Monday, March 19, 2012
FSU's O-line could have foreign flavor
By Mark Schlabach
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett likes to joke that the Seminoles have their own version of the United Nations.
Star defensive end Bjoern Werner is a native of Berlin, Germany, and the Seminoles’ starting offensive tackles this coming season might be from England and Switzerland.
Anything might be better than the inexperienced group the Seminoles put on the field last season. Because of injuries, Florida State started four freshman offensive linemen in its 18-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Menelik Watson -- a Manchester, England, native -- played basketball and considered boxing before commiting to football.
As FSU begins spring practice, those freshmen are now sophomores, and two JUCO transfers -- Daniel Glauser and Menelik Watson -- might step in to anchor the offensive line.
Glauser, a native of Rheinfelden, Switzerland, enrolled at FSU in January and is participating in spring practice. Watson, from Manchester, England, is expected to join the Seminoles this summer.
“The [foreign-born] players are more mature,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
But when it comes to football, Glauser and Watson are relatively inexperienced. Glauser grew up playing soccer in Switzerland, but he was encouraged to move to the U.S. by his American-born coach to play college football. Glauser, 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, spent the past two seasons at New Mexico Military Institute. Fisher was so impressed with Glauser that he offered him a scholarship even though he’ll have only one season of eligibility at FSU.
“New Mexico Institute didn’t know they could have redshirted him,” Fisher said. “They didn’t know. We didn’t know.”
Watson took an even longer route to Florida State. He came to the U.S. to play basketball at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Watson, 6-6 and 320 pounds, averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds for the Red Foxes during the 2010-11 season.
“Watson was a Division I basketball player,” Fisher said. “He was 270 pounds and was a wing, not a post player. He wasn’t scoring with his back to the basket. He was making moves and driving to the basket.”
Because of his size, Watson figured he’d reached his ceiling as a basketball player. After briefly considering a professional boxing career, Watson enrolled at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., where he not only had to learn how to play offensive tackle but also the game’s rules. He played in eight games at Saddleback last season. The Gauchos’ other offensive tackle was Kyle Long, son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, who signed with Oregon.
Watson still has a long way to go in his development, but he’ll probably compete with Glauser and sophomore Bobby Hart for the starting offensive tackle jobs this coming season. The Seminoles lost departed senior tackles Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko, who combined to play in 90 games in their FSU careers. Datko missed all of last season because of shoulder injuries and chose to turn pro, instead of appealing to the NCAA for another season of college eligibility.
Sophomores Austin Barron, Tre’ Jackson and Josue Matias, who started against Notre Dame at center, right guard and left guard, respectively, are coming back to compete in the middle of the offensive line. Cameron Erving, a converted defensive tackle, also will be in the tackle mix.
“I like the young guys,” Fisher said. “They’re all sophomores. They’re big and athletic. They actually know they can play with the way they came back [against Notre Dame]. They’re confident now. They don’t have to walk on the field and think, ‘Can I play?’ They know they can play.”
Right guard Bryan Stork said continuity and staying healthy are keys for FSU’s offensive line this coming season.
“Before you’re at the top, you’re always at the bottom,” Stork said. “I feel like we’re a diamond in the rough. We’ve got the guys. It’s just everybody getting better together.”