BSD: First off, you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve watched the Noles in fits and starts, so any assessments I make might be rather off base. That being said, I get the impression that Cam Akers is kind of Mr. All-Everything for the FSU offense, and that if he gets going, it’s curtains for the opposition (because he opens things up for other guys), but if he gets his numbers through sheer force of will, things are a little bit more rough. Am I on point there, or are there any key offensive weapons I’m sleeping on that Wake Forest needs to watch out for that can also get the unit going?
TN: That’s close enough for me. Akers is playing really well this year. Against the teams FSU has some success blocking up front he does well. Others, not so much. I do think his production has kinda dipped some because defenses have figured out that run blitzing on early downs kinda takes Akers out of the equation and puts this offense is situations they have a hard time digging themselves out of. The main other weapon you have to worry about is wide out Tamorrion Terry. He’s a big-play receiver that few corners can match up with, whether down the field or in space. A chunk play to Terry makes the offense far more likely to score on that drive. If he doesn’t do it on his own of course.
BSD: Sort of a follow up to the last question, it seems like the QB situation for the Noles is really weird. Of course, pretty much anyone would get wrecked by Clemson, but James Blackman has had some rough times, Alex Hornibrook has looked quite good at points, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like there’s a slam dunk number one option for the Noles under center. What do you make of it?
TN: So Blackman should start if he’s healthy. Not only is he more aggressive in attacking down the field he throws a much better deep ball than Hornibrook with much better accuracy. FSU needs that because if this offense goes slow they can’t score. They need those chunk plays. Unfortunately, Blackman tweaked his MCL a few weeks ago while having his best game of the season, missed a game, and then looked awful against Clemson. In general Blackman sometimes has trouble seeing and making the right read, but he can get the offense down the field in a hurry.
We thought Hornibrook would maybe have a better floor and might be more efficient than Blackman. That would mean he would be more likely to help FSU beat the teams they should beat but wouldn’t give FSU a boost in pulling off upsets. It looked like that might be the case in the first game he played this year. He seemed to make quicker decisions than Blackman and was efficient in moving the chains. But I think at this point that’s out the window. When Hornibrook is the signal caller there’s a lot of chaos. Coming from Wisconsin this offensive line isn’t like anything he’s ever played with, and he is now skittish/panicky and frequently bails on clean pockets, destroying the play, even against non-Clemson teams. He was also pretty bad last week against the Tigers, and has a tendency to throw the ball several yards behind his receivers when feeling pressure.
With all of that said, it appears that for some reason Taggart has insisted on Hornibrook playing every third series or so. I don’t know why. Neither quarterback has been truly impressive this season though.
BSD: Last question about offense. I get the feeling that the FSU offensive line may play into the strengths of Wake’s defense (i.e. they’re not great). Am I right in thinking that Wake’s questionable defense may be able to take advantage of that?
TN: I think there’s a possibility that FSU could block Wake in standard downs, but it does depend on how willing and committed Wake is to taking away the run. If they load up the box they’ll probably be able to do that, but it might open some things out wide for FSU’s talented receivers. The problem is that this OL really struggles in pass protection. If they get behind the chains into second and third and long passing downs I just don’t trust them to be able to keep the quarterback clean. If Wake can leverage themselves into those kinds of downs and can get after whoever is under center it may help neutralize whatever talent advantage FSU may have with its receivers. This is a longshot, but if FSU is able to block Wake in those situations, FSU will probably put up some points. Tackle Jauan Williams is working his way back from injury, as is interior lineman Cole Minshew. That helps.
BSD: What’s the biggest strength on the defensive side? What might Wake Forest be able to take advantage of?
TN: The biggest strength is likely the defensive interior. Of the defensive tackles Marvin Wilson is a stud and Corey Durden is very good. I’m not sure Wake will have too much success running up the middle. The edge rush and secondary are just OK, and FSU isn’t great at setting the edge against the run. Wake might be able to exploit that. The linebackers are by far the biggest issue. They’re inconsistent in their run fits and not very good in coverage. If Wake can slow down Wilson/Durden the intermediate passing game could provide Wake some dividends, as would anywhere in space where a linebacker has an assignment.
BSD: Which coach draws more ire from the respective fanbases: Willie Taggart or Danny Manning? I only know a few FSU fans (the ones I know are quality, though!) but the ones I do know seem to want Taggart out of town pretty badly. As for Coach Manning, something something, nothing nice to say something something.
TN: I’d have to say that for most of the Seminole fanbase, right now nobody else is on their radar other than Taggart. I think that’s unfair, as he inherited a lot of this mess, even if he’s made mistakes in attempting to fix it. Football is still king in Tallahassee though it sure seems like FSU is a basketball school now haha. Maybe once ACC play gets underway in roundball I’d have a different answer for you, especially if FSU becomes bowl eligible.
BSD: Alright, prediction time. What do you think? Does Wake become bowl eligible seven games in, or do the Noles continue to round into form and leave Wake fans nervous for another week?
TN: This is based on gut feeling because honestly I think Wake is a little bit of a better team right now and the Demon Deacons are having a really good season. It looks like the weather could be pretty gross for the game, so we could be in for a sloppy one. But FSU’s offense was born in sloppy, was molded by it. Coupled with Newman’s injury maybe the Wake offense comes out disjointed. I think the ‘Noles somehow find a way to get it done, 31-30.
Thanks again to Jon, and if you want to give him a follow in Twitter for more FSU insights, you can find him @MrWarchant. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments, and as always, Go Deacs!