January 3, 2014

Stork's time in the trenches marks FSU's renaissance

It's hard to contextualize the last four years in Tallahassee.

Just a quartet of seasons ago, the 'Noles looked to begin a grueling ascent aimed at the apex of college football. And though four years feels immediate in one sense - it has been a relentless rise of late - it's also hard to fathom how lost the Seminoles looked not that long ago.

It's in tracking the trenches, specifically on offense, that traces the path from 2010 to January 6th, 2014.

Center Bryan Stork has been there all the way, and though he was just a freshman, Stork played guard in 2010 and was a major part in the bowl victory.

Truly, examining Florida State's renaissance starts with its 10-win season in 2010. Chick-Fil-A Bowl Champions and a 2-0 record against in-state rivals were massive accomplishments at the time, as was a 2-0 mark against the SEC.

"When you look back at it, it's the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but for back in that time, it was a big deal," Stork said. "I think South Carolina was one of the best defenses in the SEC.

"You know, it was a big deal for us, and we came a long way since then."

The road has not been without its bumps.

Admittedly, it would have been tough for any party to remain calm in 2011. Devastated by injury and inconsistency, the Seminoles averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per carry and allowed 41 sacks.

But what seemed like a wit's-end decision for the four-loss 'Noles in the Champs Sports Bowl proved smart. The 'Noles coached up younger players like freshmen Tre Jackson and Josue Matias to go along with freshman Bobby Hart, who was pressed into duty earlier that season.

The win over Notre Dame was the turning point. Not just for the line, but for position coach Rick Trickett himself.

For his money, Stork believes the rise of FSU's offensive line from then to now ties directly to Trickett's comfort level.

"After the rough year we had in 2011, that was a miserable year," Stork said. "And as time went on... when we went to the Orange Bowl, that's when (Trickett) started to being more of a teacher than anything."

What else changed in that time?

"Obviously, he didn't recruit those guys (in 2009)," Stork said. "He was looking for a certain type of guy."

Smaller, agile lines were replaced with massive men who mastered Trickett's practice attitude, which even watered down can still be too grueling for many.

"You can't play for that guy and work day in and day out and not be coached well, be fundamental, be tough be a team-oriented guy," said head coach Jimbo Fisher. "It's not going to work. You're not going to last."

Though the militarist is still marches the practice fields, Stork said it's nothing like it was just four years ago.

"You didn't want to miss one assignment," he recalled. "You were up early in the morning doing all kinds of stuff. Now we just don't miss (assignments). And the new recruits come in, and we just tell them 'you don't know how good you got it. You ain't got a clue.'"

A mixture of personnel and development now has produced back-to-back 6,500-yard offensive seasons. The Seminoles will almost assuredly cross the 7,000-yard plateau Monday night, needing just 118 yards to do so. And the names like Stork, Jackson, Matias and Hart that will be paving the way.

A calmer Trickett will be watching meticulously from the sidelines.

"He was the old Trickett from West Virginia. But over time he's turned into coach Trickett from Florida State," said Stork. "He's still tough, but he's more of a teacher now than he ever was."

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