This is the sixth in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 52 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Austin Barron | 6'2, 295 | Soph | Center
The Countdown57: Cason Beatty, Punter
56: Terrence Brooks, Safety
55: Dan Hicks, Tight Ends
54: Clint Trickett, Quarterback
53: Rashad Greene, Receiver
52: Austin Barron, Center
Florida State had very good offensive line play in 2009 and 2010. But it would take an awful year of offensive line play, like what Florida State had in 2011, for FSU fans to truly appreciate what they had in the previous years.
We've covered the contributing factors many times previously (search function is your friend), but a quick recap is appropriate here. Extreme injuries causing a lack of chemistry and pressing young players into action before they were ready.
How bad was it? Try 10 players starting on the offensive line. We can discuss some failures on the recruiting trail and with players leaving the program that left Florida State with less than desirable depth, but you can't find a program that could field a great offense while sustaining enough injuries to necessitate 10 different players starting on the offensive line.
One of those was Austin Barron, a kid (literally) who could have used a red-shirt.
Sleeper offensive lineman in the class of 2011, who had a coming out party as a senior...showed to be quick on his feet and exhibited toughness in the trenches...helped St. Thomas Aquinas to a Class 5A state title in 2010, which included helping the offense rack up 5,612 yards of total offense...named to EliteScoutingServices Class 5A All-Tournament Team...ranked No. 40 on the Sun-Sentinel Broward County Top 50 List...joined fellow teammates Bobby Hart and Rashad Greene in the 2011 FSU signing class...another one of veteran offensive line coach Jay Connolly's products, which include former FSU tackle Andrew Datko and former Seminole and Buffalo Bills deep snapper Garrison Sanborn...also played third base for St. Thomas Aquinas' baseball team...member of the 2010 SunStateFootball All-State Finals First Team Offense......born Oct. 19, 1992. -- Seminoles.com
Barron made his 2011 debut against Boston College after it was announced just before gametime that yet another Seminole starter had gone down (Bryan Stork, concussion). And he was very good. Florida State pounded Boston College 38-7, and we praised Barron in all three post-game pieces:
"-Kudos to the coaches for finding freshman center Austin Barron. This kid has added at least 25 pounds of good weight and really looks like a player! He had no major offers playing for a school like Aquinas. FSU has lost 5 of its top 9 offensive linemen since spring to injury"
Barron would start the next game against Miami, but he struggled mightily and was replaced. The moment may have been too big for the kid from South Florida.
We wouldn't hear from Barron again until the game against Notre Dame, when after a good week of practice, he earned the starting nod. Barron was again pretty good. He did not make many incredible blocks, but did do a good job of being assignment sound (FSU's statistician says he graded out at 61 of 62).
Barron continued as the starter in the spring game and received unwarranted criticism from some outlets that should have been directed at the reserve guards to either side of the sophomore.
Barron is listed at 6'2 and 295 pounds. He's squatty, so that may not be too far off, but I tend to believe if the number is off, it is to the south. He'll need to continue to add good weight.
I expect Barron to be a solid player for Florida State this year. He was very assignment sound in two of his three starts and should be more comfortable at the position in year two.
It will be important for Florida State to put Barron in a position to succeed. Asking him to solo a massive nose on anything between the tackles just isn't a good idea. In Matias and Jackson, he'll have 315 and 320 to either side of him. Let Barron be an effective part of a combo block and he should be just fine.