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Question and Answer Session with Tomahawk Nation

This week we were fortunate to be able to have SBNation's very own Tomahawk Nation trade questions and answers with us in anticipation of Saturday's contest with the Florida State Seminoles.  Tomahawk Nation is first rate all the way around and easily my go to site for all things Florida State and a daily read for general football / ACC related items. I highly encourage you to head over there and check them out. I'd also like to thank them for their collaboration on this item.  Below are the questions we posed about the Seminoles along with answers provided by DKfromVA.

STS:  The topic of the week is the health of quarterback EJ Manuel.  Should Manuel not be able to go and Clint Trickett is thrust into the starting role, what effect will this have on your offense?

Tomahawk Nation:  To put it simply the offensive identity changes with a switch at quarterback from EJ to Clint. EJ is a big, fluid runner and is the focal point of the FSU offense when he is playing. Take him out of the equation, and the focus shifts. To what and to whom we aren’t entirely sure. Clint Trickett has a quality arm and seems to understand what he’s asked to do, but with his very limited mobility and at 175 lbs, the QB run so prevalent with EJ in command is simply not an option. Clint will need help from his supporting cast on the offensive side and will simply be asked to manage the game for the ‘Noles (read: not to lose it).

STS:  We saw Trickett play a good bit in the OU game this past weekend and he looked poised, especially for a freshman.  Do you think he is ready for the potential start this weekend and are you confident he can do the things the 'Noles need him to do to pull out a road victory in Death Valley?  Further, do you have a feel for the advantages he may have being the son of a college football coach, FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett?


THN:  Well, any time you have the possibility of a freshman starting in a crucial division game at Death Valley, you're going to be concerned. If Clint is the guy, I think the things that he's asked to do won't be numerous or complex. The FSU defense showed out last week and looks to be even better than we could've expected, so the offensive gameplan if Trickett is under center will likely be very conservative. Florida State will likely make heavy use of draws, screens, and other short passes to keep the pressure off of Clint. The Seminole offense will probably look to limit turnovers and allow its defense and special teams to provide field position, as opposed to asking a Trickett-led offense to drive the field. FSU will need to capitalize on its opportunities in order to pull out the win. With those things in mind, I do feel as confident as one can with a freshman QB at the helm under these circumstances. Clint did show some poise last weekend and didn't seem to get swallowed by the moment. Having his father as a coach at FSU certainly paid dividends, as former players have talked about Clint coming to practice as a high school kid and throwing darts to the wide receivers. We hope that the freshman will execute his limited tasks and allow those around him to win the game should he be called upon Saturday.

STS:  Florida State has not been particularly impressive running the football this season, with the 'Noles leading rusher being QB EJ Manuel.  How important is it for FSU to get this part of the offense going and what will it take to be more effective on the ground?

THN:  Florida State has definitely struggled in getting the running game going so far. A big part of this has been due to turmoil along the interior offensive line. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug came in with some serious hype and started the season at center replacing the departed Ryan McMahon. To say the least, Krug's performance early on was disappointing. FSU coaches swapped Fahrenkrug and left guard Bryan Stork in the second half of the game against Charleston Southern. Right guard David Spurlock is someone we weren't sure would ever play another down after serious concussion issues throughout his career, but is back to playing this year. He hasn't been as effective as he was in past years yet. While the ‘Noles have two NFL-bound tackles, the tight end position leaves a whole lot to be desired in terms of blocking ability (and really all abilities). Also, the Seminole backs, outside of complete stud FB Lonnie Pryor, have been quite unimpressive. All components of the FSU running game will have to step up if Florida State is going to be able to win on Saturday, especially if the basically immobile Clint Trickett is the starter at quarterback.

STS:  Clemson played a less than stellar defense last week against Auburn and made them pay, especially through the air.  Clemson, however, struggled with interior run plays and did not really get the run game going (to the outside) until their opponent was worn down.  Florida State is much better defensively than Auburn.  Will Clemson be able to throw the ball against the Stoops defense and what challenges will the Tigers face in the box as they try to get the running game going this week?

THN:  Florida State fans were very encouraged by the defensive showing against Oklahoma last week. The ‘Noles defense was able to execute an excellent gameplan and contain one of the best offenses in the nation, both this year and over the past decade. The HUNH OU offense that strives to run around 80 plays per game was held to 66 plays.  FSU's defense limited big plays, making OU drive the field and earn its points, and gave its offense a chance to win the game, which is all we at TN could ask for. Against Clemson, many of us feel that the gameplan will be largely the same. We feel that Clemson has lived on the big play offensively thus far, and therefore would like to make the Tigers put together drives against the strength of the FSU team, its defense. Last week saw Mark Stoops run a very multiple-look defense featuring several odd fronts, a roaming Brandon Jenkins, and selective pressure from the secondary. The ‘Noles did a great job of getting lined up before the snap and tackling, two elements of defense that were markedly absent last year in Norman, Oklahoma. Florida State will likely allow Clemson to run its screens an short passes, but will make sure to be properly aligned and not to allow 4 yard gains to turn into 15. Bjoern Werner is the defensive lineman to watch when it comes to rushing the passer, as he is a stud. Christian Jones is a freak at linebacker and will likely be charged with covering Dwayne Allen. The Seminole corners are excellent, but the man to watch in the secondary will be the roaming safety Lamarcus Joyner. The Tigers will likely have to establish the inside run as a legitimate threat against a deep and talented FSU defensive line for the big play to be an option with the ‘Noles defensive focus being to make CU drive the field. We don't see Clemson moving the ball too effectively against a loaded Seminole defense.

STS:  A lot of emphasis was placed on the Oklahoma game in preseason and I am sure there is some disappointment in Tallahassee.  How difficult do you think it will be for this 'Nole team to bounce back on the road?

THN:  Any time a team hosts College Gameday and the #1 team in the country in the game of the week there is bound to be somewhat of a hangover for the following week. While there certainly was some disappointment in Tallahassee over losing such a high-profile game, I think the prevailing sentiment has been pride regarding the way the ‘Noles played and how impressive the atmosphere was. We at TN have been stressing that Clemson should be considered the most important game of the season for the ‘Noles for many months now. Winning the Atlantic and having a chance to win the conference for the first time since 2005 should be the goal for reasonable fans. I think the team will be emotionally ready to play. I don't know how they could not be in the environment of Death Valley, and I trust the coaches to have them prepared. However, will they be physically ready? That remains to be seen.

STS:  Off the subject of this week's game, what do you think of the recent ACC expansion choices and how with this effect the Seminoles?

THN:  By making the moves that it made, the ACC has ensured that when super-conference-a-palooza comes around it will have a seat at the table. When viewed from that perspective, it's understandable. However, the move also showed us that the priority of the conference is basketball, which is dwarfed in terms of revenue by football. By and large, Florida State fans are deeply uncomfortable with this and question the leadership of the conference that doesn't seem to understand this crucial component to long-term viability. Combined with the pattern of ignorance displayed by the Tobacco Road head honchos, this has FSU fans feeling less than particularly fond of the ACC. An example of this would be the scheduling of perhaps the most notable in-conference game of the entire season the week after out-of-conference showdowns with the defending national champions and the top ranked team in the country. High profile conference battles such as this one should not be played in week four as the first conference game of the season. Along with the potential emotional letdown following such big games, FSU's injury woes could make this a very sloppy game, which isn't what you want as your marquee conference game of the year. If the ACC proves to be a viable super conference in the coming years, the preference of Florida State fans would probably be to stay. However, if an SEC offer comes along, the likelihood of this being completely unknown, FSU would certainly have to take a serious look.