Florida State coach Willie Taggart talks about FSU’s class on National Signing Day.
Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat
What’s to say about Florida State’s 2018 offensive line that hasn’t already been said?
Any negative adjective you can conjure has probably been said about the unit.
FSU entered Willie Taggart’s first season as head coach with an offensive line that could ill afford injuries. It dealt with several, thrusting multiple FSU offensive linemen into action before they were ready.
The results backed this up.
In large part due to the Seminoles’ offensive front, FSU finished 129th out of 130 FBS teams in yards per carry (2.79) and 109th with 36 sacks allowed.
FSU’s offensive line also played a large role in the Seminoles being the most penalized team in the country, averaging 9.2 penalties per game.
This year’s unit will have a drastically different look, beginning with the coach.
Offensive line coach Greg Frey is gone after one season, let go by Taggart and replaced by Randy Clements, who has worked with new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles for 10 years.
FSU will also have to replace a trio of major contributors as Alec Eberle, Derrick Kelly and Arthur Williams ran out of eligibility after the 2018 season.
Eberle finished his career having made 44 consecutive starts at center. Kelly started across the offensive line during his tenure at FSU and appeared in 34 games.
Williams moved from defensive tackle to offensive line ahead of his senior season and appeared in all 12 games, making five starts at left guard.
This leaves the Seminoles with plenty of holes to fill, softened somewhat by FSU signing four freshmen offensive lineman, a junior college transfer and a grad transfer in its 2019 signing class with more potentially to come.
Here’s a position-by-position look at how FSU’s offensive line will look to improve in 2019.
With more depth across the rest of the line, replacing Eberle may be the toughest task the FSU offensive line faces this offseason.
No current member of the FSU roster has played center at the college level.
Redshirt junior Baveon Johnson was a former four-star recruit and the No. 1 center in the 2016 recruiting class, but he didn’t play the position in high school. He made four appearances at guard in 2018.
In his time at FSU, Johnson has struggled with delivering accurate shotgun snaps in practice, a prerequisite for running Briles’ offense.
Redshirt sophomore Brady Scott has also practiced some at center and has had similar issues with snapping, but was forced into action at tackle in 10 games last season.
He was one of FSU’s more competent offensive linemen that were thrown in prematurely, but what position he’ll play going forward remains unknown.
Probably the Seminoles’ deepest position group along the offensive line.
Rising senior Cole Minshew has battled injuries throughout his career and proven himself to be one of the team’s best linemen when healthy.
He made seven starts last season before suffering a season-ending injury and has 23 starts in his career. He’s a prime candidate to start at one of the guard spots in 2019 if healthy.
The other guard spot is one of the bigger questions FSU will have to figure out beginning in spring practice.
The options are plentiful, but the question is whether or not there’s an especially good one.
Potential starting guards for the Seminoles include Mike Arnold — who started 11 games at right guard last season — and Christian Meadows, FSU’s most promising 2018 offensive line signee who was unable to practice last season after suffering a shoulder injury.
True freshman Dontae Lucas was one of FSU’s two offensive line signees who early enrolled. He and redshirt freshman Christian Armstrong will compete for a starting job at guard this spring with longer odds.
FSU would ideally want to move Landon Dickerson back to his usual spot at guard in 2019, but likely doesn’t have the tackle depth to do so.
The possibility of a graduate transfer taking the final guard spot is a possibility as well. The Seminoles remain in on Virginia’s R.J. Proctor and Georgia Tech’s Parker Braun, but neither would be at FSU for spring practice even if they pick the Seminoles.
While FSU has had a productive offseason of bringing in new offensive line talent, the biggest win of all may have been keeping someone on campus.
Dickerson briefly inserted his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal earlier this month before removing it five days later. Keeping him on campus will be an essential step towards any progress the FSU offensive line may make in 2019.
Dickerson has seen all three of his seasons at FSU end prematurely due to injuries, but he’s been the Seminoles’ best offensive lineman when healthy.
He started a pair of games at right tackle in 2018 after spending his first two seasons at FSU as a guard. He’ll likely remain at one of the tackle spots in 2019.
Grad transfer Ryan Roberts from Northern Illinois won’t arrive at FSU until May, but he’ll be a frontrunner for the other tackle spot.
For spring, FSU will explore its other options that could contend for playing time.
Among them are grad transfer Jay Williams — the other early enrollee on the line who stands out with his 6-foot-6, 290-pound frame — and Abdul Bello and Jauan Williams, who will look to put their poor 2018 seasons behind them.
Jalen Goss and Chaz Neal will all be looking for playing time at tackle after redshirting as freshmen last year.
Scott could also be in the conversation at tackle if he doesn’t land the center spot.
All of this goes to show how important the spring will be for FSU establishing a pecking order of sorts on the offensive line heading into the 2019 preseason.
If FSU’s offensive line play is going to make any progress in 2019, a healthy and productive spring session would be a massive step in that direction.
More FSU Spring Position Previews