The Florida State offensive line has been a position group of focus for fans the past few years.
Dating back to the end of the Jimbo Fisher tenure, there has been a dark cloud hanging over the OL room.
After steady progress under Mike Norvell, will we finally be seeing the sun shining through?
Offensive line coach, and newly named offensive coordinator, Alex Atkins has done wonders in recruiting prep and transfer bodies to his position group. It feels like, finally, there is going to be some production returning that is worth mentioning and it feels good to talk about it.
FSU returns multiple starters along the offensive line from 2021 and has added to that via the transfer portal. Let's take a look at what is available for the spring.
Robert Scott (RS So)- Scott started games at left and right tackle in 2021. Scott looks to slot in on the edges again at one of the tackle spots. A player who has grown leaps and bounds in his time with the Noles. Scott looks to benefit greatly from another offseason in the strength and conditioning program. Scotts greatest strength is as a run blocker at this point, but he is coming along as a pass blocker. He is a player with an NFL ceiling. I believe Scott will line up at LT when spring arrives.
Dillan Gibbons (RS Sr)- Gibbons is the elder statesman of the FSU OL room. A pleasant surprise in 2021 as Gibbons started slowly in fall camp but really turned it on when the games started. Gibbons battled through injuries all season long that hindered him but was a true warrior on the field. Gibbons finds himself off balance at times as a pass blocker but engages and wins in the run game consistently. He should slot in at LG this spring and when the season arrives.
Maurice Smith (RS So)- Scott is an interesting storyline for the spring. FSU has potentially brought in his replacement and Smith really struggled to close out the 2021 campaign. Physically, Smith has to get his body right to be able to handle a 12-game season. At years end Smith had lost weight and was pushed around quite a bit. Is the plan for Smith to slide over to guard? To sit this year and focus on bulking up? Smith has NFL potential as teams have moved towards smaller, quicker centers in their zone schemes. I will be paying close attention to Smith’s usage this spring.
Darius Washington (RS So)- Washington is the best of the bunch to me. A ball player of an offensive linemen if there ever was one. Washington finally got an offseason to put some mass and strength on his body and it paid major dividends. Right and left tackle spots rotated between Washington and Scott last year, but it would not shock me if Washington slipped into right guard this spring. No matter where he lines up, I expect him to perform and continue to get better.
Thomas Shrader (RS So)- Shrader is a player who sat out 2021 with an injury. A name to know and watch in the spring. What is his weight and is he ready to push? Shrader was in the hunt for the center job last offseason.
Rod Orr (RS Fr)- Orr was a heralded high school prospect coming in a year ago. Where is he at in his development? Is he a player ready to get reps? I would not expect to see alot of Orr until 2023.
Lloyd Willis (RS So)- Willis is a player to watch because if he has taken a step he could vie for a job. I believe he is at least one more year away as he was very raw coming out of high school. Willis is a player the staff believes will contribute at some point, but it may not be in 2022.
Zane Herring and Bryson Estes are two players I do not expect to be contributors this year and need more development. Do not write either of them off at this point but the names listed above have more of a chance to contribute at this point.
Kayden Lyles (RS Sr)- Lyles transfers over from Wisconsin. Yes, that OL factory Wisconsin. His story is pretty interesting but that is not why you are here. Lyles should be slotting in at center in the spring and I believe was brought in to start there. This is the bulk and mover type that FSU has been missing on the interior. Not necessarily the NFL prototype center but should fit nicely with FSU looks to do in their blocking schemes. Lyles is a people mover that FSU fans are going to like. Lyles is not without risk, but he should be an upgrade over Smith as long as he is healthy.
Bless Harris (RS Jr)- Harris transfers to FSU from Lamar. Not the Wisconsin caliber OL factory but Harris started five games at LT for Lamar before going down with an injury. Harris is a player FSU targeted in November and got committed. Harris is a player who could play tackle or guard, but I believe he will battle for the RT position to start the spring. Harris will have to acclimate to the level of play, but this is another lineman who is physical and aggressive in the run game.
Kanaya Charlton- My favorite player in the 2021 recruiting class and the early lead for best personality. Charlton is a big boy and a true guard prospect. I would expect a red shirt for Charlton as he develops his body and acclimates to college football. Charlton is a player this staff loves and thinks he has a high ceiling.
Daughtry Richardson- Richardson is an actual true tackle prospect who reminds me of a more athletic Darius Washington. Richardson is very similar to Charlton in that he will need to develop his body and game through the weight room. I would not want to see Richardson play before 2024. A player with alot of potential just needs to be ready for the challenge physically.
To close it all out, the FSU OL room has come a long way since Mike Norvell and Alex Atkins got to town. This has the potential to be the best OL that FSU has had in 4 or 5 years and that is sad to say but refreshing to have some optimism. They will need to cross train and stay healthy this spring, but it has the potential to be a strength.