FSU's offensive line taking shape

Not only will Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders take all that experience to the pros, but they'll also leave quite a leadership void along the FSU offensive line. Josue Matias and Co. are the next generation.

With spring practice coming to a close, there are still many improvements that coach Jimbo Fisher would like to see out of his players.

One of the major issues facing the Seminoles during their first four weeks of practice has been the development of a cohesive offensive line. Poor O-line play plagued Florida State for much of this past season and was a large contributing factor in each of FSU's four losses.

With the Garnet and Gold Game set to take place Saturday, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out up front. Fisher is intrigued to see how his group responds to its first game environment since December's bowl win over Notre Dame.

Despite the many questions yet to be answered, there is one potential problem that already seems to have been resolved.

This is a collection full of leaders -- junior Bryan Stork, sophomores Bobby Hart and Josue Matias, even converted defensive tackle Cameron Erving.

"Cam does a great job," Fisher said Wednesday after practice. "Bobby Hart speaks, and Stork is doing it. The rest of the linemen, those young guys are quiet leaders. Josue is going to line up and play his tail off. He don't say much. He just looks at you with those mean eyes."

While Erving has been one of the pleasant surprises of spring drills, the transition of Stork to tackle has been one of the storylines to watch. The former high school tight end has started at both center and guard at the collegiate level but will now be asked to protect the right side for quarterback E.J. Manuel.

Stork appears to have taken charge this spring at the right tackle position but does remain in a battle with last year's fill-in, Hart. The 17-year-old Hart had the privilege of starting eight games for Florida State last season after senior Andrew Datko went down with a shoulder injury.

Last year, many of FSU's backups were thrust into action because of various injuries to veterans. The live action those players faced gave them valuable experience that could pay dividends this season.

In addition to Stork and Hart, the ‘Noles return eight other offensive linemen that have all played up front in their careers. The only newcomers are Erving, who is making the switch from defensive line, and Daniel Glauser, who is participating in his first spring as a Seminole.

Glauser, a JUCO transfer, is competing with Erving for the starting left tackle spot, but it would appear that Erving is running away with the job.

Fisher agrees.

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"His attitude and leadership, he's one of our best leaders on this football team," said Fisher of the 6-5, 304-pound Erving. "Understand something: The farther away you go from the ball, the less assignments are, the more athleticism is needed. He's extremely athletic. You couldn't get a more athletic left tackle than him."

This offensive line has only experienced two scrimmages together, and Fisher and Co. will gain a greater knowledge of just how good their new unit is when it takes to Bobby Bowden Field on Saturday.

Nonetheless, one thing is certain: The future seems to be burning bright for the big men in the trenches.

"All of a sudden," Fisher said, "now we're getting balls off, we're throwing and we're blocking."

Matt Ritter is a football and basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com, as well as a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.

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