Finding A Way

<b>Cory Niblock</b> may not have been a household name when signed by Florida State out of St. Augustine Nease High School in 2002. Niblock played in all 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman, making his mark on special teams and backing up starter <b>Matt Meinrod</b> at guard. Following Meinrod season-ending knee injury in FSU's opener at Miami, Niblock has stepped in and played

Cory Niblock could have easily returned to his hometown of St. Augustine last summer for a final reprieve before the start of preseason practice at Florida State. Visiting family and hanging with friends sounded inviting.

Niblock had other ideas.

Niblock, a redshirt sophomore, attended both summer school sessions and was a regular during the Seminoles' voluntary conditioning workouts. He lost fat and added muscle, registering personal-best numbers in the team's performance testing.

That momentum carried over into practice as Niblock solidified his position behind starter Matt Meinrod at offensive guard. Still, Niblock was prepared for another season of watching and learning.

"I had worked hard over the summer and staying here instead of going home definitely paid off for me," Niblock said. "I felt a lot more comfortable compared to last year. I just wanted to get on the field and help out any way I could."

One play at Miami quickly changed Niblock's world.

Meinrod, the Seminoles' strongest player, limped off the field in the third quarter with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is lost for the season. Enter Niblock, who was a late recruiting target by FSU out of Nease High School.

Niblock, a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, hasn't disappointed. He has played well in Meinrod's absence, finishing the UM game, making his first career start in home against Alabama-Birmingham two weeks ago and building on his play against Clemson last Saturday. Niblock has drawn kudos from coaches and teammates for his toughness.

"Your first career start is always exciting, something I am always going to remember," Niblock said. "But I need to keep working."

Niblock and the Seminoles' offensive line helped FSU rush for 251 yards against UAB after finishing with 57 against the Hurricanes -- the lowest in the series since 1994.

Against Clemson, Wyatt Sexton threw for 162 yards and a touchdown Saturday after replacing an injured Chris Rix, and No. 8 Florida State forced five turnovers in a 41-22 victory.

Naturally, Niblock is thrilled to be lining up for the Seminoles. He also figured he arrived at FSU at the ideal time, learning from senior offensive linemen Antoine Mirambeau, Montrae Holland, Todd Williams and Brett Williams during the 2002 season. Only Mirambeau was not drafted into the NFL.

"I came in at a great time because I got to learn behind four very good seniors, and three of them are in the league (NFL) right now," Niblock said. "They taught me so much.

"Honestly, I didn't know much coming in simply because you are not prepared for this (level) of play in high school. I knew FSU produced some great players and was always good. Once you are here, you realize here's so much to learn."

Niblock, who redshirted as a freshman, admittedly struggled with technique and his assignments early on. He played in all 13 games last season behind Meinrod and was a member of the field goal and extra point teams.

Still, Niblock realized any improvement this offseason came through hard work. There wasn't any time to go home.

And his summer testing was impressive -- five seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 4.35 pro shuttle, a 32.5-inch vertical jump and an 8-foot, 8-inch broad jump. Mix those numbers with a 350-pound bench press, 350-pound clean-and-jerk and 540-pound squat, and what one has is a player who made the most of his time.

"Everyone has gained a year of experience along the offensive line, and that helps," Niblock said.

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