What's Trickett's effect on FSU OL?

May, 30, 2013
5/30/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Ryan Hoefeld was a late arrival at Florida State's recruiting camp last June. Still, the 6-foot-3 center was eager to finally meet the Seminoles' infamous offensive line coach.

Rick Trickett was already heading into the film room to watch tape of the day's workouts, but former FSU assistant Dameyune Craig was happy to make an introduction -- with just one, small warning.

"Just count the number of F-bombs he drops," Craig told Hoefeld.

[+] EnlargeIra Denson
Jeff Peoples/IntersportUnder Armour All-American Ira Denson is one of only three offensive linemen to sign with Florida State in the 2013 class.
The grizzled line coach and the prospect watched film, with Trickett breaking down each play, nearly all of his insight emphasized with some language not entirely appropriate for mixed company. And Hoefeld counted.

"It ended up being like 27," Hoefeld said. "That was when I first started really liking him."

Hoefeld is not alone. Trickett pulls no punches, and that's made him a hero for many of the hard-scrabble, blue-collar linemen who have called Florida State home during the past six years. But that gruff personality doesn't always endear him to players with a softer side or fans concerned about Trickett's negative effect on recruiting. In fact, there might not be a more divisive figure in Tallahassee than the diminutive ex-Marine with a penchant for breaking down weak players and building the strong ones into NFL prospects.

"What young guys don't understand is, the way Coach Trickett teaches it, it's a business," said former FSU tackle Menelik Watson, a second-round selection by the Oakland Raiders in this year's NFL draft. "If you don't come with the mindset that you want it, you're going to struggle. … A lot of players don't understand that."

A Vietnam veteran, Trickett began his coaching career in 1973 and in the 37 seasons since, he's coached seven All-Americans and sent nearly three dozen players on to the NFL, with Watson, a junior college transfer with virtually no football experience, his latest success story.

But Trickett’s old-school approach doesn't always play well with 17-year-old prospects. While a handful of players like Hoefeld have been drawn to Trickett's stern demeanor, the overall depth on offensive line has lagged noticeably in spite of Florida State's immense success in other areas on the recruiting trail.

Two seasons ago, FSU's only signings on the line were Watson and Daniel Glauser, both junior college players who have already moved on. Last season, Trickett landed three players -- Hoefeld, three-star tackle Wilson Bell and four-star guard Ira Denson -- but missed out on a handful of top targets. As the 2014 class begins to take shape, there is no bigger area of concern for the Seminoles than finding some much-needed depth on the line.

Before Bell committed in February, he had a long talk with FSU guard Josue Matias. It wasn't a sales pitch as much as it was a warning.

"[Matias] was like, 'If you do come, he's going to be the best coach you've ever had, but he's going to be hard on you, he's going to stay on you, he's going to grind on you.' "

Hoefeld heard similar horror stories, but he was prepared. In high school, Hoefeld's line coach was a mild-mannered religion teacher, but on game days, he was restricted to the press box because his on-field outbursts were a little too explosive. Hoefeld found Trickett to be a kindred spirit.

But for all the advanced warning, Trickett's approach is still jarring. On the practice field, his players tower over him and even Jimbo Fisher cracks jokes about Trickett's small stature, but no one commands more attention.

There's cursing and yelling and zero tolerance for mistakes, and no one manages to escape Trickett's wrath for long. In the midst of it all, however, there are lessons.

"I've had coaches who would scream and yell and curse, but they didn't have a clue how to teach a kid something," Watson said. "He does. People hear the screaming and hollering, but forget he's trying to teach something. I figured that out early."

At 23, Watson had the luxury of maturity. Not all of Trickett's players are so lucky.

Bobby Hart was just 16 when he arrived on campus two years ago. A wave of injuries on the line forced him into a starting job in 2011, and he showed promise, but by the time spring practice began last year, he'd shown little progress and had put forth only minimal effort. This was something Trickett wouldn't tolerate.

Trickett shipped Hart to the bench, where he remained for virtually the entire season. He might have been a backup again in 2013 had Watson not departed early for the NFL, but when his second chance came, Hart knew what he had to do.

"It's hard, but he's just a perfectionist, and he wants you to understand that there's a right way to do everything," Hart said. "He's big on work ethic. He wants you to give 100 percent, and that's all you have to do."

For most high-school sophomores and juniors, however, life with Trickett can be an intimidating prospect -- and that's a concern other coaches are happy to exploit.

"Nobody bashed him for not being a good coach, but I heard he was going to push you, going to yell at you and all of that," Bell said of his recruitment. "Other recruiters said, 'He's going to punch you, he's going to kick you.' And I said, the guy knows what he's talking about. He can do whatever he has to do to get me to the next level. Whatever it takes."

For Bell, he'd heard such horrific tales that he was determined to separate fact from fiction. For other players, however, the negative recruiting works, and Trickett's divisive personality can become a serious liability.

For Florida State, however, there appears to be little obvious concern. Trickett turned a group of players with just 16 career starts between them into one of the ACC's top lines in 2012. FSU finished with the fourth-best yards-per-rush average in the nation, while coughing up 14 fewer sacks than the year before. Trickett was rewarded with a three-year contract extension that will pay him more than $450,000 per season and keep him in Tallahassee through 2015.

There are detractors who worry the deal has doomed FSU’s recruiting prospects for the foreseeable future. So far, the Seminoles' lone offensive line commitment for 2014 is Alec Elerbe, a 270-pound guard from Virginia with only Maryland and Connecticut as his only other BCS offers.

Still, Trickett would be the first to argue with the significance of recruiting results. In their first meeting in FSU's film room, Trickett was quick to shrug off Hoefeld's recruiting ranking.

"I don't care about the stars," Trickett told him.

Not every player wants to play for a coach like Trickett, and Trickett isn't interested in every five-star prospect. The yelling and the cursing are as much a weeding out process as they are a tool for teaching.

Trickett demands that the path be difficult. It ensures the rewards are great for those who survive.

"I felt like I was one of the best prepared offensive linemen [at the NFL combine] just because of who I worked with last year, working with Coach Trickett," Watson said. "I don't believe anyone got coached the way I did or as hard as I did."

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