With the 2022 season officially in the books it’s time to turn our focus to 2023. It is still very early and there will almost certainly be more roster attrition throughout spring and leading up to the regular season. However, with a lot of moves already being made we’re going to take an early look at each position group to see what 2023 could potentially offer as it stands right now.
Of course, we’ll reevaluate this closer to the season when the roster moves wind down and names have emerged. In each preview, I’ll name those I see as current impact players (players who have already produced or are expected to at a significant level) and possible contributors (players who have at least seen some playing time or have been highly regarded in practice and could contribute in the near future). This does not necessarily mean at FSU in regards to the transfer players. Let’s get to it!
Offensive line play once again continued to improve under Alex Atkins in 2022 despite battling injuries. They allowed just 1 sack or less in 6 games and paved the wave for over 200 rushing yards in 8 games this season.
However, while it was much improved there’s still room to get better and they must replace a key starter as well as a significant contributor at tackle. The good news is the talent floor continues to be raised in the offensive line room. FSU now has power 5 starters that could end up as depth players. I look for the play from this group to be even better in 2023.
FSU returns Robert Scott at left tackle who had his best season pass blocking when looking at pressures and sacks allowed. He now has almost 1,900 snaps of experience at the position and earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2022.
Right tackle was a mix of Jazston Turnetine and Darius Washington throughout the season after Bless Harris went down with injury. While they got the job done this led to some inconsistency at the position.
This year should see a battle for the starting spot between Bless Harris, Julian Armella, and possibly Jeremiah Byers if he doesn’t get moved to guard and honestly I like any of the 3. Darius Washington is a serviceable swing player who has experience at guard and tackle and has been a do it all guy for FSU in times of need.
We originally expected FSU to be replacing both starting guards. However, it appears D’Mitri Emmanuel will be back for another year as he is still listed on the Seminoles updated roster for 2023. This would be big for FSU as Emmanuel was a solid piece after transferring in from Charlotte and even earned third-team All-ACC honors.
This will provide FSU with the most quality depth they’ve had in years upfront. Now FSU will have at least 3 to 4 guys with a significant amount of power 5 starting experience (Keiondre Jones, Casey Roddick, Darius Washington & D’Mitri Emmanuel) battling for the guard positions. Many believe Jeremiah Byers will move to guard given his build but with all his experience being at tackle and the guard position appearing to be pretty crowded he could just as easily stay at tackle and add to the competitive depth there too.
In my opinion, if it’s not Julian Armella getting the nod Byers is probably the best and most experienced option at tackle opposite of Robert Scott. Although it was not at the power 5 level, Byers had a great season in 2022 at UTEP with a stellar 81.2 PFF grade, only allowing 8 total pressures and 1 sack as well as earning first-team all-conference honors. He has almost 2,000 snaps of experience all at right tackle so it just seems to make sense.
Bryson Estes and Zane Herring are also names to watch who both got playing time at guard last year. Thomas Shrader is a veteran player the staff likes who’s unfortunately battled injury throughout his career but could certainly make an impact.
Currently, center is the one position that lacks experienced depth with Kayden Lyles appearing to have moved on from his playing career after a season-ending injury in 2022 and is no longer listed on the roster.
However, Maurice Smith returns after a good season last year in which he earned an All-ACC honorable mention. The only other players who had snaps at the position last season were Thomas Shrader (12 snaps) and walk-on center David Stickle (88 snaps) compared to the 803 snaps from Maurice Smith. After bulking up last off-season Smith has become a quality player and had his best season yet. He now has over 2,000 snaps of experience at FSU will likely be a staple of this offensive line unit in 2023.
FSU could cross-train one of its many guards at the position, but that can sometimes get shaky when it comes to snapping the ball. As with any position FSU needs to stay healthy in 2023 but it will be critical at the center position.
There are also a good number of talented young players from the large 2021 signing class that could be ready to contribute at least as solid depth players but with a host of talented veterans on the roster this season it may be another year before we see them. This is not a bad thing as by the time they see the field in a significant role they will have had multiple years of development under their belt.
It would be nice to have some better play and consistency at right tackle. FSU will need to replace Dillan Gibbons at guard who was an excellent piece up front the past two seasons. However, Keiondre Jones, Casey Roddick, and Darius Washington are very viable options for doing so.
As I mentioned the experienced depth at center is also a concern. The talent floor has been raised considerably since Atkins arrival so while some of the depth players may be unproven, the quality of players they have doesn’t necessarily scare you as much as it has in the past if they had to get deeper into the depth chart.
It simply cannot be understated what Alex Atkins has done for the offensive line at FSU. This position group has long been the Achilles heel for FSU and limited what they could even do on offense. It has even been brought up how it’s been hard to conduct practice at times from the lack of quality depth players. That has finally appeared to change for the Noles.
While I can’t necessarily guarantee this will be the best offensive line in the ACC, it should be one of the better ones and 2023 will likely be their best year in almost a decade. This group has also increased in size over the last two years which is nice to see FSU trot out an offensive line that looks like it belongs in the power 5. Who would have ever thought this position group could, maybe even should, be a strength for FSU now!
Prior to last season, I wrote an article titled “The Atkins Effect” detailing how he’s made such a large impact on that position, and it continues to reign true year after year. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!
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