- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: If Florida State wants to return to be part of the nation's elite this season, the Seminoles' offensive line will have to step up.
The latest to examine FSU's protection is K.C. Joyner, also known as "The Football Scientist."
Joyner points out that, during the golden era of Bobby Bowden's teams (1987-2000), the Seminoles' formula was to score 38 points per game and hold the opposition to 15. FSU's offense, which averaged 30.6 points per game last season, fell short.
Joyner says that the talent is there at the skill positions to close the gap this season.
It starts with the fact the Seminoles racked up 8.7 yards per pass attempt (YPA) last season, a total that was tied for seventh in the FBS. To put this another way, the Florida State passing offense was tied with an Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal offense in this category and finished ahead of such powerhouse passing teams as the Boise State Broncos, West Virginia Mountaineers, Arkansas Razorbacks and USC Trojans.
A repeat of this performance looks to be very possible given that this unit will return starting quarterback EJ Manuel, as well as all but one of the Seminoles who posted double-digit receptions in 2011.
Florida State will also have the services of Willie Haulstead, a talented receiver who ranked seventh in the ACC in yards per reception in 2010 but missed the 2011 season with a concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin, a 6-foot-6, 242-pound redshirt freshman wideout who was described in his ESPN recruiting profile as a "one-on-one nightmare on fades, red zone shots and underneath slants and crossing routes."
The key, of course, is the offensive line, which was tied for 112th in the nation last season in sacks allowed. But Joyner says that the run-blocking was better than last season's numbers would have indicated.
Improvements up front are obviously key, but the offense still averaged more than 30 points per game last season. Better luck and performance up front could be the key for FSU to take the next step this season.
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3dJared Shanker and Andrea Adelson