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Struggling Florida State looks to fix offensive line

Sports Xchange
21 Sep 2018, 01:38 GMT+10

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- So many parts of Florida State's football team were criticized following a 30-7 rout by Syracuse last Saturday.

But maybe none more so than the offensive line.

The line gave up four sacks, allowed seven tackles for loss and had Florida State starting quarterback Deondre Francois running for his life most of the game. Struggles by the offensive line have been an issue for the Seminoles since 2015, but it's arguably as bad now as it has ever been.

The line's elder statesman, senior center Alex Eberle, said the players hear the criticism and know there's only one way to stop it: play better.

"Frustration is not going to make this any better," Eberle said. "We can be frustrated for today, but tomorrow we have to get back out there and focus. Negativity only brings more negativity."

A combination of injuries, inexperience, position changes and lack of depth -- basically, everything -- is what's plaguing the Seminoles' front five through a 1-2 start to the season, 0-1 in the ACC.

Head coach Willie Taggart said Monday he's going to have to be creative to fix the issues -- and he realizes they need to fixed quickly. That might mean playing some freshmen up front.

"I think everything's on the table right now and make sure we find answers and making sure we find the right five guys in there to get us going," Taggart said.

"And again, with a group that we don't have much depth at offense from the beginning, again anything is possible right now. Some guys are going to have to develop a lot quicker than we thought they would and that's where we're at."

Florida State's offense ranks last in the FBS in points per game in two games against FBS competition, averaging five points an outing. The Seminoles scored 36 points in Week 2 against FCS program Samford but nearly lost that game -- which they were favored by 33 points to win -- and needed a late defensive score to pull it out.

The Seminoles return home this week to host Northern Illinois (1-2), which is coming off its first win of the season last week against Central Michigan, 24-16. The Huskies opened the season with back-to-back losses to Iowa and Utah, scoring just 13 total points.

Florida State and Northern Illinois have only met once before. That came in the 2013 Orange Bowl, which Florida State won 31-10.

"I still believe in our football team," Taggart said. "We're going to continue to work our tail off to get this thing right. We're not where we should be or where we want to be. We still have a lot of season left," the first-year FSU head coach said.

"I know a lot of people don't like hearing it, and they are upset, and they should be. We have to do our part and take care of our business. We're going to continue to work and get better. Fans have every right to have high expectation of our program and I can assure you that no one has higher expectations than I do."

NOTES

--LB Dontavious Jackson has been seen as a potential breakout player, and last week against Syracuse was his best game so far. He led the team in tackles with 14 -- including eight solo and two tackles for loss. Look for Jackson to fill up the stat sheet going forward.

--RB Cam Akers was supposed to lead the rushing attack this season, but so far he's only leading them in fumbles. Akers has fumbled in each of the first three games, and while he does actually lead the Seminoles in rushing (38 attempts, 232 yards), it's only because he's getting more carries than last year's starter Jacques Patrick (24 attempts, 105 yards), who is now the backup. The Seminoles have yet to break 100 rushing yards in any of their first three games, and Patrick may be due for a call-up because he brings the most experience and stability to the position.

--TE Tre' McKitty has been arguably the most exciting passing option thus far. He's third on the team in receiving with 10 catches for 84 yards and one touchdown. He's also a big target (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) who runs more like a wideout than a tight end.

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