Tallahassee, FL - Quarterback Christian Ponder took all the snaps with the first-team offense Thursday and Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher has no doubt he’ll be under center Saturday at home against Wake Forest.
Fisher limited Ponder’s practice participation early in the week to aid his recovery from a deep tricep contusion suffered against Oklahoma and affected his performance in the second half against BYU as a result of swelling. With continuous treatment throughout the week and rest, Ponder was back on target as the ‘Noles wrapped up their final on-field practice for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. (ABC) kickoff against the Demon Deacons.
When asked how Ponder performed, Fisher didn’t hesitate with an answer.
“Great. I was extremely pleased today,” Fisher said. “He threw the ball really well. He took the whole day, every rep – deep balls, underneath balls. He was good. …. I was waiting to see how the polish was at the end (of the week); timing and rhythm. When you cut reps down you always wonder about that. Shoot, I was very impressed with him. …
“Some injuries you’ve just got to give a little time.”
Fisher also made it clear that if he didn’t think Ponder could play at a high level, he would not hesitate to turn to redshirt sophomore EJ Manuel.
“If he couldn’t go out there and make all the throws and all the reads, I wouldn’t put him out there,” he added. “We’d play EJ and go on. I’m extremely confident he can do everything we’re wanting to do.”
While much of the pregame conversation has centered around Ponder and the Florida State offense, it’s the Seminoles’ defense that will have to be at its best against the Demon Deacons and their run-heavy, misdirection offense. Through three games, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ zone-based scheme has been especially stout against the run.
The Seminoles are surrendering just 82 rushing yards a game after yielding 204.6 yards a year ago. It is easily the biggest statistical improvement FSU has made to this point in the season.
Some of that improvement can be attributed to the switch to a zone-based scheme, which provides additional support of the front four across the board and is less vulnerable to yielding the big play when executed well.
“Man-to-man does tend to cause you more problems with misdirection, because if you do miss, there’s no one else there,” Fisher said. “When you’re in zone things don’t tend to break and go long, because you’ve got safeties, corners or linebackers right there to make the tackle. We’re doing a good job up front controlling (the line) … getting a push. We’re doing a really good job up front.”
The ‘Noles are doing that with extremely young personnel which will be tested by a Wake Forest running game which is producing 283.7 rushing yards per game.
Fortunately, the line isn’t the only segment that appears to be making strides. Fisher praised the linebacker corps and singled out Nigel Bradham, whom he said had his best game against BYU.
“That group is coming along very well,” Fisher said. “Hopefully they will Saturday.”