Redshirt freshman Ryan Izzo made his first career start against Texas State on Saturday, and he performed especially well. Izzo caught two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown against the Bobcats, but he was even more impressive as a blocker. He was consistently able to hold the edge and get to the second level.
Blocking was not something that Izzo was able to come right in and do well. Playing high school football in New Jersey he wasn't used to having to block guys bigger than he was, and it took some time for him to make that transition.
"I was really happy about it," Izzo said. "Since I’ve came here, kind of being undersized… In high school you go from blocking kids that are 215-pounds to blocking guys like Demarcus who are 285. It’s definitely been a big change for me. A lot of work, but Jimbo was happy so I was happy."
Izzo sat behind All-American tight end Nick O'Leary, who won the Mackey Award as the nations best tight end last season, and he was able to take a lot from what he saw from O'Leary.
"I took a lot from Nick [O’Leary]," Izzo said. "Nick was guy that didn’t talk much. He kind of kept to himself a little bit. What I was able to get from him were the little details. Stuff he did on routes. Stuff he did on blocking. Stuff he did to prepare for games. So I think he definitely helped me out in a positive way."
Izzo redshirted that season, but he believes he needed that time to prepare.
"I think I definitely need that year," Izzo said. "Just for my body to mature. Give me one more year. Getting to learn the playbook. This year I’ve got it definitely down. So that year was really beneficial for me...[It's been a] big difference. Working with Vic in the offseason. Listening to Brewster and the tips he gives me technique wise. I’m a completely different blocker from last year.
Tight Ends coach Tim Brewster had a talk with Izzo at the end of last season and told him that if he wanted to start he would have to work on his blocking.
"It was definitely a real focal point," Izzo said. "When I sat down with Brewster he told me that he was pleased with my receiving. Obviously I can do some improving, but blocking was the main thing he needed me to step up and be able do for this team. Because you can’t just be a receiver. You’ve got great backs like Dalvin and Pender you have to be able to block."
Izzo took that to heart and when it came time to play on Saturday night he was ready.
"[Izzo was] Excellent," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "One little holding call they called late, which he held a little bit, but it was out of great effort and tenacity. I was extremely pleased with how he blocked...I thought Izzo had a really, really good football game."
Izzo's hard work has really paid off for him, and Florida State fans should look for big things from him for the rest of his career.