Two years ago the Seminoles were forced to start four freshmen in the Champs Bowl against Notre Dame.
It was not one of the finer moments in recent Florida State history. Or at least that's how it seemed at the time. The Florida State offense struggled all evening and the defense and special teams more or less carried the 'Noles to a win over the Irish.
It's interesting how that looks now.
Notre Dame didn't lose again until the national title game last season. They went on to have one of the top defenses in the country. And that beleaguered offensive line? It churned out one of the nation's top rushing attacks on its way to a conference title and an Orange Bowl win.
Suddenly, heading into 2013 the offensive line is one of the strengths of the Florida State team.
For starters, the line has gotten comfortable. After moving around and trying to find the right grouping, it seems that things have finally settled save one or two positions. Cam Erving, for instance, was new to the offensive line last season. This year he returns as a veteran left tackle.
“I feel a whole lot more comfortable, I feel like I can actually help other people who don’t know what’s going on whereas last year I didn’t really feel as comfortable with the position as I do now," said Erving. "It feels pretty good, I feel like I know what’s going, I’m just trying to be more consistent.”
Opposite Erving, Bobby Hart is coming into his own as both a player and in terms of maturity.
“Bobby’s doing great," added Erving. "Even when I first came to the defensive line, I mean I said this a million times before Bobby really helped me. He’s an intelligent young man and it’s just getting back in the flow of things. You know you don’t play a lot of football for a year and then you come back it’s going to be different. Bobby’s been working really hard, we’ve done a lot of things together. I’m confident in what he can do, it’s just all about what the coaches want.”
“I just take every rep like it’s the last rep like it’s a game rep with just trying to do better with everything I do out there," said Hart. "I’m always progressing.”
Hart has a chance to win the starting right tackle job after losing it to future NFL-draftee Menelik Watson last year. Hart will be 19 next season and may be the youngest junior in the country, but many believe his ceiling to be just as high as the much older, more developled Watson's.
At guard Tre Jackson and Josue Matias continue to develop and should see plenty of action in each of their second full season as starters. They have both grown considerably since that Champs Bowl.
The anchor of the line is center Bryan Stork. With Watson gone he is the unquestioned leader of the unit.
"Stork’s always there to pick me up when I’m down," said C Austin Barron, who also played agaisnt Notre Dame two years ago. "He explains everything to me when I mess up, he’s just always there to back me up with the everything.”
If Hart cannot win the starting job, it's likely Stork will move out to tackle and Barron will play center for the Seminoles. That remains to be determined.
With either configuration though, the Seminoles are confident their line will be the backbone of the offense.
“I definitely feel that we can make a great stride, but like I said we’ve just got to do it day by day. The chemistry is there we just need to lock in to what’s going on.”
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