I reached out to two guys who really know Wake well, and we agreed to exchange interviews about our teams. I'm not sure if they want to remain anonymous or not. I'll ask them, and if they want their names out there, I'll include them at a later time.
1.) What does getting Preston Parker back mean to this team? He can seemingly do it all for you guys, leading the team in all-purpose yards last year. Is there the potential for him to see any action at RB?
Last year, Parker was our jack of all trades. When he lined up at receiver, he was the 'Noles best receiver. When Antone Smith went down, Parker filled in and was their best running back. Last year, the Seminoles used Parker wherever they needed him. This year, they will use him wherever they want to use him. I hate to make NFL comparisons, but think of Parker as the Seminole's Brian Westbrook. If Parker gets 65 snaps in this game expect 30 of them to be from the slot, 20 from another wide receiver position, and 15 from a running back type position. Wake must account for Parker on every snap, and expect Jimbo to line him up in nontraditional spots, in hopes of catching Wake off guard. In the same vien, expect him to line up at a traditional spot and motion all over the field. How Wake reacts to that move will give Christian Ponder a substantial Pre-snap read on Wake's defense. Oh, one other thing... Preston Parker and Bert Reed (2 of FSU's 4 starting wide receivers) were quarterbacks in high school. I'm not saying you will see some trickery, but it's not out of the question to see Parker line up at QB, pitch the ball to Bert Reed in the slot, and have Reed Chuck it deep. Ever seen a NON-QB throw the ball to a NON-QB who throws it deep? Me neither, but it's something for Jim Grobe's defense to consider.
Questions 2-15, after the jump.
2.) Christian Ponder has sure looked good early. He easily has more wheels than Weatherford and definitely looks like he has much better decision-making than Xavier Lee ever did. Is he the real deal, or was he more a product of the fact that you were playing Western Carolina and Chattanooga?
I believe Ponder is the real deal. Not only does he have a better arm and much better wheels than Weatherford, but he makes smart decisions. Jimbo said that he was one of if not the fastest learner he's ever had. I've noticed some small things about Ponder that lead me to believe he will be the most successful quarterback the of the decade. Ponder carries out excellent play fakes. Against Tennessee Chattanooga, he could have easily loafed off and still lit them up. He didn't, his fakes were crisp, he sold them with his whole body and consistently fooled me, along with UTC's defense. Ponder also excels in ball placement. He delivers the ball in a place where the wide receivers can immediately be off to the races. This is most evident in his bubble screen throws (a new weapon). Jimbo knew that Ponder was his guy since last spring, he just waited through fall camp to make sure.
3.) Greg Carr is an absolute beast physically, but I have always thought that the Seminoles have underused him. Why is this? Through two games even though FSU has scored 115 points, Carr has just 6 catches and 1 TD. Is this because teams have been double-covering him, Ponder has gone to other options, or because the team is simply spreading the ball out (8 different receivers have caught balls in each of the two wins)?
I think this is a true matter of perception. Carr is 6'6", and has caught a lot of touchdowns for us in his career. He is also very limited in what he can do. First, Carr doesn't run good routes. While they've improved over time, they still aren't very good. Carr is a deep jump ball threat, and he has done that well over his career. Florida State fans consistently debate whether Carr's performance is because of opportunity or talent. Despite his lofty career totals, he's not considered much of an NFL prospect. Often, he fails to catch the ball at it's highest point. I think the "opportunity, not talent" crowd may win this one, as the 'Noles now have more options. Chief among those options is JUCO transfer Corey Surrency, who I'll profile more in the later questions. Carr will still be a part of the 'Nole offense, but he is no longer the prime target for a desperation toss.
4.) Are the 'Noles prepared mentally for the Deacs after facing two FCS opponents? Does the drop off in talent level hurt the team, or was it merely more important to get the offense going and give the team momentum with all the freshmen who have been slotted into the depth chart?
It's impossible to know for sure. The 'Noles have said all the right things this week, and I've talked to a few players myself. They are jacked for this game. The anticipation for this game isn't quite what it was for the showdown's with Miami in '03 and '05, it is very high. I think the FCS opponents are good for a few reasons. First, and no disrespect to them, but they really functioned as de facto bye weeks. FSU has prepped for Wake for 3 weeks. They've used less than half of their playbook. Playing legit teams before wake wouldn't have afforded them that luxury. Giving this squad confidence as players worked their way back from suspension was very important.
5.) How receptive are fans to this season's team? Does the academic scandal and the underachieving leave a bad taste in their mouths, or do the lowered expectations and the youthful players give a lot of hope for a turnaround?
I think fans love this team for a variety of reasons. I wrote that Ponder represents hope and change, and he does. A good quarterback can always get a fan base excited. Florida State has always been on their best behavior as of late. Consider that the last police incident involving a Florida State player was over 140 days ago. Laugh all you want, but I seriously doubt there's a Fraternity of similarly sized unit of men who stay clean for a similar period of time. Personally, I think the good behavior is a result of competition. The young talent on this team is very close to the veteran talent, in terms of ability. When guys realize they are close to grabbing significant playing time, they keep their noses clean. The bad taste is still there, but this team is certainly more likable than in year's past. Everyone plays hard, something you didn't see during the "Nepotism Era."
6.) Who are two players the Deacs cannot sleep on? Who else is undervalued on this team?
