Holding Together

FSU's offensive line has been scrutinized daily. It hasn't disappointed despite a lack of overall depth. Of course, the unit it will face it's most difficult test of the season Saturday against No. 2 Miami in Doak Campbell Stadium. Kickoff is high noon and the showdown once again as national title implications. "Miami won the national championship two years ago, and they arguably could have won it last year. This is our season, right here, and it's theirs too," center David Castillo said.

Florida State's offensive line has come together rather impressively this season.

Hmmm, better make that held together rather impressively this season.

"Held together I think is the better (description) because we don't have a lot of depth there," FSU recruiting coordinator John Lilly said.

"That's the thing that has been tested a little bit even the last couple of weeks and we've had a couple guys a little -- the open date came at a very good time for that segment of the team. Tackle to tackle, you basically think five guys there because Matt Heinz has been out already. Of course, Bobby Meeks goes down and Bobby Castillo has been hurt. And playing in there, you would be kidding yourself if you think the other starters -- Alex Barron, Ray Willis and Matt Meinrod -- aren't nicked up in some way, shape or form. It's not to the point where they've had to really miss any plays.

"It was big (against Duke) the way that Eric Broe and Ronnie Lunford were able to step in when he got in there, they were able to step in and hopefully we didn't miss a beat. Those are guys who have not had a lot of experience in game situation, so it was good to be able to get them some there and also John Frady at the center with David being nicked up a little. I think they've held together pretty well. And, again, it's a long season and football is a very physical game, so you have to hope that can continue to hold up."

FSU's starting unit of center David Castillo, guards Matt Meinrod and Bobby Meeks/Eric Broe tackles Alex Barron and Ray Willis will face its most difficult test in Miami's vaunted front seven Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The Seminoles' line was scrutinized daily during the preseason. It hasn't disappointed despite a lack of overall depth.

Injuries, of course, remain the biggest concern. Meeks has been plagued by a variety of setbacks and remains questionable for Saturday. Castillo, who entered the season with a history of ailments, has been slowed by a foot sprain.

Despite the setbacks, the unit continues to push forward.

"I think we've made a little bit of progress," Castillo said.

"When we came in, everybody was doubting us, thinking we were going to get killed this year because of our offensive line, but I think we've proven that wrong, that we're not getting killed. We've got a lot of areas that we can improve in. We've made a lot of strides. There are some areas that we're vulnerable in, and we need to improve on, but in general, the lack of experience is going to take care of itself. Every game you play, you're going to get better and better."

Castillo believes one key is rather obvious -- the unit has benefited greatly by facing the Seminoles' front seven in practice.

"Like I say, we go against our defense," he said.

"There's not too many defenses we're going to see that play like our defense. Once we see that, you get down on the field, and it's a lot slower in a game situation than it is in practice. When we make a call – we'll make a technique call, or a certain code name or something like that, our defense knows exactly where the ball's going.

"We always joke around, saying that our defense knows our plays better than we do. We holler out a call, and you've got (Darnell) Dockett over there (yelling), ‘Sweep!' or ‘The ball's coming here!' or ‘draw!' all this stuff, and we have to block it, knowing that they know the play. That's going to help us that much more when we get into a game, make a call or something, and they don't know it – that makes it that much easier for the offensive line."

If fans are searching for the unit's leader, he's easy to find, according to Castillo. Ray Willis, take a bow.

"He'll go up to people, and he'll start screaming. He'll get vocal," Castillo said of Willis.

"He's not as vocal as some guys we have, but at the same time, he's not going to let something slide when he wants to get something done, or he sees something. He'll let you know. You don't have to be the most vocal guy to be a leader. He goes out, with his work ethic and his style of play, goes out there and he's a leader in his own way."

FSU's line, meanwhile, continues to get out determined to improve. It has come together -- and held together -- rather well.

"I practice every day," Castillo said.

"I just have to wear (a brace) when I'm not playing. They're doing some precautions when I'm in my game shoes. When I'm not, they want me in this thing just for precaution. I injured it a little bit against Georgia Tech, and I've been doing it ever since. It's one of those injuries – when you injure anything early in the year, it's not going to get better until you get rest. Early in the year, you're going to play the rest of the season with it. That's something I've got to deal with."

Of course, FSU will have to deal with UM in less than a week.

"I think you've got to take every game as a big game, especially against teams like a Florida and a Georgia and a Miami especially," Castillo said.

"Miami won the national championship two years ago, and they arguably could have won it last year. Miami's – this is our season, right here, and it's theirs too. Whoever loses this game – it's going to be very hard to get back into the national championship game. This is our season, it's a very big game, but I've played against Florida, I've played against Georgia – I've got a little bit of experience. Hopefully we can go out and get somewhat of the same result."

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