- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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Going against 6-foot-6 Kelvin Benjamin in practice, it helps to have a plan.
The key, Nick Waisome said, is getting inside his arms, keeping him away from the ball. The outcome -- well, that's not always perfect.
"It's a coin toss," Waisome said.
Murray State won't provide Waisome with quite as tough a matchup Saturday, but that doesn't mean Waisome won't be tested in his first career start. Then again, he's also expecting to win more than half those battles, too.
Waisome outplayed freshman Ronald Darby this fall, winning the starting field corner job vacated by Greg Reid, who was dismissed from the program Aug. 1. Opposite Xavier Rhodes, Waisome said he expects to get picked on often by opposing quarterbacks, and that will begin with Murray State's Casey Brockman.
"He gets the ball down the field, gets it out, completes 66 percent," Jimbo Fisher said. "I think he's a very, very good player."
Murray State might be a lower-tier opponent, but Brockman comes with some impressive credentials. He was a third-team All-American selection last season, and he's the Ohio Valley Conference preseason offensive player of the year this season after throwing for 3,276 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011. The Racers finished the season as the No. 7-ranked passing offense in FCS.
That means Waisome should get his share of chances to prove he deserved the starting job.
"I'm happy with how things went (this fall), and I feel like I did real strong, but I've got to put my skills to the test this first week," Waisome said.
Fisher said Darby will get a chance to play Saturday, too, but the job is Waisome's to lose, and safety Lamarcus Joyner said the sophomore has shown he's capable of getting the job done.
“You can tell that Waisome’s been in college, in the system for a year," Joyner said. "Darby is full of potential and a lot of talent, he’s just got to get fundamentally and technique sound, and that’s where Waisome is a little ahead of him right now.”
Of course, it's not just Waisome that should get a test from the Murray State passing attack, which makes a habit of creating chaos underneath. That will give Christian Jones and Nick Moody, veterans who switched positions this offseason, a chance to shine, too.
"They'll go a lot underneath challenging your 'backers to see how they match up underneath with crossing patterns," Fisher said. "They'll be a good challenge."
1. First look at freshmen. Florida State fans should get a good look at a handful of highly touted newcomers, including Darby, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. None are slated to start, but if FSU gets a big lead early -- something most fans are anticipating -- there should be plenty of reps to go around in the second half while Fisher gets a taste of what his newcomers can contribute.
2. EJ's last opener. Florida State's senior quarterback EJ Manuel has high hopes for his final season in Tallahassee, and that starts with thumping Murray State. Between the new-look offensive line, a deep corps of receivers, and the return of running back Chris Thompson, Manuel should have plenty of new weapons at his disposal. The question will be whether he can turn all of that into a marquee season before he heads to the NFL.
3. Where's Bobby? In the three years since being pushed out as Florida State's head coach, Bobby Bowden hasn't returned to Doak Campbell Stadium. That won't change this year, despite the former coach being inducted into the FSU hall of fame this weekend. Bowden will be in attendance for tonight's induction ceremony, but when the honorees -- including former FSU quarterback Danny Kanell -- are recognized during Saturday's game, Bowden won't be in attendance.
'Noles to watch
1. Waisome. There's probably no performance that will secure Waisome the starting job or cost him his role for good, but it will be interesting to see how the sophomore responds to his first significant action in front of the crowd. Waisome has the luxury of being surrounded by exceptional talent in the secondary, but he also has a player with a ton of potential looking over his shoulder.
2. Menelik Watson and Cameron Erving. The two offensive tackles have played eight games combined at their respective positions -- not just in college, but ever. Watson just took up football a year ago in junior college, while Erving spent his career on the defensive line. Both players have a ton of size, strength and potential, however, and Florida State is counting heavily on the fact that they'll meet the challenge.
3. Thompson. Florida State would love to see a lot more production from the running game this year, and that starts with Thompson, the speedy senior who missed most of last season with a broken back. Thompson has dealt with a minor hand and hamstring injury this fall, but his back has felt fine and coaches have been impressed with his quickness and agility.
Racers to watch
1. Brockman. Murray State's quarterback is the OVC's preseason offensive player of the year after he threw for 3,276 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Brockman may be playing for an FCS team, but Hatcher believes he's got the talent to match up with the Seminoles.
2. The linebackers. Newcomer Corey Addison (South Carolina) and returning starter Qua Huzzie (Kentucky) are both SEC transfers with "big-game experience," Hatcher said. Meanwhile, Sam Small made 10 starts at middle linebacker last season and racked up 115 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss.
3. Ja-Vonta Trotter. The St. Petersburg, Fla. native led Murray State with 48 catches and 523 yards receiving last season, despite starting just one game. He appeared in 10 games for the Racers, and he recorded at least one catch in each.
By the numbers
0. That's the number of practices Florida State missed this week, despite weather services predicting massive rains in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. Fisher did move up his practice time Monday in hopes of avoiding showers that never materialized, but everything else went ahead as scheduled without players dodging many raindrops. "It's been amazing that it blew around us," Fisher said.
46. That's the number of games missed to injury for Florida State's starters last season, the eighth most in the country. Thus far, it's been a healthy fall for the Seminoles though, with only defensive tackle Anthony McCloud and tight end Dan Hicks among the two deep expected to miss this week's opener. If FSU can get through its game with Murray State with similar injury luck, Fisher will be thrilled.
8. That's the number of consecutive games in which Florida State's defense has held an opponent to fewer than 20 points. Against FCS opponent Murray State, there's a good chance that streak will reach nine this week, and the Seminoles' defense -- which finished fourth in the nation a year ago -- has its sights set on a dominant season.
121. That's the number of consecutive passing attempts for Manuel in which he's not thrown an interception. Manuel's last pick came against N.C. State on Oct. 29 of last year. Manuel hopes the streak continues, but he said he's not trying to pad the numbers by being overly cautious. "It's not necessarily being afraid to take a shot," he said. "It's seeing the open guy and trusting them to make that play."
16. That's the total number of career starts at the college level for the five men manning Florida State's offensive line, with 14 of those starts courtesy of center Bryan Stork. But Fisher remains confident this group will play like veterans, even if they're one of the more inexperienced units in the country. "They'll be nervous as crap," Fisher said. "But I watch who they block and I watch the size and athleticism and it’s a different group of guys. We’ll see. We’ve got to go out and play.”