Communication remains a challenge for Florida State’s offensive line halfway through this season.
Week after week, FSU coach Willie Taggart emphasizes the importance of fluid communication, but constant changes to the starting offensive line have made smooth collaboration difficult.
The Seminoles are one of four Power 5 teams to start six different combinations on the offensive line.
“There were times when I would jog upfield and hadn’t even realized that some of dudes had changed,” FSU center Alec Eberle said after Game 2 of the season against Samford. “There was one point when I didn’t even know Brady [Scott] was in the game at tackle.
“It was funny because me and him are pretty close, but after the game I was like, ‘Dude, I looked over jogging up the field and didn’t realize you were in.’ ”
Like Eberle, the FSU upperclassmen have never experienced this type of ongoing change along the offensive line. FSU had two different starting combinations in 2017 under former coach Jimbo Fisher. The changes occurred at left guard and left tackle, moving Derrick Kelly from left tackle to left guard in place of Landon Dickerson and adding Josh Ball at left tackle.
Ball was removed from the roster in May after the university found him responsible for dating violence.
Florida State entered the 2018 season with little offensive-line depth, which means any injuries have a major impact on the team.
Starting right tackle Dickerson injured his ankle against Virginia Tech and made his second start of the season against Louisville before re-aggravating the injury.
Starting left guard Kelly filled in for Dickerson absence at right tackle until he injured his leg against Syracuse. Kelly has yet to play again, but he may play Saturday when the Seminoles (3-3, 1-3 ACC) host Wake Forest (3-3, 0-2 ACC). Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN2.
Kelly opened practice on Tuesday at left tackle, while Eberle took reps at left guard. Backup Baveon Johnson lined up at center.
The first-team offensive line currently features Kelly, Eberle, Johnson, Mike Arnold and Cole Minshew.
If the new combination remains in place Saturday, it would be Florida State’s seventh different lineup of the season.
The Seminoles would unveil their new look against a struggling Wake Forest team that does not heavily pressure quarterbacks or swarm against the run. The Demon Deacons rank No. 122 nationally in total defense.
“I see a football team that’s been in their system for a while now and guys understanding what they’re doing, a team that’s played some good football teams and didn’t necessarily come out the way they wanted to, but they’re well coached,” Taggart said of Wake Forest.
Kelly’s return from injury should help bolster the FSU offensive line Saturday.
“My leg feels way better now,” Kelly said. “I’ve actually taken time off to strengthen it up and being able to get a lot of movement. So I definitely feel like my leg is ready to go.”
While recovering, Kelly watched the offensive line evolve. The dynamic guard and tackle identified why Eberle was unsure of the players lined up next to him earlier this season — communication.
“[The offensive line is] definitely coming together a lot more,” Kelly said. “Starting to communicate a lot more. Building that trust and making sure everyone is on the same page.”
While the starting lineup has fluctuated, most of the players in the depleted offensive-line unit have taken snaps together and are learning to work more seamlessly together.
“It’s definitely helped out,” Kelly said of the using the same players on the line. “It’s been more consistent. That builds that level of trust. I can trust that that guy is going to be there if I need him to be.”