Everybody take a knee.
We all know the offensive line will struggle. “For many years now Florida State has survived on the strength of it’s offensive line” is something that would be fun to say but is obviously not true. After all this group is on it’s fourth position coach in four years and has been severely hindered in both talent and development.
There are positives though and this line should see growth. Let’s start from the inside out on the line.
The Seminoles certainly do not hurt for experience in the middle of the offensive line. Both Andrew Boselli and Baveon Johnson enter the year as redshirt seniors. Fans would like to see Johnson take the lead in this race as the former blue chip recruit has the ceiling to really anchor this line. However, Johnson has not been able to stay healthy, keep the correct weight or develop with the revolving door of coaches enough to really keep pace. Maybe the light turns on for Johnson’s last year, this time under offensive line coach Alex Atkins.
Boselli has been the more sure option in the middle of the line. The son of former All-Pro Tony Boselli, Andrew hasn’t been great but he hasn’t been terrible. Boselli did walk away from football for a year when Willie Taggart took over as Florida State’s coach, costing himself a year of development. He has seemed to be more dedicated since walking back onto the team last year. Unlike Johnson, Boselli has been able to consistently snap the ball but doesn’t have the physical size and skill of Johnson. Boselli does not have the lateral agility that you get from Johnson. Boselli was lauded by former OC, Kendall Briles, for being able to handle the offense mentally.
The Seminoles have also brought in freshman Thomas Shrader to build depth at the center position but he’s more likely to redshirt this year as he needs to reshape his body a bit and improve his technique. He can provide a level of depth in case Johnson and Boselli go down with injuries and also help during practices as he is, at worst, a warm body to work with.
The left guard position is as locked up as possible with the return of Dontae Lucas. Don’t expect to see the true sophomore this spring though as Lucas suffered an injury late last season and is still rehabbing. He should be ready to go for the start of the season and looks to build on a solid, if not spectacular, freshmen campaign. Behind Lucas sits RS freshman Maurice Smith and true freshman Zane Herring.
Smith played a bit last year after Lucas’s injury but didn’t inspire a ton of confidence. With a new year and a new staff Smith has a chance to break out and become a solid backup at the left guard position or find a home as a starter elsewhere on the line. Smith has the size to play the position but needs to work on his technique and understanding of his responsibilities.
Smith will be pushed by early enrollee Zane Herring. Even though he enrolled early fans should not expect to see much in the way of Herring in 2020. It’s rare that freshmen see any time on the line because they usually have to develop both their bodies and understanding of their position and technique but if Lucas struggles to get/stay healthy Herring could push Smith for starts. Herring could also back up either tackle position and may get moved there as the year progresses.
Brady Scott will like get the start at right guard for Florida State. The redshirt junior will not impress people with his play but can do enough to be ok. It’s not likely Scott will ever wow fans but this unit is not at a place where fans should expect that. Having a steady influence of competence is the goal for Scott.
Behind Scott is Mike Arnold and Ira Henry. The redshirt senior Arnold could push Scott for playing time but it’s doubtful. Arnold did start two games last year but sat behind Scott for most of the year. With Arnold going into his last year he needs to be a lot better than Scott to justify coaches putting him in and that just does not look likely to happen.
More intriguing could be Henry. The redshirt freshman was able to take a year to learn and grow and could be ready to push Scott for first team reps. Scott has the ability to move around the line a bit so if Scott or another lineman suffers an injury Henry could be one of the first off the bench.
Redshirt freshmen Darius Washington looks to be the odds on favorite to start at left tackle in 2020. Washington only played in four games last year meaning he was able to redshirt and gain experience but a shoulder injury has kept him out for the spring. Washington is expected to be healthy by fall.
Redshirt senior Jay Williams and redshirt sophomore Jalen Goss sit behind Washington but it might more likely that Scott slides over if Washington goes down. Williams was a transfer last year and hasn’t shown the ability to play offensive line and while Goss hasn’t either he also cannot seem to put on enough weight to play the position.
Once again FSU will be starting a tackle that did not exist in it’s program the prior year. Devontay Love-Taylor comes from FIU to FSU as a grad transfer. Love-Taylor played well at FIU and while he’s not likely to win any All-ACC awards he’s easily the best candidate to play right tackle. If the Seminoles can get a consistently average level of play out of Love-Taylor they’ll go a long way to having a competent offense.
Behind Love-Taylor sits redshirt sophomore Chaz Neal. Neal has shown some ability but with a weight around 250 pounds Neal is going to struggle to see the field. He’s just not able to muster enough strength to hold the point of attack at that weight. Seeing as this is his third year in the program there’s little reason to think that Neal will every be able to show off his ability on Saturdays through little to no fault of his own.
What to look for
Maybe don’t look? Once again this is not going to be an offensive line fans will be proud of but maybe they can be not-embarrassing. The goal this year is below average to average and it’s likely the spring won’t be the greatest showcase for this because both Washington and Lucas are out. If FSU can run the spring game without resorting to 7-on-7 drills that will be a positive. If the offenses can keep the quarterbacks from being touched against defenses without defensive ends fans should also be whelmed (not overwhelmed, just whelmed).
This line is still under a long rebuild and having a different position coach each of the last four years is not helping. It’s also very possible that FSU has a new offensive line coach next year as Atkins seems destined to become a head coach. However, the plus side is that the last two offensive line coaches have been some of the best out there so progress is being made, it’s just slow.