TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: EJ Manuel #3 of the Florida State Seminoles runs the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Bud and the guys at Tomahawk Nation are some of the best college bloggers out there. They consistently bring the heat when it comes to pointed opinion, analysis, crunching the numbers and game film and staying on top of breaking news. That's why whenever we play FSU in football or basketball, we get excited because we know a Q&A is on tap, and that we'll definitely get some good info out of it. This week is no exception.
We caught up with Dylan (DKfromVA) and talked quarterbacks, FSU fans' expectations for the rest of the season, their perception of Wake Forest, and more after the jump...1.) Let's talk quarterbacks... assess the QB play by both Manuel and Trickett this year. And Wake fans would really like to know, who is going to start this week? Will we see both guys? Will it be a scenario in which health and situation dictate who gets in the game?
EJ Manuel came into this year with high expectations as a highly touted recruit playing as a redshirt junior. He's a big, strong kid who can make all of the throws, but there are questions about his handling of the offense. I guess that was bound to happen, though, after a quarterback like Christian Ponder left for the draft, as Ponder had incredible command of the checks, audibles, etc. and was fantastic in reading defenses. The offense with EJ in command starts with his legs. He's an amazingly fluid runner at 6'5" 240 and FSU uses this threat to open up other areas of the attack.
Clint Trickett has displayed some true moxie during his two appearances against Oklahoma and at Clemson. He's about the polar opposite of Manuel in that he's not particularly mobile and looks quite fragile at 175 pounds. However, Clint made some great throws and had a fantastic debut as a starter against Clemson two weeks ago. He's definitely benefitted from being the son of a coach and has an instinctual ability to look downfield. Simply put, the Florida State offense looks very different based on who is under center. Clint will look to spread the ball around, whereas EJ's offense starts with #3 himself.
Jimbo Fisher is very Belichick-esque in his handling of injuries. He releases minimal and often misleading information and keeps a tight lid on anything and everything. When EJ went down against Oklahoma, we at TN knew that he wouldn't play against Clemson and felt it likely that we wouldn't see him again until Maryland two weeks from now. He has practiced this week in pads, and Jimbo has gone to great lengths to talk about how he could play on Saturday. This could be the truth, or it could be gamesmanship. One thing is for sure - FSU does not like to rotate quarterbacks under Jimbo. The QB that starts will play unless something happens to make that impossible. If EJ isn't playing, look for FSU to use some wildcat plays to show a running look from the QB position and make Wake defend 11 guys.
2.) What are Seminole fans' perception of Wake Forest?
Honestly, before all of the injuries, I think FSU fans looked at this Wake Forest and Duke stretch as an extension of the bye week the ‘Noles had last week. With the injury factor and the way Wake has looked offensively thus far, I think here has arisen some respect for the Deacons, at least somewhat. Florida State fans recognize that Wake is unorthodox on offense and defense and could pose some unique problems for the Seminoles. The defense is severely undersized, but we expect blitzes from a lot of different places and some potentially confusing looks. FSU fans have also been impressed with Tanner Price and especially Chris Givens. That being said, a loss on Saturday would cause a total meltdown of the Seminole nation.
3.) What is Florida State's offensive identity, if there is one? Are the quarterback issues causing problems with what you wanted to do coming into the season?
As I alluded to earlier, the ‘Noles offensive identity changes this season based on who is taking the snaps. On the whole, Jimbo Fisher's offense has been a mix of pro-style and spread elements, showing an ability to adapt and take what the opposing defense gives it. The last two seasons have seen FSU offenses ranked in the top 10 in opponent-adjusted rankings.
But, so far this year the running game has been an abject failure. Some of this stems from turmoil on the interior line. JUCO transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug was asked to come in and start at center in a zone system, and frankly it didn't work out. He was switched to guard with a new starter named Bryan Stork, who moved to center. The other guard position features David Spurlock, who has battled concussion issues throughout his career and hasn't looked the same this season. Upon film review, though, much of our staff feels that the running backs have equal culpability in the woes of the running game thus far.
