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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
State of the Noles: Offensive Tackle

By NoleNation Staff

NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, one of the biggest long-term needs for FSU: Offensive tackle.

Current scholarship offensive tackles (4): Cameron Erving (RJr.), Henry Orelus (RSSr.), Bobby Hart (Jr.), Wilson Bell (Fr.)

Potential early departures: The buzz surrounding Erving in his first season on the offensive line in 2012 was immense, making an early exit for the NFL a possibility. But throughout the year, he showed he still needed time to develop. He has the physical talent for the next level, but it remains to be seen if he'll be ready by the end of 2013.

Jeremy Kerr
Jeremy Kerr could bulk up and eventually move to the offensive line at Florida State.
Predicted starters (Hale's picks/Dowlar's picks)
2013: Erving, Hart/Erving, Hart
2014: Erving, Hart/Erving, Hart
2015: Bell, Jeremy Kerr/Kerr, TBD

Why they'll start: Here's just how tough a position FSU is in at the tackle spot: Hart is widely viewed as a complete wild card, who despite only minimal competition in the spring, still isn't guaranteed a starting spot. And yet, Hart is by far FSU's best hope for a long-term solution at right tackle after the somewhat surprising departure of Menelik Watson, after just eight months on campus.

Watson's exit for the NFL draft wasn't anticipated by the coaching staff, and it leaves a major vacancy at a position with limited depth, but it's also not the only cause of what now represents a major concern -- both in 2013 and beyond.

Hart started nine games as a freshman in 2011 at just 17 years old, and he showed both flashes of immense potential and frustrating lapses in fundamentals. By spring of 2012, it was clear he'd worked his way into line coach Rick Trickett's dog house, and he's never completely found his way out. Hart's work ethic and receptiveness to coaching have hampered his development under the demanding Trickett, but FSU’s line coach might not have any other options.

Bell provides some flexibility for the future, but he's yet to take a college snap, and he could actually project better at guard than tackle, essentially undermining any potential depth at the position. Moreover, should Erving progress in 2013 the way Watson did a year ago, his early departure would decimate an already fragile situation.

Junior college transfers (like Watson) could provide a short-term fix, and incoming freshman Jeremy Kerr could bulk up a bit and make the switch from tight end. It's also possible someone like freshman Ira Denson or redshirt sophomore Ruben Carter could be retrofitted to handle the edge (though FSU's depth at guard isn't much better). Center Bryan Stork could move to right tackle this season, too, if Hart underperforms.

The best-case scenario, however, is for the pieces to finally click into place for Hart and for Erving to progress just enough that he's successful without wanting to leave early. If that happens -- and everyone stays healthy -- FSU is in decent shape for the next two years. Beyond that, however, it's anyone's guess.

Who might FSU add: Offensive tackle will be a huge position of need for the Seminoles in the 2014 and 2015 classes. Kerr, a tight end in high school, is really the only one in the newest class that projects there, but even he isn't a sure thing.

Florida State will not only need some quantity, but some quality, too. Damian Prince, a candidate for the top offensive tackle in the country in 2014, will be a guy the Seminoles focus on. While their targets are still developing, it should be noted that offensive line offers are going out a little earlier now than in years past.

Long-term grade: F. There are other concerns on this roster when looking toward the 2014 signing class, but none loom larger than this. FSU struck out on a handful of offensive line prospects in this year's class -- Denver Kirkland and Austin Golson, in particular -- and now they'll go to battle with extremely limited options. If all goes well, the Class of 2014 could provide some numbers, but even then, quantity doesn't always immediately translate into quality, and FSU could be stuck with a situation similar to 2011, when freshmen linemen were thrown to the wolves and asked to develop on the fly.