2018 was a year to forgot for all Seminoles, but especially for the offensive line. The OL took a beating on the field, on message boards, and in the national media. The criticism of the group was earned by the play on the field and more than justified. Now is the opportunity to bury that 2018 offensive line group and move forward.
The first thing to discuss for the 2019 offensive line is its new coach. Greg Frey was let go from his role as OL coach at Florida State after one season on the job. Frey was replaced by Randy Clements who has followed offensive coordinator Kendal Briles at nearly every stop. It was a demand made by Briles to bring along his offensve line coach. Players have consistently mentioned how they like Clements’ coaching style and demeanor. Goal number one for Clements has been to rebuild the confidence of this offensive line group. Fans would not expect that to be the case, but this was a group torn apart and blamed for a lot of 2018’s failures. Clements has a tough road ahead, but he has produced at all stops.
Out With The Old
Gone from the 2018 offensive line group are Alec Eberle (graduation), Derrick Kelly II (graduation), Arthur Williams (graduation), and Landon Dickerson (transfer). Eberle was a lightning rod for the FSU fan base but had a solid career at center. Kelly was a warrior for the ’Noles and played through tons of injuries and ultimately forced to play out of position during the ’18 season. Williams was a converted defensive linemen who played at guard last season. And Dickerson transferred to Alabama after an injury-riddled career at FSU.
It should be noted here that the oft-injured Cole Minshew is still listed with the team and could return to play at some point; but it is not expected. He has not practiced this fall and head coach Willie Taggart has not given a timetable for Minshew’s return.
In With The New
The 2019 recruiting class was about adding depth to the offensive line. They needed numbers in a bad way and were able to accomplish that— to some extent. While FSU missed out on some of the big names that it pursued, it was able to find some players that it liked who will add competitive depth to the room.
Players added in the ’19 class:
Dontae Lucas (early enrollee): 4*
Ryan Roberts (transfer)
Darius Washington: 3*
Ira Henry: 3*
Jay Williams: 3*
Maurice Smith: 3*
Andrew Boselli also returns to FSU after leaving the school for a year.
The group above consists of three tackle prospects and four guard/center prospects. This group has performed well through fall camp and should provide decent depth throughout the season.
In football, experience is king, but what if you were the worst group in P5 football? An optimist might say there is no way to go but up for the returners, but a pessimist might ask how can it get any better with the same bad players returning? The group of players returning were all young players thrown on the field well before they were ready. Last year’s group had the opportunity to grow up in the fire, and that can be good and bad. The hope is that any bad habits learned last year were quickly forgotten or Clements has worked them out by now. Experience is always a good thing whether it is good or bad, as long as it something you can grow from. You don’t want shell-shocked players. You want wiser, hardened veterans.
The players that return from last year are:
Of the group listed above Williams, Scott, Arnold, Johnson, and Bello all got snaps last year in various games. Each player battled injuries, demotions, and position changes throughout the season. This will be the nucleus of your 2019 offensive line group. So let’s get to some of the myriad questions concerning the FSU OL.
Q & A
When prepping for this preview I wanted to do something different then just talking about each player. I reached out to fellow TN writers and asked them what questions they would want answered about the 2019 offensive line group.
Q: What is the projected starting OL group for 2019?
A: For Boise I expect (L to R): Jauan Williams, Brady Scott, Baveon Johnson, Mike Arnold, and Ryan Roberts.
Q: Do you see Dontae Lucas starting, and if so, when?
A: I expect Lucas to start this season. The when part of this question is more difficult. Arnold came in what seemed to be an overweight 340 pounds while Lucas trimmed his body down to 315 pounds. Arnold brings experience week one against Boise though, and that is why I project him to start. If I were going to project a game that Lucas starts, it would be Week 4 against Louisville at home. That gives him three weeks to get his feet wet and make his first career start in front of his home crowd.
Q: What can Briles/Clements do schematically to help the OL that the previous coordinator didn’t do?
A: I’m not sure this answer can start with “didn’t do” but maybe “couldn’t do effectively.” Briles will do a better job of getting the pace of this offense to where it needs to be. The offense will utilize RPOs, motion, and lateral action that will hold linebackers and other box players from jumping the run game. The key to doing those things? Clements will emphasize double teams at the point of attack to get movement and eliminate penetration, which will allow the running backs to get going.
In the passing attack, Briles is going to get the ball out, move the pocket, and max protect with backs and tight ends. We did not see a lot of max protection or movement last season, for some reason.
Q: How realistic is the improvement of Jauan Williams?
A: This is a question that every Seminole fan wants answered. Williams was interviewed recently and said he has gone from 275 pounds to 315 pounds. He spoke about a shoulder injury he battled during the ’18 season that kept his bench press below 225 pounds. Williams claims now that he can bench more than 400 pounds, which is a drastic difference. This is the key to the offense for me and something we will watch very closely. Through fall camp, Williams has taken every snap at left tackle with the starting offensive line, and I believe that is key for his confidence. On the surface, Williams seems more prepared physically, experience should help him be more prepared mentally, and now he just has to go out and do it. There really is nowhere else for him to go but up. I expect Williams to be a mid-level LT in the conference, which would be a massive improvement over last season.
Q: Is the OL group in better position to weather bad injury luck this season? Or could it get just as bad?
A: By all accounts through fall camp, Taggart has talked about the competitive depth on the offensive line. Is the group in better position? I would say no, because the depth is going to be freshmen or players without any experience. Will it be just as bad? This answer may be a surprise, but I think they are in a better position. There are bodies available— which is a start. The depth consists of players who will be at their natural positions and have flashed as talented in camp. Ultimately, if you are down to playing your backups, you are in bad shape, but at least it would be a group of talented freshmen getting reps.
*Note, I expect the FSU offensive line to play a large number of players, as the Seminoles look to go as fast as they can, which means you will see some of these backups on purpose at times.