Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Hart no longer Florida State line's wild card
By David M. Hale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Away from the field, it's quiet now, and that's a nice change for Bobby Hart. Not that he paid much mind to the criticism anyway, but the junior prefers the anonymity of being just another member of Florida State's offensive line over the enduring prodding from a curious fan base wondering if he'd ever live up to his potential.
On the field though, the soundtrack emanating from his position coach, Rick Trickett, is the same as it ever was. Maybe, Hart said, it's worse.
Florida State offensive tackle Bobby Hart, who was ranked No. 25 in the 2011 ESPN 300, has been solid this season.
"He's still in my ear," Hart said. "Probably more now. He doesn't want me getting complacent -- which isn't going to happen."
Hart learned his lessons. Trickett keeps preaching them anyway, and Hart's glad for it. That's the first change.
Eighteen months ago, Hart was the incumbent starter at right tackle, riding high as a 17-year-old with a bright future. The world was at his fingertips, and he acted accordingly. Trickett wasn't pleased.
"You get in that sense of entitlement, sense of fame," Hart said. "Playing as a freshman, being 17 and not knowing how to handle it."
The 2012 season unfolded the way all redemption stories must -- with a long, painful spiral toward the bottom.
Hart lost his starting job. He spent the year in Trickett's doghouse. He was told again and again that all the things he'd done to earn playing time as a freshman simply weren't good enough anymore, and that infuriated him.
"I was mad when things weren't going right," Hart said. "I was just thinking, why does everyone keep bothering me? Why is everyone on my case so much?"
The first few months weren't so much about learning lessons as they were about fighting them. The problem for Hart, of course, is that he picked a fight with the wrong person.
Trickett had no interest in coddling his young lineman. Instead, he rode Hart harder, and dangled few carrots to inspire him. Trickett wanted Hart to understand the value of the work done on Tuesdays and Wednesdays even if there was no reward on Saturdays.
That's the second change.
"A lot of things came easy to Bobby when he was younger, and now, when he works, he works," left tackle Cameron Erving said. "He wanted to feel what it felt like to actually work and earn something, and he did it. I'm proud of him."
The talent was never a question for Hart. Even at 16, he was a behemoth -- powerful and quick, but completely unrefined. He was thrown to the fire because Florida State was desperate, and Hart was special.
But it took a year of working largely in obscurity before Hart really understood that what it took to get on the field was far less than was required to succeed once he was there.
"There's been so much scrutiny over Bobby this past year-and-a-half, and he was so young," Erving said. "You take in all that criticism, and it's just like -- you've got to process it and then you've got to move on and do what you've got to do to make yourself better. He's done a tremendous job."
Hart entered this spring as the wild card on an offensive line that returned four starters. Without Hart in 2012, the unit had undergone a massive turnaround as FSU nearly doubled its rushing total from the year before. But Menelik Watson departed for the NFL at year's end, and after a season in the shadows, Hart got his second chance.
He hasn't been perfect this season, but that's beside the point. He has played as well as anyone, but when he has made mistakes, he has learned from them.
"He's responded very well and didn’t go in the tank and played the next play like we always talk about," Jimbo Fisher said. "He’s really grown up.”
Trickett still barks and curses and yells each time Hart slips in practice, but Hart's not angry.
A year ago, he viewed his early success as an excuse for why he deserved a starting job. Now, he watches that game film from 2011 and feels sick.
"It's terrible," Hart said.
Seeing how he looked before, he understands why Trickett rode him so hard, why no one at Florida State would let him settle for what he'd already accomplished. He's both embarrassed and inspired.
That's the biggest change.
"It's good to see where you were and where you are now," Hart said. "But I have a long way to go and I don't plan on stopping now."