ESPN came out with its post-spring power rankings for college football late last week, and the 2023 Florida State Seminoles checked in at No. 3 in the country — behind Georgia and Michigan and ahead of the likes of USC, Alabama and Ohio State.
Being listed among the nation’s elite again brings sky-high expectations for a Florida State program that suffered four straight losing seasons before 2022’s breakout 10-3 campaign. And nothing that happened in the spring derailed those hopes, as FSU largely came out it mostly healthy and largely unscathed by the transfer portal.
Now that the spring is complete and the focus turns to what could be a rise back to national prominence, Warchant is taking a look back — and a glance forward — at each position on offense, defense and special teams. In this Summer Reset series, we’ll reflect on what we thought going into the spring, what we learned during it, and what we expect going forward.
Today we will focus on the offensive line.
Why we were optimistic heading into the spring
Because of the sheer amount of experience and talent that head coach Mike Norvell and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Alex Atkins have accrued. Veterans Darius Washington, Maurice Smith and Robert Scott have all played a ton of football for the Seminoles, and they’re all returning. So, it turns out, is starting guard D’Mitri Emmanuel, who had to get a waiver from the NCAA for a seventh year of eligibility. Bless Harris, who won the job at right tackle last year before being lost for the season in the opener, is also back.
Add in high-level transfers like Casey Roddick (Colorado), Keiondre Jones (Auburn) and Jeremiah Byers (UTEP) to go along with up-and-coming underclassmen like Julian Armella and Jaylen Early, and you have the makings of one of the deepest offensive line rooms in two decades at Florida State.
What we wrote before the spring
There’s a chance the Florida State offensive line could be even better in 2023. (Dillan) Gibbons is a big loss, as (is Jazston) Turnetine. But Washington, Smith, Harris and Scott all return, and they’ve all played a ton of football. The Seminoles also welcome in three ready-to-play transfers in Jeremiah Byers, Casey Roddick and Keiondre Jones, who played at UTEP, Colorado and Auburn respectively.
Byers is rated the second-best lineman in the transfer portal, according to the On3 portal rankings.
All three will be competing for starting spots. But that’s the pivotal word: Competing. Because Florida State has some capable underclassmen who will also be fighting for starting spots, including former blue-chip tackle prospects Julian Armella and Jaylen Early, and guard Bryson Estes.
In just a matter of a few years, what was one of the biggest weaknesses of any Power 5 team in the country now seems to have turned into a real strength for Florida State.
How we feel after the spring
Even better. Scott and Smith were limited at times during the spring, and Scott didn’t play in the spring game. All that did was give valuable reps to players who could really use them. Roddick got a lot of time at center and certainly seems to be in a competition with Smith for that starting role.
The beauty of the Florida State offensive line in 2023, though, isn’t just depth, but versatility. Roddick can also play guard. Byers played almost exclusively at right tackle in the spring, but could be cross-trained at guard. The return of Emmanuel, which was far from a lock when the 2022 season ended, gives the Seminoles yet another veteran starter who could play multiple positions if called to do so.
All told, Florida State has a depth chart that features eight players who have started a combined 213 games in their college careers. Emmanuel (38), Roddick (30), Byers (30), Smith (29), Scott (29), Washington (27) and Jones (22) have all started for the equivalent of two full college football seasons, and there’s the potential by season’s end that five different FSU offensive linemen would have 40 career starts under their belts.
This is, without hyperbole or exaggeration, one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football history.
And while Florida State did lose three backup linemen to the portal after the season, none were expected to be contributing anytime soon in Norvell’s offense.
What comes next
Battles will continue at multiple positions. Smith and Roddick at center. Harris and Byers at tackle. Emmanuel and Jones at guard. Or Scott and Harris at tackle. And Jones and Washington at guard. Or on and on and on. What’s so remarkable about this particular offensive line is that the competition is so fierce that nobody would appear — not even Smith or Scott — would appear to have a starting spot locked up as the Seminoles enter preseason practice.
So, when August rolls around, the fight will be on.
Experienced veterans battling it out with each other while talented underclassmen — including true freshman Lucas Simmons, who was impressive in the spring — learn as much as possible under the tutelage of Atkins and their older teammates.
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