Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Under Pressure: RT Bobby Hart
By David M. Hale
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.
2012 performance: Hart's sophomore season was a huge step back in terms of productivity, but it may have been the most important step of his career. A starter at age 17 in 2011, Hart quickly adopted a lackadaisical attitude toward practice and found himself in line coach Rick Trickett's doghouse. He lost his job to transfer Menelik Watson, didn't start a game in 2012 and saw only limited playing time. The time spent on the sideline may have been a setback on his career path, but it also opened Hart's eyes to the fact that he hadn't accomplished anything yet.
Bobby Hart is looking to replace Menelik Watson at right tackle and return to Florida State's starting lineup in 2013.
Pressure point: With Hart out and Watson in, the offensive line improved markedly in 2012. That's certainly not all due to Hart's limited role. There were big changes all over the line. Still, a new standard was set, particularly from the veteran Watson, who went from football novice to second-round selection in the NFL draft in the span of just nine months at FSU. Those are huge shoes for Hart to fill in his junior season, and with a first-year starter at QB, the Seminoles can't afford more struggles on the O-line.
If he succeeds: An offensive line that was solid if unspectacular in 2012 could make the leap forward to become one of the top units in the country in 2013. Hart's the swing vote in that potential growth. The other four starters from last year return, all expecting to improve after a year in the trenches. But Watson was, in many ways, the glue that held last year's line together, and its struggles when he was hurt underscored that notion. If Hart can become a viable replacement -- on the field and, perhaps as importantly, in terms of maturity off it -- the rest of the group should coalesce nicely, and the star-crossed tackle's career could once again be on an upward climb toward an NFL future.
If he fails: All that experience and growth from 2012 could fall by the wayside if Hart proves incapable of handling the job. If Trickett pulls the plug and sends Hart to the sidelines once again, there are few easy alternatives. Bryan Stork, a steadying force at center last season, would likely slide out to replace Hart on the right side, and Austin Barron would step in at center. FSU already has depth concerns on the O-line, and that makes any major shakeup a concern. But after a year of building continuity for a group that struggled badly in 2011, another major renovation is the last thing the Seminoles need.
Projection: There will be obvious comparisons between Hart and Watson this season, but that's a bit unfair. Watson was 23, and while his football experience was limited, he was a veteran of the ups and downs of life. He was as mature a leader as FSU had on offense, and he had the skill set to develop quickly. Hart is another story. He arrived on campus at 16, and he had a ton of learning still to do -- not just on the field. The trials and tribulations of the past year have taught some valuable lessons, but replacing Watson won't be an easy task. NFL-level tackles don't grow on trees. Hart's ceiling might be nearly as high as Watson's, but he's got farther to go to reach it. FSU will likely be satisfied with marked progress from 2012, and as long as Hart keeps heading in the right direction, he might reach Watson's level by season's end.