Florida State moves All-American tackle to center
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State's all-conference left tackle Cam Erving had been taking practice reps at center since spring workouts, but coach Jimbo Fisher declined to say it was anything more than precautionary - until Saturday.
The top-ranked Seminoles made the switch before the 30-26 victory over Miami and moved Erving to the middle of the line. Freshman Rod Johnson was promoted to one of the most important positions on the team - protecting Heisman winner James Winston's blindside.
Fisher simply said he wanted the best five linemen on the field.
Florida State (10-0, 7-0 ACC, No. 3 CFP) brought back four senior starters on the offensive line from last year's national championship team. Center Bryan Stork, however, is now the starter for the New England Patriots and questions surrounded his replacement Austin Barron, also a senior. Barron started the first five games before breaking his arm. Fisher said he was available to play last week, but Barron didn't get his position back. Redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefeld started four games at center, but has dropped to third string.
Erving won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy given to the top offensive lineman in the ACC in 2013 and was named second-team Associated Press All-American. Now he has given up the spot where he had made 37 consecutive starts.
''Tried to make sure I had a clear mind because I didn't want to go out with a mindset that I wasn't playing left tackle,'' Erving said. ''I just wanted to go into the game thinking about playing ball.
''I try not to overthink it because that's when you have mistakes and when you get missed assignments. And that's when you have doubt - when you over think.''
This is the second time Fisher has asked Erving to change positions during his five years in Tallahassee, Florida. He went to FSU as a defensive lineman, played defensive tackle for 13 games in 2011 before switching to offense before the 2012 season. Saturday was the first time he didn't start at left tackle since end of 2011.
''It is selflessness, but also those guys know that it adds value to them, too,'' Fisher said. ''When you ... can play two or three positions, your value to the league becomes so much greater.
''I don't want to say selfless; to me it is more courageous. It takes a lot of guts to say (I've never) snapped the ball in a game and to go in there and snap that thing and do it.''
Fisher said Erving's combination of size - 6-foot-5, 308 pounds - and athleticism allows him to shine at the position. He is agile enough to pull and block on runs, but still has the flexibility to bend and keep leverage at the point of attack.
Johnson's promotion is another example that Fisher won't wait around for upperclassmen to perform better. Receiver Travis Rudolph has moved into the starting lineup as a true freshman. Dalvin Cook has rushed for 508 yards and seven touchdowns and blossomed into the most explosive running back on the roster.
Fisher and teammates lauded Johnson's intelligence and willingness to learn, in addition to the strength and length within a 6-7, 330-pound frame.
''He was out there kicking people's butts,'' FSU guard Josue Matias said. ''I think he was more advanced than the freshman that came in with his mind with the plays. I think he had a better idea of what he was doing, so I guess it was better to put him out there and make a move.''
Winston was sacked just once against Miami and Erving said that was a missed assignment by a running back. Cook rushed for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
The Seminoles already have a berth in the ACC title game and Fisher has his eyes on a second consecutive national championship. He's clearly not hesitant, even this deep into the season, to make changes to reach that goal.
Florida State hosts Boston College (6-4, 3-3 ACC) on Saturday.