If you were to ask any die-hard Florida State fan, college football analyst or FSU “insider” such as myself about their main concern heading into the 2012 season, the collective answer would probably go something like this: “2012 is going to be a great year for the Noles. The defense is stacked, the schedule is set up for a title run, but I’m really worried about the offensive line.”
How far the Noles go in 2012 will no doubt rely greatly upon the play of the big boys up front.
During the dynasty years of the late ’80s and all throughout the ’90s, the FSU offensive line was traditionally big and nasty, and they were known and feared for punishing opposing defenses.
The 2012 version of the FSU offensive line has the potential to be like those dynasty lines; they are talented and have the size, but on the flip-side are very young and very inexperienced. Four freshmen started on the offensive line for FSU in the Champs Sports Bowl last season against Notre Dame, and the Noles were able to pull out a second-half comeback victory against the Irish in large part due to the play of the O-Line. Some may be overlooking a few key factors that will determine just how quickly this offensive line can come together.
The schedule sets up nicely for the line to have an immediate impact. The Noles start off at home with back-to-back inferior opponents in Murray State and Savannah State. Getting two full games under your belt not only helps build confidence, but it strengthens the communication and comfort level with the guys in the trenches. Competition ramps up a bit the next week when ACC foe Wake Forest comes to town. These first three games and gradual increase in competition will be a huge benefit to the O-Line and could help pave the way to a special 2012 season.
The FSU offensive line also has the advantage of going up against arguably the best defense in the country every day in practice. The O-Line will be tested on each and every snap; they will not meet a more talented defensive unit on their schedule than the one they see in practice on a daily basis.
While a concrete starting five hasn’t been nailed down quite yet, there is a pretty good chance that junior Bryan Stork will be holding down the all important center position come opening day. The redshirt junior has a good amount of experience, and at 6’4″/312 lbs, can be a rock in the middle of O-Line. Sophomores Austin Barron (6’3″/295) and Sterling Lovelady (6’2″/290), along with junior Henry Orelus (6’3″/329), will likely be the key backups at the center position.
Moving outward to the guards, it could be a pair of sophomores that hold down the interior line this fall. Josue Matias (6’6″/325) and Tre Jackson (6’4″/325) from all reports have been solid in fall camp. Redshirt junior Garret Faircloth (6’7″/288), redshirt freshman Ruben Carter (6’4″/294), and senior Jacob Fahrenkrug (6’4″/322) round out the guard position up front.
Anchoring the outside of the line most likely will be senior Daniel Glauser (6’5″/305) and newcomer Cameron Erving (6’6″/309), a redshirt sophomore (see below). Junior Menelik Watson (6’6″/320) and sophomore Bobby Hart (6’5″/314), a highly touted recruit in 2011 coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, provide key depth and massive size on the edges.
Redshirt sophomore Cameron Erving has been at FSU for two full seasons, but this will be his first on the offensive side of the ball. Erving lined up at defensive tackle last season, seeing time in all 13 games as a backup while recording 20 tackles and a sack. When approached by coach Jimbo Fisher in the off-season to make a possible switch from defensive to offensive tackle, Erving jumped at the opportunity to help the team in any way that he was needed. He had a breakthrough spring in which he earned the starting left tackle job and was awarded the spring Ironman award, given to the player who has displayed toughness, durability and a team-first mentality. Erving is a mountain of a man (6’6″/309), extremely quick and agile, and has a gritty, defensive mentality that it reminiscent of the punishing FSU lineman that have come through the program. He should have a huge season and I expect him to emerge as the leader along the offensive line this fall
Next Up on 8/22: Defensive Line