TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A thunderstorm chased the Florida State football team from the practice field early Tuesday, but didn’t keep the fourth-ranked Seminoles from getting in a full day of work in preparation for Saturday’s showdown with No. 10 Clemson inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said the Seminoles shook off the initial distraction and got down to the business of preparing for the highly-anticipated game.
“I thought the guys got better and better as practice went and I liked their work,” Fisher said. “We had a good, solid day. We need to finish up with a good one tomorrow.”
One of the primary storylines entering the game will be Florida State’s defense – which leads the nation in five categories – contending with the same set of explosive, offensive playmakers that Clemson leaned on to with their first ACC Championship in 21 years last season. Led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, tailback Andre Ellington and the dynamic receiving tandem of Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, the Tigers will thoroughly test defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ talented unit.
From a preparation standpoint, Florida State has the luxury of working against a full complement of scholarship, scout team players simulating the Tigers’ offense. That may well be an overlooked benefit of bringing in three consecutive top-five signing classes. Quarterbacks Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston have spent the week imitating Boyd, Clemson’s dual threat, All-ACC quarterback of a year ago.
“They can simulate arm strength, athleticism, running and good size,” Fisher said of the quarterbacks. “The defense is getting a good look from that perspective."
Likewise, wide receiver Marvin Bracy and tailback Debrale Smiley bring a similar set of athletic skills to their respective positions that the Tigers put on the field. And it doesn’t hurt that the ‘Noles have enough scholarship offensive linemen to fill those roles as well on the practice field.
“It prepares your team better when you get more quality guys,” Fisher said.
As for the game itself, there will be no shortage of quality players on the field, which is one reason the game is drawing a high number of scouting requests from NFL teams.
“[There] will be some great matchups Saturday,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Saturday on ABC. The live broadcast of ESPN’s College GameDay will originate from Langford Green, beginning at 9 a.m. on ESPNU, and 10 a.m. on ESPN. Fans wanting to get close to the GameDay set for the live shots are encouraged to arrive around 7 a.m.
Additional Quotes from FSU coach Jimbo Fisher:
What does he expects to learn about his young secondary against Clemson?
"You're going to learn a bunch. You're going to find out because these guys here are about as good as it gets. They’re one of the best groups out there. We'll find out a lot about our guys. It’s a game where you can’t take a play off, because one of them will slip by you, or break a tackle or whatever they’ve got to do to make a big play and that’s what you’ve got to limit."
How dangerous is Clemson tailback Andre Ellington?
"Big time. That's the thing that makes them very unique is he [Ellington] got 220-some yards against Auburn. It was a bunch. They have balance, and Boyd can run the ball. They have great balance on offense. It's a big concern.”
On the unique ways Clemson utilizes receiver Sammy Watkins:
"They give him the speed sweeps, the bubble screens, they can hand it to him, pitch it to him, reverse -- he doesn't have to get it way down the field. That makes him very unique. You've got to always know and keep leverage on him."
How often do you face teams where you have to account for so playmakers?
"Those are your top-10 teams. You play those kinds of teams -- that's why they're there is they have ability to have explosive players."