- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Through the first third of spring practice, guard Kareem Are was still walking the sidelines in street clothes. It was the story of the spring for Florida State’s top early enrollees -- they all were expected to contribute early but were sidelined for various reasons.
Dalvin Cook tore the labrum in his shoulder and is sidelined until the summer. Kain Daub has an NCAA Clearinghouse issue and can’t practice. But as for Are, a junior college transfer, there were questions surrounding his absence from the first five practices. There were whispers he came in overweight -- he dropped 15 pounds before practice started -- but Jimbo Fisher never said Are was dealing with a specific injury.
Whatever the case, Are, listed at 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, is emerging as the star of the spring despite practicing only three times. Following a Monday scrimmage in which Fisher expressed disappointment with nearly every facet of his team, he made a point to heap praise on the junior.
“[Are is] learning what to do, but I’ll tell you what, very talented, very good player,” Fisher said. “I’m extremely excited. He has a chance to really help us. He’s a big, athletic guy, learns well, you can coach him hard, takes criticism. He’s done his work and he paid attention when he was sitting out.”
Considering how the early enrollees have fared thus far, it is only fitting even Are had trouble getting cleared at Florida State. He planned to enroll for the start of classes Jan. 6, but by mid-January he was still being held up by online classes he took previously.
The Seminoles brought in Are, ranked No. 46 in the ESPN Junior College 50, with the idea he would immediately add depth and push for a starting spot in 2015. The Noles return four of their five offensive linemen from a season ago but will undergo a complete overhaul next offseason. In only three practices, Fisher said Are has exceeded expectations.
Senior right guard Tre' Jackson was not available for Monday’s scrimmage, so it was the newcomer Are receiving the bulk of the first-team snaps. Lined up across from Are occasionally was former five-star defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., the No. 1 recruit in the 2012 class, who was in harmony with Fisher regarding Are’s quick start.
“He’s definitely aggressive, that’s one of the good things I’ve noticed about him,” Edwards said. “He loves to pile you in the ground if you let him, and he has strong hands.”