juniors and seniors. Were they unable to adapt? Recruited for a different type of line play? Then I looked at the depth chart and realized that 15 out of 17 of our linemen were either freshman or sophomores and there was only one junior and one senior (and the junior is our long snapper, Aronson). What did I miss? What happened to the recruits of 2005, 2004 and even the redshirts of 2003? Did Trickett drive them all off? Did they get booted for one reason or another? I know it bodes well for the future but it surprised me. That leads to Trickett.
I remember reading here at TN that Coach Trickett had sharp words for Jost and basically took over his own training and conditioning when he got here. Trickett reminds me of Coach McDuffie, the OC who was here when I was in school (interesting read: http://tallahassee.com/legacy/special/blogs/sellis/2007/03/fsu-spring-football.html) only without the tempestuous nature, but with the same demanding expectations and smaller, meaner, quicker player philosophy. So far, it seems to be a mixed bag, performance wise. While they are definitely in fantastic shape and played as hard and with as much raw energy in the fourth quarter of the bowl game as they did in the first quarter of the Western Carolina game, there seemed to be a troubling pattern developing. As it has also been noted here on TN, the first half is usually sluggish, tentative and dangerous for our QB with our guys getting tossed all over the place. The second half they play lights-out and open holes all day long. Is it their lack of size and strength, lack of talent or the play calling? While McDuffie had the same philosophy, he had a great deal of success in developing a fierce successful line out of smaller, extremely intense players. I don't think it's a lack of talent because these guys are just as talented in the second half as the first. It could be play calling, half time adjustments or the fact that FSU has always been known as a second half team.
Or it could be that these guys are just too small to play at this level. All the experience and talent in the world doesn't seem like it will break the pattern of weak first half - strong second half if these guys don't get bigger/stronger. Wearing down defenses will work with many teams but won't beat Florida or get us back to the top eschelon of college football. I know Trickett's line punched Georgia in the mouth in the 2006 Sugar Bowl but a lot of that came in the first half (31 of 38 points). They surprised Georgia at first then got only one touchdown in the second half as Georgia adjusted. I don't think that WV would have fared as well against Ohio State, Texas or USC that year but perhaps that's an unfair yard stick. I also know it's different because Trickett was having to help build a program from the ground up and take the players he could get vs. all the recruiting and prestige advantages he has here at Florida State. It is also difficult to understate the success these guys had especially considering their youth. I am truly impressed with the heart and endurance of these guys. It’s been so long that I felt like we could come back in the fourth quarter, that, the first time it happened, I almost got teary eyed! It's hard to believe the two halves of the Wisconsin game were the same game. The o-line was creamed in the first half but opened up holes so big in the second half that my grandmother could have had five yards a carry. (Of course, Grandma has a mean stiff arm and denture breath so fierce she would probably have made two yards a carry in the first half. Come to think of it, she has enough hairspray in her hair that she could go without a helmet. However, she's is more of an aggressive, straight ahead runner and is not much good at turning the corner so she would probably be more of a short yardage, third down back., but I digress....)
What was I saying? Oh yeah…I will also offer that I am a huge Coach Trickett fan and think he will be successful with his formula. That being said, it had BETTER work because we are deeply committed to it. Our o-line roster weighs in at between 270 and 305 (including a 6'2"-243 lb freshman that is either a serious project, related to the Bowdens or a true Berzerker on the field!). If we get knocked flat all the first half in 2009, we may be rebuilding yet again. So far, we only have two offensive linemen as recruits for 2009 and they definitely fit the current profile. Does anybody know what the prospects are for this year beyond Orelus and Prior? When it comes to measuring the talent of these guys, I’m not a very good judge. So much of what they are doing is related to the system they are in. Good fits for the system might be a better way of putting it. Not that they aren’t going to be talented with an average three star rating but they may not be the big 5 star guys that are so highly coveted. Honestly, after watching FSU’s last several highly rated recruiting classes go down the tubes, I really don’t trust the Rivals rankings anymore. If they included a Character factor in giving those stars out, I would be much more likely to watch them. The Character factor would include, but not be limited to, GPA, number of brushes with the law, likelihood of qualifying, likelihood of graduating and attitude. I think that would have taken Fred Rouse down to a two star recruit.
As I said, I am a big Coach Trickett fan. He fits well with Coach Fisher and I think they will get things solidified for next year. I think the schedule will be as challenging as it was this year, with basically the same lineup minus the two starter patsies. (BTW, any idea who the 12th team will be?) This group of linemen will grow, mature and come out next year, meaner, stronger, nastier and more experienced than this year. Their additional experience along with more experience at the skill positions and Ponder will mean a wider variety of plays and formations. I am already excited for next year and may drop the $ for tickets for the first time in a long time! Thanks again and I look forward to your comments. Go Noles!