As Florida State heads into the 2017 season, one of the biggest questions surrounding this team is the state of the offensive line.
The combination of Cam Erving, Josue Matias, Tre’ Jackson, and Bobby Hart helped Florida State go on an incredible 27-1 run over the two-year period of 2013 and 2014. Let’s also not forget about Bryan Stork, who anchored the center position during the national title run in ’13.
But since their departure following the 2014 season, Florida State has struggled to find consistency along the offensive line. Due to poor play and injuries, very rarely did the same five starters trot out onto the field on a week-to-week basis. For many positions, the past two seasons have been a literal revolving door, with several players starting over the course of the year.
Take right tackle for instance.
Brock Ruble got the nod to begin the 2015 season, but was benched and replaced by Derrick Kelly for a four game stretch before coming back in. Then, Chad Mavety steps in at right tackle, only for Ruble to start at the position versus Houston in the bowl game.
In 2016, Rick Leonard starts the season at right tackle after switching from defensive end. Poor play leads to his benching, and Ruble is called upon. But, injuries happen and Leonard finishes the season as the starter.
Confusing, right? This is just one position along the offensive line as well.
Offensive line continuity is important for the success of an offense. It hurts the rhythm of the passing game when the quarterback has to rely on a new tackle every game. The run game isn’t as effective when a new guard is blocking every week. The most successful teams, in both college and the pros, have consistency along their offensive line.
Let’s put this into perspective.
During Florida State’s two-year span of 2013 and 2014, the Seminoles only started five different offensive line combinations. Erving, Matias, Jackson, and Hart started 27 of 28 possible games together during that stretch, with center being the only position where three or more players started.
The fact that FSU only had five different line combination is even more impressive when you notice that two of those (Nevada, Wake Forest) were one-game absences by starters due to injuries.
Now let’s compare this to 2015 and 2016.
Over the past two seasons, Florida State has started 13 different offensive line combinations. Due to poor play and injuries, 11 players have started at least one game for the Seminoles along the line since the start of the 2015 season.
The longest period of continuity that FSU received during these two years was a five-game stretch last season. Of the positions on the offensive line, left tackle was the only one that didn’t have three or more players that started at it.
Poor play and injuries are the two factors that contributed to this lack of consistency. As previously mentioned, right tackle was a revolving door due to poor play. Landon Dickerson seemed to have the right guard spot locked down before tearing his ACL last season. Kareem Are at left guard was oft-injured, meaning players like Wilson Bell and Chad Mavety had to step in for periods of time.
As we head into the 2017 season, this lack of continuity along the offensive line is a major question mark for Florida State.
The only consistent player in the chart above, Roderick Johnson, declared early for the draft, leaving a hole at left tackle. The Seminoles are guaranteed to start their 14th different offensive line combination since the start of the 2015 season against Alabama.
If Florida State is to compete for a national title this year, like many people think they will, then they need to establish consistency along the offensive line.