I'll give you a few. Some people consider JUCO Transfer WR Corey Surrency (6'5 220) to be our best player. He is Greg Carr with better body control and a bit better wheels. I really don't think there is a defensive back in the ACC who can stick with Surrency on every play. While Alphonso Smith covered Greg Carr well over the past few years, I'll be surprised if he can stick with Surrency. Surrency actually catches the ball at its highest point, and now the 'Noles have a QB who can get the ball to him deep. A great comparison for him is Larry Fitzgerald. He is also the best blocker I've seen in a college uniform in a long time, and is likely to cause all sorts of problems on bubble screens.
On the defensive side, there are two. JUCO National Defensive Player of the Year Markus White, the 'Noles strong side defensive end. He has a relentless motor and is a great compliment to Everette Brown (ALL-ACC Defensive End, Pre-Season). Since Brown is likely to see a ton of double teams, the task of pressuring Skinner will fall on the shoulders of White.
The other is outside linebacker Toddrick Verdell. Verdell isn't well known because he didn't start last year, and because he transferred in from the same school as White. Verdell will play a huge role in this game because of his background. He is a former free safety. Since Wake likes to throw a ton of underneath and intermediate routes, his coverage skills could prove to be vital for the 'Noles. Verdell isn't as fast as the 'Noles starting FS & SS, but you his hip fluidity is evidence of his background. Verdell's coverage skills might allow the 'Noles to stay in more of a base look against the Deacs.
7.) How much of the 2 quarterback system will we see this weekend? Is it more a question of what works and what doesn't work, or does Jimbo Fisher have a certain amount of touches per QB in mind?
I've maintained that D'Vo will get somewhere between 8-18snaps per game. When he is on the field, he's the best athlete. That is no disrespect to any player on Wake or Florida State, but rather a testament to D'Vo's athleticism. He's also a great thrower, something people overlook. He's not ready to take the reigns to this offense yet, but if he continues to learn and work, he just might be next year. D'Vo will have special packages in this game. Look out for the quarterback off tackle, a special play that allows for one additional blocker compared to the standard running play (where the QB stands back and watches after handing off). I also wouldn't be surprised to see a fake QB draw and a deep bomb off of it. I'm sure Fisher has a certain amount of touches in mine. The QB situation, however, is not one of 2 QB's, but rather one of a starter and a weapon.
8.) The Seminoles have fumbled 6 times already this season. Wake Forest has led the nation in forcing turnovers since 2006. Will turnovers play a significant factor in this game? How important is it that Florida State takes care of the football?
Turnovers, or the lack of, play a significant role in any football game. I'll point out a few things about Florida State's turnovers and turnovers in general. First, three of the six fumbles occurred as a direct, or indirect result of the Center- Quarterback exchange. The center involved on the snaps was the backup, who won't see time in this game unless FSU suffers an injury. Line coach Rick Trickett was attempting to work in other players, and fumbles came as a result. Another fumble came at the hands of a punt returner who isn't returning punts now that Parker is back. Another fumble was a bobbled pitch on behalf of a freshman tailback (Carlton Jones) who isn't likely to play in this game. I don't remember the other fumble, but I felt compelled to explain the nature of the fumbles.
9.) Wake has a lot of weapons offensively. Between Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass, DJ Boldin, Marshall Williams, Ben Wooster, Chip Brinkman and Devon Brown, who is the Seminoles' biggest concern? Are they going to stack the box to force Skinner to beat them, or will there be a lot more zone coverage, daring the Deacons offensive line to step up?
10.) What is your predicted score?
11.) Obviously the big news is the return of Parker and Thacker for FSU, but there are still holes left by Watson at LB and by Robinson at CB. Who will fill these holes, and how do you think they will perform against Wake?
Watson's role will be filled by Kendal Smith, a 4* prospect out of high school. Smith is capable of performing well. FSU will also rotate in Senior LB Kenny Ingram and highly touted freshman Nigel Bradham. While Watson is a very good player, linebacker is arguably FSU's deepest and most talented position, so his loss doesn't worry me.
NFL caliber corners aren't replaceable commodities in college football. FSU will use a combination of guys to fill in for Robinson. I don't expect any of them to excel, but I don't expect primary replacement Corey Mangum to fail either. expect a lot of safety help when they square up against Boldin. One thing that should help this unit is competition in practice. These guys see better pass catchers in practice than anything any other ACC team can throw at them.
12.) Antone Smith seems like a steady back. Do you think Thomas will see some carries?
I like the freshman Thomas a lot. That said, I don't think he plays a major role in this game. If FSU runs 60 plays in this game (a reasonable estimate), Antone will see 45 snaps at tailback, Parker 15, and Thomas maybe 5.
13.) Ponder looked impressive in his first two games, but how do you think he will handle the Wake defense? Do you expect D'Vo to see time behind center (or elsewhere)?
I answered this some in question 2 (above), but I wanted to talk a bit more about it here. I expect Ponder to perform very well against Wake. He is a ton better than the QB's Wake punked over the last two years. Expect FSU to take advantage of Wake by staying in 4-wide the entire time. I don't think highly of Wake's front four, and will be surprised if they get significant pressure without blitzing. By spreading Wake, FSU effectively handcuffs their ability to blitz. If Wake walks guys up to the line, Ponder has his hot read ready to go. If Wake blitzes from a long ways away (which really, against a spread, is the only other option), then they will probably not get to Ponder in time, and could easily be burned on the bubble screen, a substantial weapon in the 'Nole offense.
D'Vo is a QB, and Jimbo has made that very clear. I would be shocked to see him take more than 2 snaps at a position other than QB.