Countdown to Camp

FSU's highly touted offensive line is featured in this third installment of a summer-long series previewing the 2002 Seminoles. The unit returns all five starters and has earned plenty of preseason praise -- Athlon and The Sporting News each ranked it as the nation's top segment. "So far they've done a good job. A lot of them are to that point where they have an opportunity to do some things that some other guys didn't. They are stepping up to the call," offensive line coach Jimmy Heggins said.

Offensive Line/Tight ends

Post-Spring Starters: TT Ray Willis (So.), TG Montrae Holland (Sr.), C Antoine Mirambeau (Sr.), SG Milford Brown (Sr.), ST Brett Williams (Sr.), TE Patrick Hughes (Sr.).

Reserves: TT Todd Williams (Sr.), TT Eric Broe (Fr.), TG Bobby Meeks (So.), TG Ron Lunford (Fr.), TG Blake Williams (Fr.), C David Castillo (So.), C Andrew Henry-Kennon (Fr.), C Matt Heinz (Fr.), SG Mat Meinrod (Fr.), ST Alex Barron (So.), TE Paul Irons (So.), TE Kentril White (Sr. walkon).

Coming Attractions: OL Cory Niblock (St. Augustine).

The proof will be in the results.

FSU's highly touted offensive was alternately praised and criticized last season. Some believe the unit suffered from the hype which characterized it as one of the Seminoles' best offensive lines ever.

Well, that hype is only going to increase this season.

Bolstered by a quintet of seniors, the line is as experienced and talented as it has been in a long, long time. It's expected to be a season when FSU shows it can block for the run as equally well as the pass. Split tackle Brett Williams and tight guard Montrae Holland have been recognized in preseason publications as two of the best in the nation.

Assistant coach Jimmy Heggins, who is entering his 17th season with the Seminoles and ninth as offensive line coach, believes his unit will be prepared for the upcoming challenges and expectations.

"So far they've done a good job," Heggins said.

"A lot of them are to that point where they have an opportunity to do some things that some other guys didn't. They are stepping up to the call. From what we've seen, they are showing a lot of maturity. Last year was one of those years where we didn't have a lot of consistency. One game you play well, and the next in the middle."

With the exception of Todd Williams at tight tackle -- Williams was second-team during spring drills before Ray Willis was injured -- none of the second teamers are likely to push the starters significantly. Including tight end, nine reserve players listed on the team's depth chart are either freshmen or sophomores. Still, Heggins also likes the reports he is receiving regarding his inexperienced players.

"One of the younger guys who seems to be stepping up is Matt Meinrod," Heggins said. "He came (last week) weighing 290 pounds. He didn't have too bad of a spring. Matt Heinz has been in school and he's been working but I saw him the other day and you can tell he's doing some good things. He's about 280 pounds and has really bulked up. The others are just coming back in town. It's important we get it out of that second group this season."

The unit spent some of spring drills tweaking its reads and steps. Players continue to work on their fundamentals and mechanics during the offseason. Former 'Nole center Clay Shiver has showed at afternoon workouts to work on the unit's speed and quickness.

"It's a very talented group," Shiver said.

"The sky is the limit for these guys. I look at it a lot like our '95 team. The team will live and die with them. We were very fortunate to have a very good offense that year and a very good offensive line. I don't think we had as much talent as these guys but we were able to squeeze as much out of it as we could."

In the final two weeks of spring drills, the offensive staff made a concerted effort to throw to the tight ends, with Patrick Hughes and Paul Irons responding surprisingly well, especially around the goal line. Of course, FSU tight ends play a vital role in the Seminoles' blocking scheme -- last season Hughes and Irons combined on three catches for 18 yards (Irons' lone reception went for a 5-yard score).

"As long as we all stay healthy, we will be one of the best lines in the nation," Holland said. "We've had a good offseason. In the spring we got down a new (blocking scheme). We are going to a pro-style type of offense with pro-style stpes. Everyone picked it up pretty good."

Here's what Heggins had to say about some of his linemen:

Todd Williams: "I want him trimmed down a little bit, and so far, he's done a good job. I want him to lose 10 pounds and he's down about eight pounds. I think this may be Todd's break out year. He's always had the talent but the consistency has not always been there. As we sat down andtalked, this is his last year - his last go around."

Montrae Holland: "At this time last year Montrae was about 360 pounds. Now he's 328. His stamina will be better and also help prevent injuries. We're pleased with his approach to this season."

Ray Willis "Ray is always working hard. He weighs about 300-something pound. That's going to be interesting between Ray and Todd there. Whatever happens, it will produce a lot of depth at the tackle position."

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