TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The question comes like a bull rush from a hulking defensive lineman, but Cameron Erving, Tre’ Jackson and the rest of the Florida State offensive line are swatting it away like a blocker set in pass protection.
Excuse Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher and Heisman quarterback Jameis Winston if they’re a little more direct and a little less politically correct when discussing Florida State’s front five.
“Well, our offensive line is the best offensive line in the country, and I repeat that Florida State's offensive line is the best offensive line in the country,” Winston said.
A day after Winston’s comments, Fisher was asked what his best non-quarterback position group was, and without hesitation, he said his offensive line. Is it the best offensive line group in the country, the reporter asked?
“I don’t know the knowledge of everybody else, but I’d put that group up against anybody,” Fisher said.
With five seniors, a combined 113 career starts among them and potentially three first-round picks along the unit, at the very least, it is one of the two or three best lines in the country.
With the influx of spread and up-tempo offenses, linemen, never a position that lends itself to the media spotlight or jersey sales, have given way to scat backs and speed receivers. Coaches are recruiting speed more than ever before, but Florida State’s staff is well aware a 2014 championship run rests on the legs of the offensive line.
In the twilight of the Bobby Bowden era and outset of Fisher’s tenure, the offensive line consistently was a point of aggravation for fans and coaches. From 2006-2010, the Seminoles had one offensive linemen drafted; they had two in 2005.
The current Florida State offensive linemen aren’t going to engage in any conversation about their greatness, not as long Rick Trickett, his booming voice now buttressed by the echoing indoor practice facility, is coaching the position.
“He’s never going to let us be the best offensive line in the country. I think that’s a good thing, though. He keeps all of us level,” Jackson said. We do stuff great, but having a coach that can pick up what you did -- like if you make a great block but take a bad step -- having a coach like that makes you so much better.”
Erving and Jackson, the Seminoles’ two best offensive linemen, were initially defensive tackles. Erving enrolled at Florida State as a member of the defensive line, and Jackson was committed to Georgia Tech to play defense before a January flip to Florida State.
Fisher had to mold athletes into offensive linemen early in his tenure, but now the Seminoles are recruiting the position better than at any point during Fisher’s five years. In the 2014 class, Fisher signed four nationally-ranked linemen. In his first four classes, Fisher signed three.
Junior-college additions Kareem Are and Chad Mavety provide immediate depth, and Fisher has continually praised Are, who is pushing for playing time. The offensive line class, which totals eight players including greyshirt Ethan Frith, on average stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 306 pounds. Jackson said they’re the biggest group of freshmen since he joined the Seminoles in 2011.
“We're gaining more depth … [and] they have to go through that learning curve, but you know the talent is there and the ability [is] there, and the bodies are there,” Fisher said. “I'm very pleased with the depth we're building in that department.”