Florida State's 51-7 win over Boston College featured the Seminoles' best performance along the offensive line in all of 2012. The five Seminole starting linemen– Cam Erving, Josue Matias, Bryan Stork, Tre' Jackson and Menelik Watson– received their highest grades of the season.
“I like it, I’m really happy for the guys because like you know, I’m making my grades but to see the guys catching up, that’s a wonderful thing," said redshirt junior center Bryan Stork. "And if we’re all together getting the same grades, we’re going to be competing every week for the lineman of the week.”
Stork is the team's most experienced lineman, the de facto leader of the unit. He was expected to play at a high level this year, even surrounded by inexperience. So far he's been solid, and now after some rough spots, the guys around him are beginning to keep pace.
“I’d say everybody, everybody in general [has improved]," said Stork. "It’s kind of even, Josue, Tre’, Menelik and definitely Cam Erving, he got his best grade yet. So I’m happy for him.”
Against BC, Florida State had its best passing numbers of the season, indicative of improved performance in pass protection, an area that has plagued the Seminoles this season.
“The two flanks held up [against BC]," said Jimbo Fisher on Monday. "Cameron played a really good game and Menelik being back in there makes a difference as far as the power and size he brings.”
But the Seminoles improvements along the O-line are not just the result of having Menelik Watson back in the game. As Fisher said, it helps, but that's not the only answer.
“I can see from outside people thinking that," said Stork. "But there’s more to it than just one thing. See everybody just believes if there’s a problem, it’s one problem, it’s one thing. A problem has multiple [sources], you know what I mean?”
In football, especially when it comes to blocking schemes, Occam's razor doesn't apply. That is, the simplest explanation is oftentimes not the correct one.
For instance last weekend against NC State, EJ Manuel took four sacks but really only one was attributable to the offensive line. The others were the result of poor blitz pick-up by the tight ends and backs. At first blush, it's easy to blame the guys up front, but that's not always the story.
Oftentimes fans wonder why one tight end isn't in the game as much as another or why James Wilder for instance didn't get as many touches against NC State last weekend, the answer comes from what those players can do when the ball is not in their hands.
Pass protection, blitz pick-up, all of the little things that go into making players well rounded take time to develop, and they make a world of difference in how much a coach can trust a player on the field. As much as Chris Thompson had the hot hand against NC State, the Wolfpack also blitzed throughout the second half and the 'Noles senior back is one of the their best in pass protection.
"It's experience," said Jimbo Fisher. "The more you're in there, the better. When you're smart like that you can anticipate issues coming, it makes a big difference."
The line is asked to do a lot, but the backs and tight ends also have to chip in (bad pun). Case in point go back to the BC game and right in the first quarter you see EJ Manuel connect on a 42-yard pass to Scooter Haggins.
If you take your eye off the ball during the play you see the line blocks well but just by virtue of the scheme, a free man comes off the edge.
On that play Chris Thompson sticks his helmet right on the pass-rusher and clears him out of the play. It gives EJ Manuel the extra second to step up and complete the pass. It makes all the difference.
But there's the rub for the O-line, a lot of fans would see a sack in that situation as their fault. The blame for a guy coming off the edge and hitting the quarterback oftentimes lands at the feet of the offensive tackle on that respective side, even if scheme dictates that wasn't his man or responsibility.
Which is why as Bryan Stork said, it's never just one thing when there are breakdowns in blocking.
But it's also not overly complicated either.
“When we all did our technique [against BC], the guy we had to block didn’t make the play," said Stork. "It’s as simple as that.”
Basically, it comes down to that worn out old concept of executing.
Against BC the line executed their technique the best they have all season and received their best grades yet. Now they're looking to take that momentum with them down to Miami.
"It's Hurricane season, man."