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Derrick Kelly’s versatility paying dividends for FSU’s offensive line

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Does the third-year ‘Nole provide near-universal depth up front?

NCAA Football: Florida State at Wake Forest
Derrick Kelly
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, then FSU redshirt-freshman Derrick Kelly started four games, taking over for Brock Ruble at right tackle after three contests. Kelly performed admirably through the heart of the Seminoles’ schedule, facing Wake Forest, Miami, Louisville, and Georgia Tech prior to succumbing to a season-ending knee injury.

Kelly began 2016’s spring camp competing to continue his time on the right edge, but the ‘Noles seem comfortable enough with defender-turned-blocker Rick Leonard on the right side. Instead, Kelly has worked out as the second-team LT this fall. But it appears that he’s capable of even more. And now, with the recent news that first-team left guard Kareem Are will not play in Monday night’s opener, Kelly is the likely choice to get the start there.

All of this begs the question: where isn’t Kelly the probable backup along the FSU OL? The depth chart concedes that he’s Rod Johnson’s relief at left tackle. It makes sense: if you’re going to focus your top backup’s time anywhere, why not do so at the most important spot? And given that some FSU experts thought he’d win the RT job outright, following a battle with Leonard, is he truly behind Brock Ruble at that spot?

Kelly’s start at LG on Labor Day evening seems impending due to Fisher’s most recent comments to the media, in which he divulged this: “We have him at tackle and guard and finally settled him in at guard,” Fisher said. “He and Kareem [Are] have been flipping every series, in and out, and we were doing [Landon] Dickerson and [Cole] Minshew on the other side. We’ve been flipping guys in with the ones and felt very comfortable going through it.”

Florida State’s own injury report does a lot of the work for us here. Are: out. Minshew: out. Moreover, if Kelly is about to get the nod at left guard, despite not even being listed there on the depth chart, over redshirt-freshman David Robbins, what’s to say he wouldn’t also start ahead of second-string RG Dickerson, who’s a true frosh? Certainly not the precedent just set.

The Seminole brass is only ever going to divulge so much on the weekly depth charts it issues. But realistically speaking, aside from the center spot, Kelly’s name may appear, in one place or another, everywhere else along FSU’s offensive line. And while injuries to starters are always less than desirable, that kind of versatility on the second line is far from a bad thing.