Trying to figure out what has gone wrong with the 2011 FSU offensive line, with one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the country in Rick Trickett, has been an ever escalating question in the minds of many FSU fans since the end of this years first game. Conventional wisdom said we should be patient... they didn't practice together in the spring due to injuries and once they got some time together as a unit, that would no longer be a valid question. Another line of thought was that FSU was not opening up the playbook against the first two opponents simply because it wasn't necessary and it made perfectly good sense not to show our hand to Oklahoma. It was hard to argue against these two lines of thought. Then came the Oklahoma game.
No longer could anyone say FSU was keeping the playbook under wraps. Even the argument about lack of playing time as a unit was becoming less persuasive. The new theory (excuse) was that OU's defensive front was one of the best in the country and FSU fans would see dramatic improvement next game. This seemed very possible because the opponent would be Clemson, which through their first three games, had shown little ability to stop the run. The game against the Tigers is now in the record book and it's virtually impossible to ignore the sad truth that FSU has no running game. Zero. Nada.
Looking at the stats from the game in Death Valley, FSU rolled up 365 yards in total offense which is pretty solid considering the team was directed by a red-shirt freshman, second string QB. The rushing yards? How does 15 attempts for 29 yards sound? To arrive at a more accurate number we should remove the QB numbers and see what the designed run plays generated. The adjusted numbers are 11 attempts for 36 yards. That's a little over 3 yards per attempt. FSU fans can take little solace in the fact that a running back has taken the "leading rusher" designation from EJ Manuel. C. Thompson now has 81 net yards through 4 games and EJ has 79. The total yards gained by running backs now stands at 254. The QB's have thrown in a net of 26 and the wide outs have contributed 35. These would be solid numbers for Wisconsin...in one game. FSU running backs have averaged 79 yards through 4 games. Sobering numbers. I do not have national numbers yet, but it would be a safe bet that FSU would be very near the bottom in almost every statistical run category in college football. Based on last years running game statistics, it would be hard to point the finger at our backs or the offensive game planning.
The inescapable conclusion is that the O line is the culprit. No longer can one legitimately argue that FSU is hiding the playbook, just needs to time to work as a unit, or the quality of the defensive front is overwhelming. That brings us to the "what happened" question. One theory might just be this. The FSU roster shows 22 OL and the class breakdown is as follows: Sr....4, JR.....3, So....6, and FR.....9. The gap between underclassmen (15) and upperclassmen (7) can be attributed to several factors. One that jumps out is that the 2009 recruiting class had 4 OL sign but two transferred. The 2010 class only had one OL. That means that in a two year span, FSU brought on board three OL. Three players over a two year span at a position that has 5 starters? Last years class had 9, but one left (J Prestwood) and 8 signees are currently on the roster. It's obvious that O Linmen were a high priority. But was it too late? One other thing to note is that the gap would have been even greater if FSU had not obtained the services of JUCO player J. Fahrenkrug. The signing of JUCO players is usually another sign of urgent need. A persuasive argument could be made that the seeds for the current O line woes were planted in 2009 and 2010 when FSU signed and retained 3 offensive linemen. This argument is reinforced by the 2010 signing of only one O linemen following a year in which we only retained 2.