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Florida State spring football questions: Offensive line

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FSU's offensive line heading into Spring: Top-shelf starters, not enough backups to formulate a complete 2nd team.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

135.

That's the number of points FSU scored in the second quarter against ACC opponents. 15 points per second quarter is just less than the 15.5 points per game by Syracuse and Wake Forest.

The Florida State offensive line - a bulwark during the fourteen-straight top-five finishes during the eighties and nineties - can be thanked for much of the offensive prowess (oh, and that guy that won the Heisman in the backfield). Overall, the unit was 16th best in the country, and top ten in opportunity rate and power success rate.

The injuries that decimated the 2011 line directly led to one of the top offensive line units in 2013. That line returned 96 career starts, anchored by senior and Rimington award-winner Bryan Stork. Which leads us to the first major question about this year's offensive line heading into Spring practice.

Who will start at center?

Rising senior Austin Barron is the clear first choice heading into Spring practice. A two-star recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas, Barron quickly shunned his national talent evaluation by providing critical snaps and three starts as a freshman at center during that injury-plagued 2011 season.

Aside from a botched snap after a quick sub-in at Virginia Tech, Barron showed decent agility, post-snap quickness, and an aptitude for the mental nature of the position (e.g., protection calls). Barron contributed as needed in spot situations in 2012 (9 games, 1 start) and 2013 (12 games, 1 start).

Some may argue that FSU's best starting five includes a move inside for one of the guards and/or tackles, but let me foo-foo that: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. With the exception of Hart who may slide inside to OG in the NFL, Erving, Matias, and Jackson are all slotted to continue playing the positions they are in at the next level. So don't mess with these multi-year starters and continuity of the overall line.

It is tempting to look at Rick Trickett's penchant for cross-training his guys (e.g., Hart backing up Erving at LT, sliding Stork out to RT, and Barron in at C) and say that these guys aren't locked into their positions. But, seriously; don't mess with guys who dominate their position.

I go with the Barron who has game experience and the acuity to play the position over possibly a more physical player at center which disrupts continuity along the line. And I think Rick is not really questioning this, either.

What is FSU's functional depth?

If you look at the depth chart of returning scholarship OL above, you'll see that FSU is quite thin at tackle. The good news is that Bell looks like a diamond in the rough, and FSU brought in four offensive tackles in February's recruiting class. Chad Mavety, however, is not an early enrollee and will arrive later this Summer. FSU is also light on guards behind Jackson and Matias, with Lovelady and Carter able to provide snaps in a pinch. Here's what some functional depth might look like in the spring:

Position Starter 2nd Team 3rd Team
LT Erving Hart Bell
LG Matias Carter Hoefeld
C Barron Carter Hoefeld
RG Jackson Carter Hoefeld
RT Hart Bell Matias

As you can see, there's a reason why FSU signed eight scholarship linemen this past recruiting cycle. This won't make for a very pretty Spring game. It goes without saying that FSU needs again have good injury luck along the offensive line, though it does have considerably better depth than it did in 2013.