Strategy-wise, we expect that the ‘Noles will show a lot of spread looks this Saturday. This is due to the early success of the injury riddled, but deep, receiver corps as well as the ineptitude of certain FSU tight ends. Spread looks often simplify blitz pass protection for running backs, and FSU has historically had success running from spread formations. If EJ plays, look for a good amount of option. If Clint plays, look for a significant amount of quick reads and screens.
4.) How has the defense played this season? Obviously, you expect a speedy and opportunistic defense any time you play the Seminoles, but are you encouraged or disappointed by a team that gave up 10 total points in its first two games, but has given up 58 points in two games against FBS teams. How do you expect FSU to scheme for Tanner Price and the Demon Deacons?
The defense is the strength of Florida State's team. The defensive line is big, fast, and incredibly deep. Defensive end Bjoern Werner has been a terror, and Brandon Jenkins is a threat on the other side. The secondary features the best group of corners in the nation, in our opinion, with 3 NFL-bound corners. The most important player on defense, though, is roaming safety Lamarcus Joyner. A freak of a sophomore, Joyner is versatile and physical with great ball skills.
All of this aside, the unit did not play well against Clemson after turning in an outstanding effort against Oklahoma. This was due to a Clemson offense that has been better than expected as well as a simply lackluster performance. The injury to Greg Reid didn't allow the ‘Noles to play the nickel sets they would have liked to against Clemson's spread attack, and killer penalties seemed to plague the unit every time there was a chance to get the Tigers off of the field. There are no excuses this week. We expect this defense to perform like the top-25 (or better) unit we expect it to be.
I think FSU will use its normal, multiple sets to deal with Wake's attack. There will be some 4-3, some 3-4, some nickel, and maybe even some 4-2-5 looks for the Demon Deacs offense to content with. I expect the ‘Noles to try get after Tanner Price and to dominate the line of scrimmage. I feel comfortable in saying that Brandon Jenkins will rush from a standing position and roam occasionally, and Lamarcus Joyner will blitz from the safety spot. This will be a very tough test for the Wake Forest offense.
5.) Talk about the season so far. This was a team that was supposed to contend for the National Championship and had Oklahoma right where they wanted them in Tallahassee. Fast forward past a loss to a better-than-expected Clemson team and FSU is 2-2 coming out of the bye. What are your expectations the rest of the year?
We at TN didn't quite buy into the national title talk, but we did expect an Atlantic Division championship and liked the ‘Noles chances of winning the ACC for the first time since 2005. Embattled though these expectations may be, they aren't dead just yet. Clemson has played tremendously thus far, but it's far from given that they'll handle the rest of their slate.
From FSU's point of view, we expect to right the ship and improve the running game over these next two weeks. Talent-wise, Jimbo Fisher's staff has put together a team that is by far and away the deepest in the conference. The scheduling of Oklahoma was unfortunate, especially when one considers that Clemson was slated the week following. But, the past is the past. Florida State needs to get healthy, figure out the ground attack, and get back to playing the suffocating defense we expect from this team. That starts with a quality effort against the Demon Deacons on Saturday.
6.) Prediction time. How do you see Saturday's game playing out? Who comes out on top? What's the final score?
Though I respect what Coach Grobe has been able to do in Winston-Salem and think Price and Givens are quality players, I believe the ‘Noles talent advantage is just too much in this one. I think FSU can use the screen and quick game to neutralize Wake's blitzes, and I think the defense will make life tough for the Deacs offense. I think the game will see a concerted effort to run the football on the part of FSU, and I like the Seminoles' chances of winning the battles in the trenches on both sides. I'll take the ‘Noles 30-13.
Best of luck on Saturday and for the rest of the year. Thanks for the kind words about TN. I know that our staff has a great respect for the quality of work that you guys do at Blogger So Dear.