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FSU’s new offensive line coach looks to avoid position’s infamous history

Randy Clements says it won’t bother him if he ends up toiling in anonymity, but fans already know his name.
FSU offensive line coach Randy Clements has coached for more than 30 years at every level, including NAIA. [FSU Sports Information/Robb Obley]
Published Aug. 18
Updated Aug. 19

TALLAHASSEE — Sometimes, you don’t want people to know your name.

Ask Rick Trickett.

He spent 10 years as Florida State’s offensive line coach, drawing the kind of attention that made him infamous instead of famous. FSU fans frequently faulted Trickett for the team’s struggles, even in 2013 when the Seminoles won a national championship

He’s now an assistant coach at Glenville (W. Va.) State College.

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Ask Greg Frey.

He replaced Trickett in 2018 under new head coach Willie Taggart, and even though some observers said he inherited a woefully inept group, he drew even more criticism as the Seminoles struggled to a 5-7 record.

He’s currently out of coaching.

Ask Randy Clements.

As FSU’s new offensive line coach, he actually wants you to forget his name, but to do so, he will have to resurrect one of the most maligned units in program history.

“Most of the time, people only notice the line whenever something happens bad,” said Clements, surrounded by more than a dozen reporters Sunday during the team’s media day. “But everybody seems to be paying attention. I don’t think I’m going to get by with anything. That’s for sure.”

From the moment the final gun sounded on FSU’s 2018 campaign, and even before that 41-14 season-ending loss to Florida, talk about improving the offense dogged the Seminoles. Taggart sharpened the focus when he hired Kendal Briles as the new offensive coordinator — Briles replaced Walt Bell, who left to become head coach at UMass — and then fired Frey to make room for Clements.

Florida State Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart talks to reporters before practice at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Briles and Clements are viewed as potential saviors for an attack that proved too unorganized and too disjointed in 2018. Against Division I-A opponents, FSU was 114th in points per game, 129th in yards per play and 118th in sacks allowed. It averaged 2.79 yards per carry.

Oh sure, the defense didn’t exactly play championship football, but the struggles of the offense — especially the offensive line — morphed from last year’s No. 1 problem to this year’s No. 1 topic. Between 75 and 80 percent of the questions at media day involved the offense. Assistant coaches came in to be interviewed and only Briles gathered a bigger throng of reporters than Clements.

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Clearly Clements won’t be able to toil in anonymity this year, but it’s not a foreign concept. For more than 30 years, he has coached at every level, rising in stature — if not prominence — from Stephensville High in Texas to Houston and then to Baylor, where he helped the Bears enjoy unprecedented success from 2008-2016, mainly under coach Art Briles and his son Kendal, who spent most of those years as Baylor’s offensive coordinator.

Last season, Clements, 53, coached at Houston, with Kendal Briles again serving as offensive coordinator, and behind his offensive line the Cougars averaged 43.9 points per game, ranking fifth in the nation, and 512.3 yards of total offense.

TALLAHASSEE, FL - APRIL 06: Florida State offensive coordinator Kendal Briles coaching during the Florida State Garnet vs. Gold Spring Game at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell in Tallahassee, FL on April 6th, 2019. (Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

But Clements’ passion for coaching might best be reflected by what he did in between the Baylor and Houston stints in 2017. After Briles lost his job under the cloud of a sexual-abuse scandal in 2016, Clements eventually ended up without a job after Baylor hired Matt Rhule.

He found work at Southeastern University in Lakeland, working for an NAIA school far below the big-time college football radar.

“Honestly, it made me a better coach,” Clements said. “You had to do more. You know, we had guys around that were good coaches, but he didn’t have that many. You had to do things for yourself.

“It was kind of back to the basics for me.”

But even in a job that included 17-hour bus rides to games, Clements found a way to turn “the basics” into success. Southeastern averaged 55.1 points per game and advance to the NAIA Football Championship Series. Clements called the season fun and spoke highly of the bond built with the players. He speaks with a Texas drawl and a folksy tone that quietly illuminates his love for teaching kids.

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"I don’t believe you got to talk ugly to play tough,” Clements said. “You can build a guy up, and I think he’ll do more for you than if you just constantly beat him down.”

Now Briles and Clements, who coached Kendal when he starred as a high school quarterback, hope to elevate the FSU offense and fulfill the expectations of a fan base clamoring for the dominance that once made the Seminoles the ACC’s powerhouse. They expect to succeed at the high-tempo approach that seemed to overwhelm the 2018 squad, and it will start with an O-line nimble enough to help the offense run as many as 90 plays a game.

To succeed, Clements will have to make the most of an eclectic mix of experienced and inexperienced players. Included in that group: a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois; a senior center; a true freshman; and the son of an NFL great who returns to the program after taking a year off. Questions swirl about the abilities of each, but Clements said he will focus more about what’s happening inside the meeting room than outside the program.

“I’m going to do what I do, and these guys are going to do what they do, and we’ll have blinders on about the whole thing,” Clements said.

If all goes well, you’ll remember how the offensive line plays and forget the guy coaching it.

“Randy Who?” is a question Clements wants everybody to ask at year’s end.

Contact Ernest Hooper at ehooper@tampabay.com. Follow @hoop4you.

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