FSU Beat: Is 2012 Rick Trickett’s Redemption Year?

When evaluating the 2012 Florida State Seminoles, the most obvious question that comes up is whether or not the offensive line will be good enough to sustain a productive unit this season. The Seminole offense sputtered noticeably in the latter part of 2011 and suffered a great deal of scrutiny as a result of it. The Florida State program has won 19 games in the past two seasons, which is only bested by 12 programs nationally in the same time span, but last year’s highly inconsistent offense and the four-loss season that was likely a direct result of it have left a bad taste in the mouths of FSU fans. The bulk of the blame was typically placed on Rick Trickett’s offensive line, which is certainly fair to a degree.

At a glance, what cannot be denied is that the Seminole offensive line struggled to protect and very rarely, if ever, created the type of push necessary to establish a run game. The Seminoles allowed 41 sacks in 2011, making them 110th in the nation in the category. The running game, which cracked the top 40 in 2010, came back with a follow-up performance of 104th nationally last season.

As bad as the numbers look, the actual play on the field looked worse at times. What may not be mentioned enough is that FSU had to start 10 different offensive linemen last season, and according to Phil Steele, the FSU offense as a whole missed 41 total starts due to injury throughout the season. That total was the most starts missed of any unit, offense or defense, in the nation.

Is this enough to fully explain the ineptitude that was the Florida State offense in the latter part of 2011? Perhaps not fully, but one would have to imagine it played a major impact on the offense’s ability to flow throughout the year.

While injury luck is a component to be considered, it will hardly ever satisfy disgruntled fans or the eyes of onlookers who aren’t aware of the full story surrounding the FSU offense last season. The struggles of 2011 were enough to call into question the competence of Rick Trickett as an offensive line coach and Jimbo Fisher as an offensive playcaller. Trickett and Fisher, who by virtue of some combination of track record, reputation and hype, had been touted as two of the best at their jobs in the game of college football, have been backed against the wall and had that legitimacy challenged aggressively by jaded fans who are waiting for Florida State to field great units on both sides of the ball, not just the defense.

In each season, there have been a flurry of excuses and legitimate reasons as to why the Florida State offensive line hasn’t been quite as good as expected under Rick Trickett. Trickett was long thought of as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country upon arriving in Tallahassee. He had an affinity for more lean, athletic linemen and was none too pleased with the players on the roster in 2007 when he showed up with Jimbo Fisher.

In the 2008 season, FSU started the youngest offensive line in the entire nation, with two sophomores and three freshmen. They were also severely undersized, with an average weight around 283 lbs. across the front five. That unit would go on to play the majority of the games over the next two to three seasons, performing well at most times, but never up to full potential. It can be argued that the core group of linemen that Trickett worked with in those years were never given the opportunity to fully develop physically because most could not afford to redshirt, lift and bulk up.

That being said, the questions surrounding Trickett often do hold weight and deserve some pondering. Rick Trickett has been at Florida State since the 2008 season and in that time, there have been a total of 10 offensive linemen who left the program either voluntarily or via medical disqualification. There is the argument that Trickett’s notoriously tough style of coaching is too much for some to handle, and at times can cloud the actual instruction being given. On the other hand, there are players who will constantly insist that they prefer Rick Trickett’s no-nonsense style, and NFL scouts who repeatedly credit Trickett-coached players with being very fundamentally sound.

The Ex-Marine has produced quality offensive lines in his tenure with FSU, but in 2012, he will be dealing with a group of guys who are much larger than what was long believed to be his preference in personnel. The current projected offensive line does not feature a single player that weighs below 315 lbs. Will his coaching style and preference mesh well with what is clearly a concerted effort to become much bigger upfront? That question will be answered very soon.

I enlisted the help of FSU stat savant @cblunt58 to sort out the performance of Florida State’s offensive line over the past four seasons. What I believe you will find is that while the FSU offense is rarely ever completely dominant up front, a Rick Trickett coached offensive line is most certainly capable of putting together an adequate season. You be the judge.

Sacks Allowed

  • 2011: 3.15 per game (#110), 41 total allowed in 424 dropbacks (total pass attempts+sacks), 1 sack for every 10.3 attempts
  • 2010: 1.93 per game(#67), 27 total allowed in 424 dropbacks, 1 sack for every 15.7 attempts
  • 2009: 1.54 per game (T-#39), 20 total allowed in 457 dropbacks, 1 sack for every 22.8 attempts
  • 2008: 2.00 per game (#66), 26 total allowed in 413 dropbacks, 1 sack for every 15.9 attempts
  • 2007: 1.69 per game (T-#41) 22 total allowed in 488 dropbacks, 1 sack for every 22.2 attempts

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