FSU football fans lamented the offensive line play throughout the season, but the unit showed improvement down the stretch.
The offensive line play of FSU football was heavily scrutinized in 2016. Much of the scrutiny was warranted, but the unit certainly improved through-out the last month of the season.
While the offensive line faces heavy scrutiny, it is one of the toughest positions to evaluate. Let’s take a look at where the FSU offensive line did well and where the unit struggled according to the innovative statistics from Football Outsiders.
Where They Struggled
The FSU football offensive line finished 105th in passing downs sack rate out of 128 FBS teams. Passing Downs Sack Rate is defined by Football Outsiders as “Unadjusted sack rate for passing downs pass attempts.” This tells us that when the defense pinned their ears back and disregarded the run, the FSU offense was in trouble.
Not many offensive lines excel in obvious passing situations but 105th is unacceptable for FSU. The offensive line is not all to blame for this horrific statistic; some of the passing down issues can be attributed to Deondre Francois’ holding the ball too long.
Adjusted sack rate is defined as, “An opponent-adjusted version of a team’s sack rate — sacks divided by (sacks plus passes), presented on a scale in which 100 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.” FSU was slightly above average in this metric as they posted a score of 101.5, good enough to be ranked 63rd in the country. While this is considered to be slightly above average, FSU is not a slightly above average program, the Noles should be doing much better here.
For comparison’s sake, division rival and national champion Clemson finished with a score of 239.8, 4th in the country. The Noles offensive line did improve down the stretch, in the final five games they gave up an average of 1.8 sacks per game, in the five that preceded those, they gave up an average of 3.25 (A tad inflated by six against Clemson). FSU must do better in this metric going forward, especially if they want Deondre Francois to last through 2017.
Where They Succeeded
The FSU football offensive line was much more effective in run blocking than they were against a pass rush. The FSU offense finished number twenty seven in Opportunity Rate, certainly not elite, but well above average. Opportunity rate is defined as, “The percentage of carries (when five yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak.”
FSU finished eighth in the country in Power Success Rate at a clip of 78.7%, a statistic defined as, “percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown.” I wrote last week about FSU’s Red Zone Success and these two elements go hand-in-hand. This is an astronomical improvement from 2015 when FSU finished at 56.2%, and 114th in the country.
The addition of Cole Minshew down the stretch was vital to the improvement of the offensive line, as was the improvement of Rick Leonard. Minshew’s size allows him to maul defenders and Leonard’s athleticism began to show once he got more comfortable.
FSU will certainly need improved offensive line play in 2017 if they have national championship aspirations. The loss of Roderick Johnson to the NFL opens up a tackle spot, the improvement of Rick Leonard softens this blow a bit but he will need to continue to develop this off season as he will most certainly man one of the tackle positions.
In 2016 FSU brought in the number one offensive line class in the country. FSU will need those players to put in the work to develop this off season in order to get their most talented players on the field. The recovery of Landon Dickerson from his ACL injury will be vital as he flashed great potential in his few starts as a true freshman.
An injury that will keep starting center Alec Eberle out for the entire spring means opportunity for redshirt freshmen Andrew Boselli and Baveon Johnson. If one of the two young centers shines in the spring, they could hold onto the spot heading into the opener vs Alabama. Look for two more highly touted redshirt freshmen to push for a starting tackle position, Josh Ball and Jauan Williams, with injury riddled but high potential Abdul Bello looking to make a push as well.
The FSU football offensive line improved down the stretch in 2016, but must continue that improvement to make a title run in 2017.