Florida State needed more help on its offensive line, this much was clear going through spring practice.
The Seminoles established better depth with transfer additions of Wisconsin center Kayden Lyles and Lamar offensive tackle Bless Harris – plus the return of multi-year starters Robert Scott, Maurice Smithand Darius Washington as well as top lineman Dillan Gibbons – but the fragility of the embattled unit was exposed on days when a projected starter didn’t practice.
A swift fall-off in play served as a sobering reminder that the line, while improved from when it was the worst unit at the Power Five level in 2018, was still a work in progress.
FSU went all-in on Georgia transfer Amarius Mims almost immediately after spring ball wrapped up, but the pursuit wasn’t successful at least in part due to outside circumstances. But that signaled quickly that the Seminoles knew they couldn’t remain stagnant in the trenches.
First came D’Mitri Emmanuel, a Charlotte transfer with ties to position coach Alex Atkins. The 24 career starts and All-C-USA honors are a good place to begin the evaluation and reasoning for this take. Emmanuel is likely going to start for the Seminoles at guard, but has experience at tackle and – at the worst – represents an excellent backup option as he transitions to the P5 level.
Then FSU caught a break with Antavious Woody enrolling earlier this month after jumping some hurdles to qualify. He should help with practice depth this season and allow FSU to avoid relying on walk-ons to work the scout team.
And on Tuesday, FSU took one final step towards ensuring that its line depth doesn’t get utterly depleted with just a singular injury. South Carolina transfer Jazston Turnetine made his commitment to FSU official, bringing a big body with starting SEC experience to the table. Turnetine is an imperfect prospect who struggled with consistency and to stay in shape at South Carolina, leading to him drifting in and out of the lineup, so he’s not assured to start at FSU. He’ll have that opportunity, but the biggest takeaway with this addition is that Turnetine brings a baseline of competence to the trenches.
Consider that Mike Norvell has frequently discussed the need to have 7-8 quality linemen to get through a season. That isn’t a luxury FSU has been afforded in recent years. When a starter went down, it created a catastrophic chain of events that forced players to move out of position or to play hurt. FSU’s average yards-per-carry fell from 5.83 (6th nationally) in October to 3.29 (102nd) largely because the line’s health deteriorated.
Now FSU has a little more wiggle room as Turnetine serves as the last act of the Seminoles taking out an insurance policy entering this season.
The group of players with at least one season of starting experience expands to 8 – Scott, Washington, Smith, Gibbons, Lyles, Harris, Emmanuel, and Turnetine – and it gives some cushion before FSU would have to turn to green players like Rod Orr, Zane Herringor Lloyd Willis. Even Thomas Shraderstill working back from a leg injury last spring, is afforded the chance to come along at his own pace.
The work Norvell and Atkins put into revamping the line, adding 10 players in the 2022 cycle, is admirable.
There’s no guarantee that throwing numbers at the problem works to instantly solve it. But it does give FSU better chances to avoid disaster when an injury or two occurs on the offensive line this season.