ACC: Joe Tonga

Florida State's young line key to offensive success

October, 16, 2008
Posted by's Heather Dinich

Florida State left guard Rodney Hudson was sick to his stomach. It was one of the first practices of the season, and Hudson had caught a virus. He couldn't keep anything down, but refused to miss a minute of practice or complain about being ill.

"Nobody ever knew," said running back Antone Smith. "When I found out, I was like, he's a winner, this guy is a winner."

Hudson is only 19 years old, but he talks about "helping out the young guys" like he's a senior. He and offensive line coach Rick Trickett are two of the main reasons the youngest offensive line in the nation has matured quickly enough to make a difference. Their progress has been the root of the Seminoles' offensive success, and paved the way for Smith and a running game that had been lacking in previous years.

"I'm as surprised as I can be," coach Bobby Bowden said. "I mean, I'm as surprised as I can be. All five games, I'm just surprised. I just didn't think they could do this good. I mean, when you put that offensive line together, you would say, 'Well, this group is going to be pretty good one of these days, but they're not going to be ready yet.' Well, they're performing like they're juniors."

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ACC internal affairs

September, 10, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

1. Clemson: Quarterback Cullen Harper said Tuesday he's dealing with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, an injury he suffered in the season opener against Alabama. Clemson's injuries and inexperience on the offensive line are obviously part of the problem, but a bit of tension between Harper and coach Tommy Bowden won't help things. Bowden said Harper needs to play better after going 14-of-18 passing for 192 yards and a touchdown against the Citadel. Harper said "come to me and say it."

2. Florida State: Finding the right combination on the offensive line is the main priority right now before heading into ACC play against Wake Forest. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett publicly called out left tackle Zebrie Sanders, saying "I didn't think he played very well." Trickett was impressed with Andrew Datko and right guard David Spurlock, "but the other guys, those two freshmen, we've got a little ways to go there." Trickett still hasn't made much use of junior college transfer Joe Tonga at right tackle.

3. Georgia Tech: Most of the focus has been on the offense, but the Yellow Jackets' secondary has quietly picked off four passes in two games. It's quite an improvement considering they only had five interceptions all of 2007. Part of that is a result of the tremendous pressure Georgia Tech is bringing up front, but it's also showed a fearlessness from younger players. True freshman safety Cooper Taylor had six tackles against Boston College and cornerback Rashaad Reid made his first career interception.

4. NC State: The Wolfpack is looking for offensive playmakers to replace injured starters, as they're down to their third-string tight end, leading rusher Jamelle Eugene is out and top wide receiver Donald Bowens is out. Keep an eye on T.J. Graham, a blazing wide receiver and kickoff man who is the league's top freshman in all-purpose yards. And tight end George Bryan made the most of his promotion, as he had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown last week. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who was out last week with a severe concussion, will make his comeback in Death Valley.

5. Virginia Tech: Despite quarterback Sean Glennon being outspoken about the staff's decision to use Tyrod Taylor last weekend, coach Frank Beamer said that wasn't the reason he put a muzzle on the quarterbacks this week. "I just think we spend all our time talking about quarterbacks and I want to talk about Georgia Tech." Beamer is looking for his team to block better and more consistently and wants his offensive line to continue to improve. The most progress came in the kicking game, and the tackling improved from Week 1 to Week 2.

Bobby Bowden weighs in on about everything but his QB

September, 1, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

 Florida State Athletics
 If Bobby Bowden knows who his starting QB is, he's keeping it to himself.

When asked Monday whether he has made a decision on his starting quarterback, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said, "I haven't. Jimbo's getting paid to do that. Has he? He hasn't said anything yet to me."

Me either, coach.

Bowden also shared his thoughts with reporters on the overall play of the conference this week:

"That's only one weekend, that could change," Bowden said. "They could win every game next week and all of a sudden that changes. So, that just goes from game to game and season to season. There might be some seasons where you get dominated. But then there are also seasons where you dominate, too. That's one game and one weekend."

(That's also his son.)

Bowden did notice one thing in particular, though, and it's no surprise he was right on in his assessment.

"The two things I saw that really determined the winner of the games were the offensive and defensive lines -- the line of scrimmage -- or the quarterback," Bowden said. "I saw some very average quarterbacks last week that could not move their football team. If they didn't get a blocked punt or a punt return for a touchdown or picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, they couldn't score. That jumped out at me. You better have a quarterback that can do dome things. Then of course, if you want to win the ballgame, do it up front."

Speaking of which, Bowden said there has been some shuffling on his inexperienced offensive line. Joe Tonga is now at right tackle, and Zebrie Sanders is at left tackle. 

Rick Trickett was serious

August, 12, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The man wasn't joking.

When FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett told me last month that he planned to give his linemen a copy of my offensive line rankings to put in their wallets, he meant it.

Looks like the motivation is working.

Hey, anything I can do to help.

Just for the record, though, the addition of Joe Tonga should bump 'em up a notch.

FSU adds much-needed o-lineman

August, 8, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Offensive tackle Joe Tonga was added Thursday to Florida State's 2008 signing class and is already lining up with the first team at left tackle. Florida State was granted a waiver by the NCAA to get one scholarship back leaving the team with 25 scholarship enrollees.

Tonga is a senior with one year of eligibility remaining -- now the lone upperclassman on the line -- so it's not like they're expecting him to sit back and learn. The Noles were looking for a quick fix and they just might have gotten one. Tonga is about 6-foot-6, 305 pounds and came from a community college in California.