FSU may face little opposition Saturday against Syracuse, but there are things that need to be refined before the biggest challenge of the season. The most significant facet being the offensive line.
Hoefeld, a redshirt freshman, was thrust into action during the 43-3 win over Wake Forest last weekend when senior starter Austin Barron suffered an arm injury late in the first quarter. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has not given a timeframe for Barron's return, but it is not expected to be soon.
Barron was new to the starting lineup at the beginning of the season after Rimington Trophy winner Bryan Stork was drafted by the New England Patriots. But Barron is a senior and had some spot starts on his resume throughout his first three years.
Hoefeld wasn't even the for-sure No. 2 option behind Barron. The Seminoles have worked left tackle Cameron Erving at center to prepare for an injury situation, but Fisher said Hoefeld was his first choice.
The coaching staff has the offensive line train at multiple positions and backup guard Kareem Are is considered the top reserve along the line. So there is a scenario where Erving could move to center and guard Josue Matias slides to tackle and Are starts at guard.
''We had him in camp and really liked him,'' Fisher said about Hoefeld. ''People don't realize he's 300 pounds. He's got big wide hips and legs and anchors in there - very strong. He's probably 15-18 pounds bigger than Barron.
''We felt really comfortable when we had to put him in. But you never know until a guy goes in. He did a heck of a job.''
Fisher named Hoefeld a player of the week, but there were some issues with high snaps and he was blown off the line on a few instances. He held up against Wake Forest team that sits last in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings and is expected to do the same against a 2-3 Syracuse team.
A week full of No. 1 reps and extra snaps with quarterback Jameis Winston after practice should clean up any exchange issues, but Hoefeld also needs to gel with the rest of the line. The group has 138 combined starts, including Barron. Barron and guards Matias and Tre Jackson had a familiarity on the interior of the line. Hoefeld doesn't believe that will be an issue.
Winston makes the offensive line protection calls, so that's not a burden Hoefeld needs to shoulder.
''I spent a lot of time with them last year,'' Hoefeld said. ''I'm pretty close with the staring four ... know them on a personal level. It's just a matter of them getting used to my calls and hearing me. They told me after the game they felt pretty comfortable with me.''
There may be a few more challenges for Winston due to the unknown nature of the run game this week. Starter Karlos Williams has an ankle injury and likely won't play. That bumps sophomore Mario Pender into the starting role with a first-time starter at center. The run game has already been subpar with 133.2 yards per game to rank No. 100 in the country.
Pender has run for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He said the ground game is coming along.
''Practicing harder with the offensive line, looking at the right reads and being more patient instead of trying to make a play happen,'' Pender said. ''Letting it come to you and developing like that.''
Pender added that everyone has been more focused at practice, ''more detail focused.''