- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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The week began with the question of which of Florida State's freshman defensive ends would see his redshirt removed, but Jimbo Fisher ended up taking a different route.
Both Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher will play in Saturday's game against Savannah State, and Fisher said the freshmen will be regulars in the defensive end rotation now that senior Brandon Jenkins is lost for the season.
"We're going to start playing them and getting them involved in things," Fisher said.
Edwards, the No. 1 recruit in the country a year ago, and Casher worked with the No. 3 defense during practice Thursday, but Fisher said both players will get regular reps on defense and special teams against Savannah State.
With the presence of Bjoern Werner, Cornellius Carradine and Brandon Jenkins ahead of them on the depth chart, both players were initially slated to redshirt. Jenkins' season-ending foot injury necessitated Fisher get his freshmen ready for a potentially bigger role.
"They always were in a good place," Fisher said of Edwards and Casher. "I liked where they were. But you couldn't justify enough reps with those three guys because they were so good. With one of them out, you create and you start developing."
Fisher said both players turned in a solid week of practice in preparation for their first college games, though he hadn't been disappointed in their work ethics earlier in the fall.
"There's a little more urgency to it now," Fisher said.
Injury updates: There was a large contingent of Seminoles limited in Thursday's practice due to some minor injuries, but Fisher said the bulk should still see action in Saturday's game.
Tight end Nick O'Leary at out of practice all week with a deep thigh bruise, and he's perhaps the most likely to miss this week's game. Fisher said he'd like to get backups Kevin Haplea and Christo Kourtzidis ample reps, as both are in their first year in the system.
Defensive tackle Anthony McCloud missed virtually all of fall camp and sat out last week's opener against Murray State with a pectoral injury, but Fisher said McCloud will definitely play Saturday.
Given the likelihood that FSU is up big early against Savannah State, Fisher will be cautious with his injured players, but he said getting game reps for the starters remains a priority.
"It won't be based on what the game is," Fisher said. "It'll be based on their health. If they're ready to play, they'll play. If they aren't, we'll be careful with it, if it's close."
Just for kicks: The upside to scoring 69 points in a game for Florida State is that Dustin Hopkins and the kickoff coverage team got plenty of work.
Hopkins kicked off 12 times in the game, and Fisher said the results were mixed.
Hopkins' first three kicks were all covered well, with Murray State's average starting field position being its own 14. The fourth kickoff didn't hit its mark, however, and the coverage was spotty. Add a personal foul flag to the tail end, and the Racers opened the drive at Florida State's 46-yard line.
FSU rebounded with some solid efforts on directional kicks the rest of the way, but Fisher also mixed in plenty of deep kickoffs, too, with five of the final seven resulting in touchbacks.
"We wanted to work on both," Fisher said. "You've got to hit a driver and you've got to hit a sand wedge. I thought it was important for us to mix and match as the game progressed."
A rule change this season means all touchbacks will be brought out to the 25 rather than the 20, and while Fisher said he isn't entirely in favor of the new rule, he thinks it can be an advantage for Florida State if Hopkins and the coverage team can execute the directional kicks effectively.
"With our athleticism and our ability to kick the football, we have to take advantage of it," Fisher said. "I think it's careless to say, kick it out and be cute and put the ball at the 25. To me it doesn't make a lot of sense. we can do both, but you have to be accurate with the kicks."
Fast start: When Terrence Brooks left last week's game in the first half with severe cramping, Karlos Williams got his first taste of extensive action at safety and managed to look pretty good -- with one exception.
Williams drew a flag on his first play for a late hit after bumping a Murray State player out of bounds, a mistake Brooks said was a product of Williams' enthusiasm.
"I told him to calm down," Brooks said. "He gets a little excited out there. But when he gets in a zone, he's pretty good."
Williams' nervous energy dissipated a bit the rest of the way, and he turned in a strong performance, finishing with one tackle and one pass breakup -- a nifty bit of defensive maneuvering that nearly ended as an interception.
Williams figures to get more work this week with FSU's starters expected to be pulled relatively early in a game the Seminoles are heavily favored to win, and his Week 1 outing provided Fisher with reason for optimism.
"He's playing the ball much better," Fisher said. "He played a pretty good ballgame. Made some good tackles. I was very pleased with him."