Last week FSU head coach Mike Norvell announced that redshirt junior quarterback James Blackman would be the starting quarterback going into the Seminoles’ 2020 season opener. It was a big question heading into preseason camp but its answer seemed pre-ordained do to variety of factors: lack of spring practice, lack of a traditional off-season, two true freshmen in the competition and another candidate, Jordan Travis, missing significant time in camp, including the teams first two scrimmages. The quarterback battle played out about how you thought it would given the circumstances.
And while there are certainly a lot of questions for Norvell and his team entering the season, one that has been weighing heavy (pun intended) on the minds of FSU fans and those that cover the program was who would make up the Seminoles’ starters and two-deep on the offensive line this season. Today we got that answer and it wasn’t much different than what we had been expecting based off what we saw from this group last year, during spring practice and from what the coaching staff has been saying about them individually in post-practice press conferences.
Here is a look at the FSU two-deep on the offensive line heading into the Georgia Tech game on Saturday:
Darius Washington (6-4, 301, R-FR) – Washington showed promise last season in three appearances as a true freshman and stood out in practices last season. He is athletic, moves well and could develop into a very good left tackle. Washington has been called an “elite” athlete by FSU offensive line coach Alex Atkins this fall and has consistently drawn praise from his position coach throughout camp.
Chaz Neal (6-7, 296, R-SO) – Neal offers athleticism and length as a backup but he hasn’t seen much playing time other than on the field goal/extra point unit. His arm length and feet give him a chance in pass protection but he will still need to develop his technique as a run blocker. Has a ton of potential but needs some game experience. Going up against FSU’s talented group of defensive ends and defensive tackles should benefit him when he is asked to play on game day.
Dontae Lucas (6-3, 315, SO) – This one was a no-brainer. Lucas was going to start somewhere on this unit. He was likely the best offensive linemen on the team last year. As a true freshmen he showed strength, explosiveness, good feet and most notably he plays with an attitude and physical toughness this group needs to have. He did struggle in pass protection last year but with a year of experience under his belt and with an off-season to mature physically and mentally, Lucas should be improved from a season ago. FSU needs him to develop into the leader of this unit this season.
Thomas Shrader (6-5, 283, FR) – Shrader could be asked to contribute as a true freshmen, which is hardly ever ideal at the major college level. Having said that both Norvell and Atkins have been positive about Shrader throughout camp. He was one of two true freshmen on the line that Norvell brought up repeatedly in press conferences. Shrader was tough and physical as a prep player and will need that mauler mentality in taking on the challenge of playing in his first fall as a college player.
Maurice Smith (6-3, 286, R-FR) – Smith is a player who showed flashes in practice last fall of being a solid prospect and was someone we wanted to see more of in the spring, where he was limited by injury. He started two games at guard last year and continued to show the promise we saw in the early part of 2019’s training camp. Smith is not huge but can bend, is explosive out of his stance, has really good feet and seems like a natural playing with the ball in his hand.
Andrew Boselli (6-5, 321, R-SR) – Boselli was impressive in two starts last season and his presence as a backup at both center and guard give the Seminoles some much needed experienced depth at the three inside spots on the offensive line. He isn’t as athletically gifted but started in games against Syracuse and Boston College last year, two of the most productive performances on offense for the Seminoles last season.
Baveon Johnson (6-3, 307, R-SR) – Johnson worked at right guard this past spring and seems to have found a home there for his senior season. He started at center last season and struggled with consistency, especially in pass protection. Johnson does have ability and the fact that he will not have to play with ball in his hand or make protection calls at the line of scrimmage just might allow some of his natural athletic ability to take over.
Brady Scott (6-6, 317, R-JR) – Scott moves to the other side of the ball after playing most of last season at left guard. He is the most experienced of any of the backups on this unit and that is likely to pay dividends as the season progresses. He has also seen action at right tackle, both last season and this past spring, so he could play multiple spots this season.
Devontay Love-Taylor (6-4, 308, GR-SR) – Taylor transferred to FSU after graduating from FIU in December. He brings some much-needed experience to the offensive line having started 16 games for the Panthers and appearing in 32 total games. Love-Taylor has had an outstanding camp, according to a source familiar with what’s been going on in practice. He hasn’t played against the level of competition week-in and week-out he will see in the ACC but seems eager to prove himself.
Robert Scott, Jr. (6-5, 305, FR) – Another true freshman who could see some action earlier than expected in his college career. He is long, athletic and moves well but adjusting to major college football on the offensive line can be an adjustment. Scott’s named was brought up by Norvell on several occasions during camp as someone who was earning his keep as it pertained to competing for playing time. Like Shrader, you would prefer to ease Scott into the rotation conservatively but he may not be afforded that opportunity given all the challenges facing college football in relation to Covid-19.
This group, more so than any other, will determine how successful the Seminoles are on offense in Norvell’s first season in Tallahassee.
Here is a look at the rest of the two-deep on offense:
James Blackman (6-5, 190, R-JR)
Tate Rodemaker (6-4, 197, FR) or Jordan Travis (6-1, 200, R-SO)
Jashaun Corbin (6-0, 213, R-S) or La’Damian Webb (5-8, 190, SO)
Corbin is the most experienced college running back FSU has on its roster and was likely to win the job after the dismissal of Khalan Laborn earlier this summer. His experience at Texas A&M will benefit the FSU running game this season. Norvell has been as pleased with this position as any based off his comments from camp and one of the reasons is the diversity of skill sets at this spot. Webb was a JUCO All-American and gives the Seminoles a home-run threat. His size and balance make him difficult to tackle along with his lateral quickness.
Tamorrion Terry (6-4, 210, R-JR)
Ontaria Wilson (6-0, 174, JR)
Terry could be in line for a breakout season in Norvell’s offense. The junior can stretch the field vertically and he is a nightmare matchup for smaller corners because of his length. He has proven himself capable of making big plays, can he show the consistency and reliability to be a true go-to wide receiver this year.
Warren Thompson (6-3, 201, R-SO)
Jordan Young (6-2, 208, R-SO)
Thompson and Young have both drawn praise from Norvell in camp. They have ability but now have to prove it and will have that chance in Norvell’s offense. The duo had 10 combined catches last season.
Keyshawn Helton (5-9, 171, JR)
Kentron Poiter (6-3, 200, FR)
Helton is returning ahead of schedule from a knee injury that cost him seven games last year. He is a nightmare matchup for linebackers and safeties when lined up in the slot because of his speed and lateral quickness. Poiter’s name has been mentioned by the coaches several times in camp and the true freshman has looked impressive in the limited video clips released to the press from practice.
Cam McDonald (6-4, 238, JR)
Wyatt Rector (6-2, 236, R-SO) or Preston Daniel (6-4, 235, FR)
This position took a a significant hit when UCLA graduate transfer Jordan Wilson was lost for the season with an injury in camp. Norvell used his tight ends in multiple ways, often times using two tight ends at the same time. It is likely that all three of the players listed on the two-deep will play significant reps this season.
Below is FSU’s depth chart: