Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com
Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
USF Bulls

FSU’s O-line paves way to title game

By
Published:

With Thursday’s determination that Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston won’t face criminal charges following the conclusion of a sexual assault investigation, he remains an odds-on favorite to capture the Heisman Trophy next week in New York.

His on-field performance seems the most tangible reason why the No. 1-ranked Seminoles are one victory away from playing for the BCS championship.

Everyone knows about Winston. Everyone knows about the Heisman.

But it’s merely the most high-profile award in a sport filled with hardware.

There was another announcement this week — one way under the radar — as FSU (12-0) prepared to face the Duke Blue Devils (10-2) in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game at Charlotte, N.C. And it provided more reason for FSU’s success.

Seminoles junior left tackle Cameron Erving won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which has been given annually since 1953 to the ACC’s top offensive lineman.

He edged a teammate, senior center Bryan Stork, in voting for the honor.

“That just speaks a great deal about how we carry ourselves around here, how we pride ourselves on what we do,” Erving said. “If I would have lost to Bryan, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, and vice versa.

“It’s great to have us up there in the top spots in the ACC. We definitely work hard, and we definitely want to go out there and show people that we can play ball, too.”

FSU has overwhelming offensive statistics. The Seminoles have scored 644 points, an ACC record. FSU ranks second nationally in scoring offense at 53.7 points per game. It has scored more than 40 points in 11 of 12 regular-season games. The Seminoles are seventh nationally in total offense, averaging 526.1 yards per game.

Everyone gets credit for that.

There’s Winston’s elusiveness. There’s a fleet of play-making, physical wide receivers. And there’s a backfield that features speed and power.

But FSU’s offensive line shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Those guys make us go,” Winston said.

With Erving, Stark, guards Tre Jackson and Josue Matias, and right tackle Bobby Hart, FSU’s offensive linemen have a combined 138 games of starting experience.

Erving, a former defensive lineman who converted last season to left offensive tackle, is FSU’s most important blocker, mostly because he protects Winston’s blind side. With the Jacobs Award secured, he takes his place alongside other elite FSU linemen who won that honor — center Clay Shiver (1994 and 1995), tackle Tra Thomas (1997), tackle Tarlos Thomas (2000), tackle Brett Williams (2001 and 2002) and guard Rodney Hudson (2009 and 2010).

“It’s always good to have a very skilled, athletic left tackle and a very dependable one, and Cam is all of those,” Stork said. “He’s just a football player. It’s good to have someone like that on your side.”

Erving is someone who never intended to play on offense. He was initially skeptical when the position change was proposed, but he said the switch changed his football career for the better.

“I had to become more of a technique and disciplined player,” Erving said. “On defense, you can get a little undisciplined in your gaps, but it’s different on offense. You’ve got to be disciplined on offense. If you don’t, in the big scheme of the plays, things aren’t going to work.”

Erving fit right in during 2012. Surrounded by experience, now he’s part of a unit that leads FSU’s offense almost by second nature. Winston gets the headlines, but everyone knows how it springs from the line’s solid play.

“We’ve got to take care of our quarterback,” Stork said. “It’s important that we all stay healthy, to just be the same line in there, consistent every week. I feel like a good offensive line always stays healthy no matter how bad they’re hurting.

“The experience overall is huge. I can look at the guys next to me and I can tell what they’re thinking. They know what I’m thinking. We’re all on the same page. We’re going in the same direction.”

They’re working on building a path to the BCS Championship Game.

jjohnston@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7353

Twitter: @JJohnstonTBO

Comments