Welcome to the Line of Scrimmage, where ahead of each game this football season, we’re giving you insight into Florida State’s opponents from those in the know.
This week, we welcome Cam Lemons from our SB Nation sister site Blogger So Dear, as No. 22 Florida State Seminoles football is set to take on the No. 23 Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the first of three ranked matchups for FSU.
Wake is coming off a thriller vs. Clemson, coming up just short in an upset bid vs. the Tigers. Quarterback Sam Hartman has returned to form as one of the conference’s better passes and while the Demon Deacons have struggled a bit to dominate on defense, are still heading into the matchup as a difficult matchup for a Seminoles team still trying to solidify its return to consistent competitiveness.
Let’s start with the health of the Deacons. Wake Forest is coming off a heart breaking double overtime loss to a physical Clemson squad. Against the Tigers, Wake was without starting corner Caelen Carson and a few other secondary players were on and off the field with injuries during the game. How’s the health of this Demon Deacon team? Are there any significant injuries on either side of the ball.
They sound like they’re pretty healthy offensively. On defense, Kobe Davis suffered a season ending injury against Vandy. Brendan Harris, who’s starting safety for the first to get first three games, he didn’t play last week. He’s on the depth chart. I don’t know if he’ll actually play but I expect them to see him sooner rather than later. They were also down the linebacker in Quincy Bright but sounds like he’ll be back on Saturday. Caitlin, you know, I think it’s going to be gametime decision. I heard he was close last week, even though he got ruled out about an hour before the game. Malik Mustapha, who’s kind of been really a really big guy for them got three sacks and forced fumbles, he actually separated his shoulder on Saturday, sounds like he’s good to go, though. So it’s trending up at least right now.
Wake returns one of the most experienced offensive lines in the ACC, yet the running game has been off the mark the last few games. Do you chalk that up to top tier defensive lines like Clemson or game flow like Liberty? Or are there problems with the deep mesh this year?
Liberty actually had a really good game plan. They went up front and they kind of really disguised their looks to get guys in the backfield, but there were also guys just missing blocks in the running backs and running backs just trying to do too much in the backfield.
Clemson was aiming for Sam Hartman to beat them — they pretty much say, “we’re going to put everyone in the box, we’re gonna blitz, you’re not gonna be on the run the ball, see if you can win one on one one on one balls” and Sam did that. And in the second half actually, when they started backing off, Wake actually had more success running at a three-four-yard clip in that second half.
Sam Hartman and this receiving group are one of the best in the conference. AT Perry leads the team in total yards but Wake Forest has had a different leading receiver in their first four games. What can FSU expect from Hartman and these receivers on Saturday?
On the outside, you have three guys that can really beat you (Jahmal Banks, AT Perry and Donovan Green) and then where I think the games can be kind of won this week is going to be guys like Keyshawn Williams and Taylor Morin in the slot.
In the past, the biggest knock against Sam Hartman was how he performed in big games — against Clemson the last couple of years, against Pitt in the ACC Championship, and last week was the first time that we’ve seen him go out there and just absolutely just do that against a defense that is one of the better ones in the nation. He went out there and threw six touchdowns. He’s playing at a higher level than he ever has.
On the defensive side of the ball, Wake is allowing 30 points a game and the last two games have been “shoot-outs”. How would you describe the defensive game plan so far for the Deacons and who are the names to know at each level?
It‘s felt like every week they’re playing a mobile quarterback, so they’ve been having to play a lot of contain. They’re going to try to get after Jordan Travis, try to get off on the backs, and see what they can do there. They’re a hyper-aggressive type of team — especially upfront with guys like Kobie Turner, who’s the number one graded defensive tackle on PFF. In the second level and from beyond, it’s gonna come down to, can a guy like Malik Mustapha. Can he step up in the run game and stop a guy like Trey Benson? The one thing I will say it’s felt like they haven’t had as many coverage busts as last year. Wake’s defense was so bad because it was just guys wide open, left and right, and this year if something has happened, it’s
In my opinion, Wake Forest is underrated, they’re a top 20 team or better with a tough loss to Clemson. A victory for either team this Saturday wouldn’t shock me. What is your confidence level for this game and do you think we are in store for a whoever has the ball last wins type affair?
I don’t want to be a homer — I just think the biggest thing of why I will probably go Wake here is health. We’ll hear more pregame but I think Wake is healthier going into this. One of the biggest reasons Wake won last year was they were able to get to the quarterback. It’s hard to evaluate FSU from week zero or one or even two because of the personnel as compared to last week, and then one of the biggest things to stop the mesh point and what Wake does on offense is get as much pressure as you can. Clemson learned the hard way what happens when you consistently blitz and don’t get home.
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