“I just got my feet wet, it’s totally new. I’ve been doing this for two and a half weeks, my whole life. I’m just trying to take it in strides and take all the advice from my coaches and teammates to get better.”
Those were first the words Florida State’s Cam Erving uttered to reporters following the Garnet and Gold spring game back in April.
After sitting down with the coaching staff in March to discuss his future at FSU, Erving took their advice and without hesitation jumped to the offensive side of the ball to begin learning a new position.
With the quality depth FSU has on the defensive line, along with a lack of big-body athletic guys on the offensive line, Erving and the coaches agreed his best opportunity to be a contributor on this team was as an offensive tackle.
In Erving’s words it was a ‘business decision.’
“It’s a business decision,” said Erving. “I just want to help my team, so any way I can help my team makes me happy along with my teammates.”
Most players in his position would either transfer to another school or sit around hoping to see the field and essentially letting their football career go to waste.
Not Erving. Erving went in to it with an open mind and accepted the challenge, which speaks volumes about his character.
Once he accepted it, Erving had no choice but to hit the ground running because his new challenge was to block the man in front of him; preseason All-American and likely first-round pick Brandon Jenkins.
There was no down time or learning curve for Erving, he jumped in the fire from day one, because in his words ‘you either step up, or you don’t.’
“No, there is no down time going against a guy like Brandon Jenkins,” Erving said. “It’s simple: you either step up or you don’t. Obviously it was tough, but at the end of the day I’m the type of person that likes challenges. I just did the best that I could.”
Regardless of how daunting a task it was to block Jenkins in his first day on the new job, it could only make him that much better in the long run. After all, he wasn’t going to see many defensive ends quite like Jenkins.
And as it turned out Erving was a very quick learner and even gave Jenkins some problems of his own.
“Brandon said the first time he rushed, all of a sudden that long arm stabbed him and stopped him,” Fisher said laughing after a spring practice. “You block those guys, you can block anybody else.”
Erving continued to work on his technique over the summer and into fall camp while also absorbing every bit of knowledge he could with the rest of the unit.
Coming out of fall camp, Erving, along with the entire offensive line, showed vast improvements across the board, but most notably in their size.
In a press conference following fall camp Fisher said they were “different cats” size wise, and he wasn’t lying.
Last season FSU’s offensive linemen had an average weight of 300lbs. On opening day this season the unit had an average weight of 319lbs and it has shown dividends in both pass protection as well as in the running game.
Quarterback E.J. Manuel has been sacked just 13 times in 613 total snaps this season, which equates to one sack every 47 snaps. That number is unbelievably better than last year when the unit surrendered one sack every 20 plays.
The time Manuel has to stand in the pocket and progress through his reads is a luxury he was simply not used to in his time as the starter, and even nine games in to this season hasn’t fully adjusted to.
“It’s funny, I’m used to our defense getting on me so quick in practice that the time-clock in my head is a little fast,” Manuel said. “Then when I go watch it on film, I’m like ‘dang’ I had another five seconds.”
Manuel says that he hasn’t been surprised by how well they’ve done because he saw the grueling work they put in over the summer, but he is very thankful for that work and the pride they take in keeping him protected.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m very thankful,” said Manuel. “Over the summer those guys took it upon themselves to learn and be responsible for everything they’re supposed to be responsible for as offensive linemen. They pride themselves in taking care of me. Each time we go out there they say ‘E.J. nobody is going to touch you,’ and that’s what you want from your linemen.”
For a unit with such little experience working together entering the season, the rapport and chemistry among the group has been the most surprising part. The unit reads the defense at the line of scrimmage and makes calls in unison as if it’s been together for years.
That affinity is, in large part, a tribute to FSU’s offensive line coach Rick Trickett who is a perfectionist and has unparalleled expectations for his linemen.
“Our play as a unit, and mine specifically, is due to coach Trickett’s mentality,” Erving said looking back at how far the group has come. “He coaches you based on the player he knows you can be, not where you’re at. Success isn’t glorified, it’s expected.”