Assessing Florida State football's true offensive line depth

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Who would really go in should a starter go down?

On Day 1 of Florida State's spring practice, the offensive tackles were Jonathan Wallace, a walk-on, and Trey Pettis, who appears to still be out of shape even by offensive lineman standards.

The announcement that red-shirt seniors Garrett Faircloth (medical DQ) and Henry Orelus (graduating and moving on), both of whom had some experience at offensive tackle, is causing some FSU fans to panic about the offensive line depth for the 2013 season.

And perhaps rightfully so. In light of both players not being back, the failure of Jimbo Fisher's staff to bring in another offensive line body, even of questionable talent, looks even worse. Not so much for actually using in a game in 2013, but rather to make practices go more smoothly, and perhaps in a game down the road.

FSU's second-string offensive line (for spring) consists of Jonathan Wallace (who is actually pretty good after adding 60 pounds in the weight room since he came on campus), Sterling Lovelady, Austin Barron, Ruben Carter and Trey Pettis. Meh? Meh. It does not include signees like Ira Denson and Wilson Bell, or injured players like Jacob Fahrenkrug.

But how many of those players could actually play in meaningful situations in the fall? And where were Faircloth and Orelus actually on FSU's depth chart? Is the second string we see in practice really Florida State's true second string?

To answer these questions, I simulated the 24 injury situations for Florida State involving one, two or three injuries to starters on the offensive line. I did not simulate what would happen if FSU lost four or five offensive line starers, because it's pretty much a fruitless effort. If (almost any) team loses all or all but one of its five offensive line starters to injury, it should adjust its expectations downward in a major way.

If these players went down… The line would likely be…
Tackle Guard Center Guard Tackle
No injury Erving Jackson Stork Matias Hart
Erving Stork Jackson Barron Matias Hart
Jackson Erving Denson Stork Matias Hart
Stork Erving Jackson Barron Matias Hart
Matias Erving Jackson Stork Denson Hart
Hart Erving Jackson Barron Matias Stork
Erving Jackson Stork Denson Barron Matias Hart
Erving Stork Hart Jackson Barron Denson Matias
Erving Matias Stork Jackson Barron Denson Hart
Erving Hart Stork Jackson Barron Denson Matias
Jackson Stork Erving Denson Barron Matias Hart
Jackson Matias Erving Denson Stork Carter Hart
Jackson Hart Erving Denson Barron Matias Stork
Stork Matias Erving Jackson Barron Denson Hart
Stork Hart Erving Jackson Barron Denson Matias
Matias Hart Erving Jackson Barron Denson Stork
Erving Jackson Stork Hart Denson Barron Carter Matias
Erving Jackson Matias Stork Denson Barron Carter Hart
Erving Jackson Hart Stork Denson Barron Carter Matias
Erving Stork Matias Hart Jackson Barron Denson Bell
Erving Stork Hart Matias Jackson Barron Denson Bell
Erving Matias Hart Stork Jackson Barron Denson Bell
Jackson Stork Matias Erving Denson Barron Carter Hart
Jackson Stork Hart Erving Denson Barron Carter Matias
Stork Matias Hart Erving Jackson Barron Denson Bell

Takeaways

  • I expected this to look much worse than it came out to be. If ever there was an exercise that showed the value of position versatility, it is this one. FSU has very solid depth on the interior, and not all that great on the outside at tackle. Barron is very valuable because he is good enough at center, which allows FSU to slide out Stork to tackle, which Stork has played before. Matias is also quite valuable, because he has the skills and frame to play right tackle, was originally recruited as a tackle, and trains there as well.
  • Where would Faircloth and Orelus slot in? Probably as the true fifth tackle. Clearly it is Erving, Hart, Stork and Matias. But the fifth tackle right now, who would only play if three tackles ahead of him went down, is probably Wilson Bell (or Wallace), who while improving a ton in recent months, is still a freshman. I believe Faircloth or Orelus would have played ahead of Bell at tackle if injuries mounted.
  • I had to make a few assumptions. Some may take issue with my thought that Bell is Florida State's fifth tackle. That's fine. This is an inexact exercise, and if you want to say it is Wallace, who is apparently pretty good, I won't disagree. In any case, this is relevant in four of the 24 scenarios.
  • I also don't know for sure that Denson is the first guard off the bench. That is a guess, because he has a ton of talent. It could be a reach to have him over Carter and Lovelady. To each their own, but the point stands.
  • The statement that FSU's backup left tackle is a walk on and its backup right tackle is Trey Pettis is true for practice purposes, but couldn't be further from the truth in reality. In reality, they are FSU's fifth or sixth (or sixth and seventh, likely) options at offensive tackle.
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