Florida State's offensive line passes preseason stress test


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If Jimbo Fisher knows quarterbacks, then the Florida State coach is equally well-versed in how to thwart them. It usually begins with a defense hanging around a quarterback’s feet and laying siege to a vulnerable player.

Florida State now knows who its starting quarterback will be, but the coaching staff is unsure whether Everett Golson will remain upright. The offensive line returns one starter and five career starts.

So last week, with the help of offensive line coach Rick Trickett and his defensive assistants, Fisher schemed. If opposing defensive coordinators will be musing exotic blitzes realizing what was once a sturdy offensive line could now be susceptible to fraying, Fisher had better do the same.

The 2015 offensive line’s stress test was the result of Florida State’s brainstorming. Roderick Johnson, Kareem Are, Corey Martinez, Wilson Bell and Derrick Kelly were put under the microscope.

The group had three weeks to build continuity and cohesion. Pencils and pads away. Here come the stout 300-pound linemen and agile linebackers organizing an endless assault.

They passed. Fisher was maybe even caught a little off-guard, saying he was “biting his tongue” to keep his offensive line level headed. The unit, after all, still hasn’t earned the accolades of a 2014 line that accumulated more than 150 career starts.

“We brought every blitz known to man,” Fisher said. “To me, that’s a very good sign of where your offensive line is because that’s where all the stress comes in those situations. We put them under some unbelievably stressful situations on purpose.”

Fisher believes this group might be the most athletic offensive line he has had, and the starters average 6-foot-5 and 316 pounds.

Already recognized as one of the ACC’s best linemen, Johnson, the Seminoles’ left tackle, could earn national acclaim by season’s end. As a freshman, the 6-7, 323-pound Johnson solidified an underachieving offensive line when he was inserted into the lineup in Week 12. All-ACC performer and future first-round pick Cam Erving was shuffled inside to make room for Johnson.

Johnson has a had a “really good camp,” Fisher said, and 2014 junior college transfer Are at left guard has met Fisher’s expectations, too. Redshirt freshman center Martinez and right tackle Kelly secured their starting jobs late in camp, and redshirt sophomore Bell will start at right guard.

It took most of camp for Fisher to settle on an offensive line, but Bell said this group is prepared for the Saturday stressors.

“The offensive line is one big unit,” Bell said. “When you’re putting five guys together to work as a whole to defend the whole offense, you have to make sure they all bond together.”