Column: More Than 20% of FSU Football’s Scholarship Players are Offensive Linemen
Florida State athletics

Column: More Than 20% of FSU Football’s Scholarship Players are Offensive Linemen

For nearly a decade now, Florida State football’s offensive line has been viewed as a — if not the — weak link on the team. Offensive coordinator and position coach Alex Atkins, however, is changing the narrative.

Although no players placed on the first, second or third All-ACC teams last season, Devontay Love-Taylor and Dillan Gibbons were each named honorable mention. It marked the first time since 2017 that any FSU offensive lineman placed anywhere on the All-ACC team and the first time since 2016 that multiple players made an appearance.

Under Atkins’ tutelage, there is real hope that FSU could have its best offensive front in years. The Seminoles have 19 scholarship players at the position. That accounts for more than 22% of FSU’s scholarship allotment.

A Promising 2022?

Although Love-Taylor has graduated, Gibbons headlines those returning up front for the Seminoles. The Notre Dame transfer, however, isn’t the only one who has shown promise for the unit. Darius Washington, a fourth-year sophomore, has 20 starts to his name and made starts in each of the last three seasons.

Robert Scott Jr. was a 247Sports Freshman All-American in 2020 and has made 18 starts over the last two seasons. Among returning players, Scott and Washington are most likely to join Gibbons in the starting lineup.

With a good trio returning, FSU also upgraded the position with a handful of additions via the transfer portal. Most believe that Wisconsin transfer Kayden Lyles will man the middle as the team’s center. At a program known for its offensive line, Lyles made 16 starts and played in 34 games for the Badgers. Prior to an injury-plagued 2021, Lyles was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list, which recognizes the nation’s top center.

Bless Harris, Jazston Turntine and D’Mitri Emmanuel are three more transfers who should vie for action, if not start. Harris started seven games at Lamar in two seasons while Turnetine made 10 starts at left tackle over his last two seasons at South Carolina. Emmanuel, a guard who played under Atkins at Charlotte, has 25 career starts and was named a third-team All-Conference USA performer in 2020.

The three returning starters and four transfers give FSU seven solid pieces on the offensive line. Although he has had his struggles, center Maurice Smith Jr. also has 17 career starts to his name.

With nearly 20 scholarship players at the position, FSU has a number of younger players who should also vie for the time up front. For a team looking for its first winning season in five years, the internal competition can only be seen as a good thing.

A Promising Future?

While FSU has a lot of experience along the offensive front for 2022, it’s hard not to notice the work that Atkins has done on the recruiting trail. The Seminoles’ 2022 class featured six blue-chip prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Three of those were offensive linemen. In each case, Atkins was the primary recruiter.

For the 2023 class, two of the top three current commits are offensive linemen. Again, Atkins was their primary recruiter.

Among the eight high school prospects signed along the offensive line since the 2021 class, four were 4-star prospects. As long as Atkins remains in Tallahassee, the Seminoles will be in good hands.

Changing Times

With now eight veterans up front and blue-chip prospects making their way to Tallahassee, Atkins is slowly changing the way fans and analysts alike think about the FSU offensive line.

As a team, FSU has ranked in the upper half of the ACC in rushing yards per game in each of the last two seasons. Over that stretch, the Seminoles have averaged better than 187 yards per game. In the three seasons prior, FSU averaged just over 130 yards rushing per game. Over those three seasons, FSU never ranked higher than 11th in the ACC in rushing yards per contest.

When it comes to pass protection, there is still a lot of room for improvement. FSU was among the worst in the ACC in giving up sacks last season. Still, FSU had not given up fewer than the three sacks per game yielded last season since 2017. How the Seminoles progress in that regard may ultimately determine how improved they are as a team in 2022.

Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw and has more than 10 years of experience in online and print journalism. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 and has had his work featured at numerous prominent publications such as Fox Sports, the Associated Press, Athlon Sports, Yahoo Sports and Sports Illustrated among others. Prior to joining Double Fries No Slaw, Mike was the founder and editor of The Daily Nole. He also serves as the managing editor for Fifth Quarter and is a contributor for Athlon Sports, Fish Stripes and Orlando Pinstriped Post. Mike and his wife Jennifer reside in Haines City, Fla. and have two daughters.