- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher was busy breaking down film of Saturday's win over Boston College when he noticed an odd trend midway through the fourth quarter: One play after another finished with a tackle by freshman linebacker Reggie Northrup.
"I'm going through it, and I'm like, 'Daggone,'" Fisher said. "He was just jumping out."
Northrup didn't see significant action until the fourth quarter, and yet he still managed to finish second on the team with six tackles, including one for a loss. It was a huge performance for a player who had just two tackles for the season entering the game, but it wasn't exactly evidence that Northrup had refined his skill set just yet.
"It was hilarious," middle linebacker Vince Williams said. "He didn't know what he was doing, just running around making all these tackles, blitzing, shooting gaps and stuff. I was like, 'I don't know what he's doing, but he's making plays.'"
Fisher chalks it up to instincts, which Northrup has in abundance.
For linebackers, Fisher said, a big chunk of execution is simply having a nose for the football. Northrup still needs to work on recognizing keys and adjusting to different formations, but once the play starts, he's got a knack for finding the ball carrier.
"You can only teach so much," Fisher said. "He reads and pulls that trigger and does a nice job."
Northrup's development is significant for Florida State, which entered the season with just four experienced linebackers, two of whom are set to graduate at year's end. With fellow freshman Markus Eligwe redshirting and currently sidelined with a hand injury, getting Northrup up to speed would be a boon for next year's defense.
For the time being, however, Florida State will settle for working Northrup hard in practice and turning him loose on game day whenever possible. Refining technique remains the goal, but the long-term potential is impressive.
"He has a tremendous amount of talent and nose for the football," Williams said. "That's what you look for, and all the other stuff is going to come with time."
Who's counting: Florida State ranks a disappointing 14th in the first BCS rankings of the season, which were released Sunday. But while the ranking is four spots below the Seminoles' position in the coaches' poll, Fisher insists he's not concerned.
"We've got to play our schedule. Everybody plays their schedule, and we'll see where we're at in the end," Fisher said. "There's a lot of ball left in the season."
The biggest culprit for Florida State -- aside from the ugly loss to NC State -- is the strength of schedule. Thanks to playing two FCS opponents to open the season along with a down season in the ACC, the computers used in the BCS rankings have given FSU little respect. Of the six computer rankings used in the BCS formula, only one has the Seminoles ranked as a top-25 team.
Fisher said he's not sure how those calculations are done, but he said he prefers letting people vote on the rankings.
"That's where I think sometimes; we've got to be careful," Fisher said. "It just scares me where our world's going sometimes that we're taking the human element out of things."
Florida State should have a chance to climb a bit higher as the season goes along, beginning with this week's game against Miami. It's biggest test likely comes in the regular-season finale against Florida, which occupies the No. 2 spot in the initial BCS rankings.
"It's out of my hands," EJ Manuel said. "We've just got to continue to play ball and hopefully we'll get back to 1 or 2."
Odds and ends: Florida State's game against Duke on Oct. 27 will be a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU. … Manuel was named the ACC's offensive back of the week after throwing for a career high 439 yards against Boston College.
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