As teams begin to open practice, one of the overriding questions at nearly every school across the league is finding answers on the offensive line.
As colleague David Hale pointed out recently, five of the eight least-experienced offensive lines among Power 5 schools come from the ACC. Miami, Florida State and Louisville are three of them, and the reporters who cover these teams on a daily basis broke down how each school looks going into camp.
Let's start with Florida State, where the only returning starter is left tackle Roderick Johnson (and by the way, certainty at left tackle is an excellent place to start). Tom D'Angelo notes in The Palm Beach Post that right tackle is the spot on the line with co-starters listed: Chad Mavety or Derrick Kelly. Still, coach Jimbo Fisher is going to be looking for eight to nine players he can rely upon in any given game.
Though Florida State had veterans across its line last year, the Seminoles struggled to run the ball effectively until they moved Cameron Erving to center. There is plenty of room for improvement, even with a group that won't have nearly as many starts under their belts.
Miami had its offensive line impacted heavily last season because of injuries. Matt Porter writes in The Palm Beach Post that "All positions are up for grabs except perhaps center, where [Nick] Linder is far ahead of his competitors. But if no one impresses at guard, coach Al Golden could move him there. ... UM has a lot of work to do to establish a solid starting unit and rotation."
During his recent stop at ESPN, I asked Golden what he thinks about having to retool his offensive line. He sounded confident, saying, "We lost some talented players. The flip side of that is I don’t think the guys coming back are getting enough credit. Maybe they have a little bit of an edge about it; maybe they have a little chip on their shoulder about it. Trevor Darling started a number of games for us a year ago, KC McDermott, Nick Linder, Danny Isidora played really well for us last year and had an excellent spring and offseason. Get [Hunter] Knighton back, Alex Gall’s had a really good offseason. There’s guys there who will be competing and challenging. They want to be a more cohesive unit, they want to play together really well. It’s going to be a great challenge. We’ll see what direction it goes."
Louisville loses three starters, but just about every position is wide open, too. Hopes are high for converted defensive lineman Pedro Sibiea at either guard or center. In fact, coach Bobby Petrino told Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal that he wants his offensive linemen to cross-train at different positions in order to improve versatility and depth. Tackle Aaron Epps should return to the starting lineup at tackle. But Petrino noted that offensive line remains "the biggest question we have."
He's not alone.