Offense Comes Alive

At this point last year, the offensive line of the Florida State football team was battling fatigue as well as depth. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, this was a problem that plagued them all season long. In preparing for 2006 football season, Coach Bobby Bowden wanted to make sure to bring in new recruits that could help lead this program to another National Championship.

On the high school recruiting trail, Bowden and the rest of the coaching staff were able to receive six commitments from offensive line, two short of their off-season goal. Leading the class is Shannon Boatman who at 6-7 320 pounds was a first-team All-American at Tyler Junior College. Currently, Boatman is battling for a starting spot at tackle with returning players Mario Henderson and David Overmyer but has no preference to which side of the line he wants to anchor.

"I am slowly learning the plays and getting into the system but I feel pretty good about everything right now." Boatman said. "I figure once I get all my assignments down, everything else is going to come. If I am thinking too much I will slow down and not be as aggressive, but once that come I will really pound people. I am going to learn both sides and I plan on starting but if not I am going to be a great backup for both of them."

At spring practice on Monday, the offense dominated the defense in only the fifth practice of the season. Everything from impressive runs by Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith and catches from Greg Carr were showcased as FSU scored five offensive touchdowns. There is a different feel this year with the players being able to stay healthy while still going full speed.

"Last year I think four or five linemen were out for the spring," Coach Bowden said concerning the offensive line. "This year we have Cory Niblock out but he is pretty much the only one. We are about as far as we could be for this time of the year. I just wish we could scrimmage every day because we've got young kids and they need that. We have also been fairly fortunate with injuries do that's good."

One of the top linemen returning for Florida State is John Frady, who has had to deal with many setbacks since injuring his shoulder last season. After having a second surgery, Frady has been ahead of schedule lately and have impressed the coaches with his constant determination.

The Seminoles seemed to just be clicking on offense since the start of spring practice which has been a pleasant surprise for fans. Nobody is as pleased as sophomore quarterback Drew Weatherford who has only thrown two incomplete passes in the last two scrimmages. Weatherford was 6 for 7 for the day with 164 yards and two touchdowns.

"I am really excited the way the offense has done in the last two scrimmages." Weatherford said. "Really all the credit should go to the line. The long runs you see and the deep plays and the plays Greg Carr are making are all attributed to the offensive line.

They are the most important part of the offense and have really shown up in the beginning of spring."

OFFENSIVE LINE NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

The offensive line received its first grades of the season following Friday's scrimmage, and coach Mark McHale said numbers were pretty low across the board. Mario Henderson had the highest grade, but it was still below where he stood at the end of last season.

This time of year, that's not a huge concern, but McHale did identify several things that need to improve. Low blocking was the biggest deficiency, though Monday the group showed progress in that area. It's not an easy problem to fix, according to McHale, and will take constant drilling to overcome.

McHale continues to shuffle his first-team. Walk-on Marcus Ford moved to the starting line in place of right guard Geoff Berniard.

"He did pretty good," McHale said. "He had one run where he crossed his feet, basic fundamentals."

McHale said Shannon Boatman has to catch up in the mental aspects of the game. David Overmyer is bigger and stronger, but needs to work on lower-body fundamentals. In the first scrimmage, McHale was pleased with how physical Henderson performed.

"He was more physical than he was in the bowl game," McHale said. "He's on track to have a good spring."

So far, the offensive line has stayed healthy unlike last year when injuries forced the Seminoles to rely on walk-ons and cross-trained players to fill positions. Center John Frady has been able to participate despite earlier reports that had him questionable for the spring.

"I was out there with a lot of walk-ons starting in these scrimmage," McHale said. "I'm glad to see Frady going after shoulder surgery."

Florida State focused on carrying the ball during Monday's scrimmage - just over half of the plays were runs - and McHale hopes that is something that will continue through the rest of spring football.

"They have to be able to block," McHale said. "When stuff moves, they have to be able to block. What happens is when you pound Booker in there and you pound Antone in there, and then they do these stunts and you catch them, what happens? There they go."


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