Everyone can breathe a big sigh of relief now. This is the last part of this series, and I will soon be out of your hair forever. However, I will follow this up with a short recap with the final #'s for each unit, so that you all can share a good laugh over your projections come January.
So far we have analyzed, discussed, and you have voted on whether the Defensive Line, the Receivers/Tight End, the Secondary, the Offensive Backfield, the Linebackers, and the Special Teams, will be better, the same, or worse than last years equivalent unit. Today we will take a look at the Offensive Line, to determine if this unit has progressed, expected to continue at the same level, or regressed, in comparison to last years O-Line.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Trench warfare isn't pretty, but it often decides which team wins on Saturday's because a stout line protects it's quarterback, and opens up running lanes for the tailbacks.
You will hear many coaches say that if you win the battle in the trenches (both offensive and defensive), you will win on the scoreboard, and more specifically, if you want an indication of how well a team is going to do, watch how the offensive line performs. The Noles lost plenty of those trench battles last season, especially in the passing game.
With that said, the offensive line is the unit that takes the longest to get used to playing with each other. Think about it: It is the only unit where a player is shoulder to shoulder with another player, and a lot of a player's success depends on what and how the player next to him is doing. A team that can keep their offensive line together and keep them healthy over the course of a season, is the team that is going to have the most success. Usually, these are the teams that turn out better than people expected at the start of the season. Sound familiar? It should, and this is a reason to be cautiously optimistic about this teams potential this year.
On the other hand, when you see a team having trouble staying healthy on the offensive line, those are usually the teams that are going to have some problems. As players get hurt and have to sit out games, the chemistry, communication, instincts, and the skills of their replacements aren't familiar to the rest of the line, and usually results in less likelyhood of running and passing the ball effectively.
if you are a regular TN reader, you are probably familiar with this topic from such recent stories as Will the Florida State Offensive Line Pass Protect in 2009? and, Understanding Zone Blocking and Florida State's Offensive Line, and, Florida State Seminoles Left Tackle Andrew Datko to face an NFL schedule.
The Noles 2009 offensive line, while the youngest line in the FBS in 2008, could be one of the best in the country in 2009. For the first time since 2004, the Seminoles will return all five starters on the offensive line from the previous season. That year the Seminoles averaged 162 yards per game on the ground. Three of the five projected starters on the line were named a freshman All-American (Andrew Datko, Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon). Despite starting three true freshmen, the Seminoles had their best year running the football since 2000 as far as NCAA rankings go. Rodney Hudson enters on the watch list for the 2009 Lombardi Award. He is one of only two ACC players on the watch list.
One of the major areas of concern for Rick Trickett's unit this year will be to improve in the pass blocking where last years unit gave up 26 sacks for 187 yards.
2008 LEFT TACKLE=Zebrie Sanders started the first game before being replaced by Andrew Datko who then started the remaining 12 games.
2008 LEFT GUARD=Rodney Hudson started every game.
2009 PROJECTED LEFT GUARD=Rodney Hudson followed by Rhonne Sanderson and Blake Snider.
2008 CENTER=Ryan McMahon started every game.
2009 PROJECTED CENTER=Ryan McMahon followed by A.J. Ganguzza.
2009 PROJECTED RIGHT GUARD=David Spurlock (assuming his shoulder injury is OK) followed by Brandon Davis and Will Furlong.
2008 RIGHT TACKLE=Antwane Greenlee started the first 3 games, then was replaced by Zebrie Sanders who then started every remaining game.
2009 PROJECTED RIGHT TACKLE=Zebrie Sanders followed by Antwane Greenlee.
OTHERS ON THE ROSTER WHO MAY CONTRIBUTE=Jacob Stanley and in the incoming class John Prior, Bryan Stork, and Henry Orelus. Aubrey Phillips is no longer on the team and Evan Bellamy is out for the season with blood clot issues.
While this is the depth chart we expected prior to the start of practice, on the second day of practice Trickett decided to shake things up a little on the right side of the line.
RG David Spurlock and RT Zebrie Sanders started the majority of last season, but Brandon Davis and Antwane Greenlee have moved onto the first team at those two positions, respectively. Trickett made the changes, he said after practice on Saturday, because Davis and Greenlee earned the promotions during spring practice.
"I thought at the end of spring practice I thought they out-worked the other guys," Trickett said. "Now, summer work [has] all been pretty much the same. But I usually start them out where they ended up spring practice. I don’t judge anything on the weight room and stuff like that."
Spurlock and Sanders, of course, are now working to earn their positions back.
"I thought Zebrie’s had two real good days, he’s shown that he wants to get it back and Brandon, he’s fighting to keep it," Trickett said. "And you can tell Spurlock’s got a little rust on him."
Courtesy of Andrew Carter's Chopping Block
More recently, it appears that these 2 position battles will come down to the following.
The position: Right guard
The battle: David Spurlock vs. Brandon Davis
The skinny: Spurlock, a sophomore, is the incumbent and he started eight games here a season ago. But Davis, a redshirt junior, moved ahead of Spurlock during the spring and has remained on the first string. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett admits he tried to run Davis off but Davis wouldn’t let him. Trickett says Spurlock is rusty but that he’s at his best when motivated, which he should be given his demotion.
The position: Right tackle
The battle: Zebrie Sanders vs. Antwane Greenlee
The skinny: Like Spurlock, Sanders is a sophomore who started at his position the majority of last season. But in similar fashion, he lost his spot to Greenlee in the spring. Greenlee started the first three games a season ago, and he has impressed Trickett with his tenacity. Trickett said he was impressed by Sanders’ efforts early on in preseason practice. This position might not be decided until kick off of the Miami game.
Courtesy of Andrew Carter's Chopping Block
Regardless of how these two position battles shake out once the pads are on and the hitting starts,