The Garnet & Gold Spring Game last month revealed a glaring but unsurprising vulnerability on the Florida State offensive line.
The depth of the position group still significantly lacked despite the fact that the Seminoles returned all but one starter from last season and added two transfers over the winter in Bless Harris (Lamar) and Kayden Lyles (Wisconsin).
FSU partly addressed that concern this week when landing D’Mitri Emmanuel, a graduate transfer from the University of Charlotte who brings 24 games of starting experience and twice earned third-team All-Conference USA honors from Phil Steele.
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The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Emmanuel offers valuable versatility, starting at left tackle, left guard and right tackle in five seasons with the 49ers. So even if Emmanuel doesn’t secure a starting role, he should give the Seminoles valuable depth across multiple positions.
“There’s not really a spot I prefer,” Emmanuel said in a press conference Friday. “I love the offensive line. It’s honestly a skill. It’s a craft. I really love playing any position, so I don’t really have a preference. Whenever I need to be to help the team win is where I am probably going to be playing at.”
Predicting FSU’s starting offensive line next season becomes even more difficult with Emmanuel now in the mix. The Seminoles seem to have only two cemented starters in left tackle Robert Scott Jr. and left guard Dillan Gibbons. The other three spots likely won’t be decided until preseason camp.
At center, incumbent starter Maurice Smith will continue to battle with Lyles. Darius Washington, Emmanuel and Harris are the options at right guard and right tackle.
“We are excited D’Mitri has joined the ‘Nole family,” FSU head coach Mike Norvell said in a statement. “He brings a tremendous amount of starting experience and proven leadership qualities to our program. D’Mitri has been an all-conference performer as part of successful teams, and his blocking has helped playmakers shine.
“He will help us continue to develop by adding more competition among our offensive line.”
Toward the end of the spring, Washington and Harris looked to be the starters at right guard and right tackle, respectively. But Emmanuel projects to be a guard at the Power Five level. So the Seminoles could slide Washington to right tackle while starting Emmanuel at right guard and using Harris as a backup.
Washington should be considered a lock as a starter regardless. He brings more Power Five experience than any of FSU’s offensive linemen, starting 20 games across the last three seasons. Seven of those starts were at right tackle last season.
Whether Emmanuel starts or spends his final season as a backup, he knows why the Seminoles will benefit from his addition.
“FSU is going to get some leadership out of me,” Emmanuel said. “I feel like with my experience on the offensive line, it is a developmental position. So oftentimes, especially when I was a young player, you make mistakes and stuff. But you’ve got to make those mistakes to grow from them. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. I’ve learned from them.
“I would say my pass protection has probably been a strength of my game. Areas of improvement, just overall finishing plays, sustaining blocks and I would say I want to keep improving in the run game.”
Alex Atkins coached Emmanuel at Charlotte
Charlotte’s revolving door at offensive line coach during Emmanuel’s time with the program included a one-year stint from Alex Atkins.
The FSU offensive coordinator/offensive line coach served the same role for the 49ers in 2019. Emmanuel’s connection with Atkins that season – his first as a starter – partly explains why he joined the Seminoles.
“I just saw how real he was,” Emmanuel said. “Throughout the time leading up to the season going through offseason workouts, he’s the guy that is going to push you on the field. And then off the field, he really cares about you. To me, that’s really where the relationship started.
“And then rekindling that relationship once I was in the portal was good. This being my last year, it was one of those things that made sense for me. I had six offensive line coaches at Charlotte. So just coming back to a coach who I’m familiar with, this being my last year, made sense for me.”
Atkins spent most of this month heavily pursuing Emmanuel. On May 3, Emmanuel announced via Twitter that he entered the transfer portal. Then he visited FSU twice. He made his verbal commitment to the Seminoles public during his second trip Monday.
Miami and Boston College were among Emmanuel’s other Power Five offers.
“I was just looking to be challenged and come to a program that has a lot of tradition,” Emmanuel said. “Especially being my last year, I just felt like it was the right decision for me to come here and be with a coach who I’ve ended up playing with before. And I’m just here to do whatever I can to make this team better.”
Emmanuel adjusting to Power Five football
Emmanuel understood that transitioning to ACC football will require him to adjust to the improved competition.
So he connected with former FSU offensive lineman Devontay Love-Taylor, who started 16 games across the last two seasons for the Seminoles after transferring from a Conference USA program in Florida International.
Now when he reflects on his time with Charlotte, Emmanuel has more context for how much that experience will help him at FSU.
“I just felt like that experience helps me out a lot, but it only gets me so far,” Emmanuel said. “Nobody really cares about what I’ve done in the past. Because right now everything is just moving forward and helping the team as much as I can, helping the young guys come along and just teaching them things that I’ve learned from the past. It is a new day and age now, so that only gets you so much.”
Still, Emmanuel’s best season at Charlotte, per Pro Football Focus, came under Atkins’ tutelage. He posted an overall grade of 69.1, a 76.5 passing grade and surrendered just seven quarterback pressures all season.
What Emmanuel accomplished in his lone season with Atkins is only one reason why he wanted to reunite with him.
“Florida State is a program that’s been winning for a long time,” Emmanuel said. “Naturally, you see it on TV. I wasn’t too familiar with a lot of the stuff that goes on here. But when you come to Florida State’s campus and get the feel, they love football here. It’s a lot of tradition.
“There have been a lot of great players who have played here, gone to the NFL and done a lot of good things after the NFL, too, and come back. You just see the family type of environment that is here. That’s something that attracted me to Florida State.”
Reach Carter Karels at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU football introduces intriguing Charlotte OL transfer D'Mitri Emmanuel