Austin Barron: To Date
Barron enters 2014 as the only new starter on the offensive line, but the senior actually has significant experience, including five starts, three of which were as a true freshman. Departed starter Bryan Stork was the maestro of the offensive line, but there was no noticeable drop off in execution when Barron took over, a very good sign for 2014.
Barron was a Rick Trickett special, as he was rated as a 2-star guard coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale) when Trickett discovered him while watching fellow lineman and 2011 FSU recruit Bobby Hart. St. Thomas line coach Jay Connolly is highly respected (having produced Barron, Hart, Andrew Datko, and others), and a Trickett offer followed shortly after Connolly suggested that Barron, though a bit light for BCS level at that point, was actually his best offensive lineman.
I was present for Barron's first start against Boston College in 2011 and was struck by how technically sound he was for such a young player. Barron plays with good leverage and a flat back and displays the quickness and footwork to get his head on the proper side of a shaded nose tackle.
Barron is tenacious and has a good motor; he plays with high intensity through the whistle on every snap and has a nasty streak. Many defensive tackles lacking a comparable motor will get frustrated facing him as a result—look for a few skirmishes over the course of the year.
Much like Stork last year, Barron is very intelligent and understands FSU's complex protection schemes and should be able to take some of the burden off Jameis Winston by ensuring the Seminole line will be blocking the right people.
Room for Improvement
Like Stork, Barron arrived at FSU a bit undersized at around 270 pounds, but he has gained weight and is around 295 pounds at this point. He still lacks the overall bulk Stork (315#) brought to the table in 2013, and he doesn't have the short-area power to handle good defensive tackles in a one-on-one scenario.
That's generally okay in FSU's zone running game so long as he is able to compensate with outstanding footwork and technique, especially since he is surrounded by maulers. It is more of a disadvantage in pass protection, where he has significantly more difficulty anchoring and maintaining the line of scrimmage than Stork did.
Barron's height (a shade over 6'2) is above average for a center, but he doesn't have especially long arms for his height, which makes it harder for him to get his hands on nose tackles before they make contact with him. This again is more of a weakness in pass protection than in the running game.
Floor/Ceiling & NFL Potential
At worst, Barron is an intelligent center who should ensure the FSU line operates well as a unit. With a good year, he could compete for a spot on an NFL roster as a free agent. Due to his lack of bulk and athleticism, Barron's ceiling is in the late rounds.
Bryan Stork, though Barron is a tick or two below Stork athletically. He's not a naturally dominant physical specimen, but he's a good athlete who relies on intelligence and technique to compensate for that lack.
Outlook for 2014
Barron should be as seamless a replacement for a fourth-round multi-year starter at center as could be imagined. Stork was terrific at FSU throughout his career, but Barron steps in as a senior with plenty of experience and should be fine. If the transition winds up being a problem, look for Cam Erving to move to center, with one of the Seminoles' better athletes on the second group moving to the tackle spot.