Florida State Seminoles: Daniel Glauser

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The lure for Menelik Watson to return for his senior season was the potential of Florida State's offensive line. Had he played for the Seminoles again in 2013, all five starters from a solid unit would've been back, and Watson figured they could have been something special.

"They still are going to be one of the best in the country, but the camaraderie us five had was good," Watson said. "That was really the hardest thing for me."

[+] EnlargeHart
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesIf Bobby Hart can fulfill his potential, Florida State's offensive line might not miss a beat despite the loss of Menelik Watson to the NFL.
The unit entered the 2012 season with just 16 combined starts -- 14 of which belonged to center Bryan Stork -- but quickly jelled.

The question now is whether that same camaraderie -- and more significantly, that same potential -- can exist without Watson.

The numbers suggest Watson was integral to the line's success a year ago. Watson missed two-and-a-half games in the 2012 season, and in those 10 quarters FSU allowed 10 sacks. In the 11-plus games he played, the Seminoles allowed just 16.

Part of those struggles without Watson could be pinned on Daniel Glauser, another juco transfer who stepped in as the primary backup at right tackle throughout most of 2012, but that also underscores just how far Bobby Hart had fallen.

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From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.

With that in mind, we're going position by position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.

Previous entries can be found here.

Next up: Offensive Line

2012 recap: If success is determined as a matter of perspective, then 2012 was a tremendous accomplishment for the Florida State offensive line. It's not that the unit was dominant -- though at times, it was exceptional -- but rather that it came so far from the unmitigated disaster of 2011. Only center Bryan Stork was a holdover from the previous season's regular starters, while guards Tre Jackson and Josue Matias built on the foundation they laid in the 2011 bowl game. But it was the arrival of right tackle Menelik Watson and left tackle Cameron Erving that made the biggest impact. Overall, the line helped FSU to nearly double its rushing total from the previous season while trimming the number of sacks allowed from an ACC-worst 40 to a much more respectable 26.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The halftime speech at NC State was similar to many Jimbo Fisher has given. He pushed his team to come out strong, to drive a dagger through the hearts of the Wolfpack.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State's EJ Manuel
AP Photo/Gerry Broome)EJ Manuel likely saw his Heisman candidacy -- and FSU's national title hopes -- disappear.
Of course, that didn't happen.

But Florida State's slow starts to the second half aren't entirely new. While the Seminoles have been decent enough in the second half, the opening drives of the third quarter have been problematic.

Florida State has received the second-half kickoff in each of its last four games, and it has punted on all four occasions.

“I don’t know what can be changed," EJ Manuel said. "Maybe we come out with some different types of plays, something to get our juices following, get us back moving and gets us back into a rhythm."

Manuel's call for more of an up-tempo approach is reasonable. Of the 16 plays FSU has run on its opening drives of the second half in the last four games, seven were runs. Those plays netted a total of 4 yards, with none going for more than 3.

But the passing game hasn't been significantly better. Manuel has completed just 4 of 9 throws for 40 yards -- the longest a 13-yard reception.

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The Big Board: Facing the pressure

October, 11, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The postgame venom from fans has largely been directed at Jimbo Fisher after Florida State's 17-16 loss to NC State, and the ire has largely been spurred by his conservative play calling in the game's waning moments.

But while fans wanted to see Fisher take a few final shots down the field, putting the dagger through the hearts of NC State, the onus for the conservative approach may have fallen more on the blocking up front.

"We could say we could throw it, but then you've got the possibility -- we'd had a few sacks in blitz that we hadn't picked up," Fisher said. "You're up six points, so do you take a chance on [EJ Manuel getting hit]? It goes back to philosophical things at the time and the flow of the game."

Indeed, Fisher was right to be concerned about Manuel's ability to sit in the pocket and make a play.

While Florida State's offensive line has shown marked improvement from a year ago -- particularly in the running game -- consistency in pass protection has been an ongoing concern.

Here's a game-by-game review of Manuel's passing attempts under duress:

(Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info.)

There have been ups and downs, but through the first five games, Manuel was largely able to steer clear of constant pressure. Against NC State, however, the problems were widespread. He faced pressure on nearly 40 percent of his passing attempts -- which includes three desperation throws at the end when NC State had no reason to rush -- was sacked a season-high four times, and in turn, Florida State rarely threw the deep ball.

"They put a lot of pressure on our offense and we didn’t make them pay," Manuel said. "It’s not the reason we lost but it’s one of them."

There were plenty of explanations for the problems with pass protection.

For one, starting right tackle Menelik Watson missed the game with flu symptoms, and Daniel Glauser got the start in his place. Glauser also started against Wake Forest, and those two games accounted for seven of the 10 sacks FSU has allowed this year. It's perhaps not surprising then that Bobby Hart has taken first-team reps at right tackle during practice this week.

While the rest of the offensive line had a handful of mistakes, too, some of the onus falls on the backs and tight ends who failed to pick up blocks, and some of the onus falls on Manuel for failing to read the blitz and react accordingly.

Fisher said there was only one blitz that Manuel clearly read incorrectly, but there were other throws he failed to complete in the face of pressure -- including a screen to Chris Thompson, a pass to Nick O'Leary and a deep ball to Kelvin Benjamin.

"They were blitzing a whole lot, swarming the quarterback," Rashad Greene said. "Opportunities were there with what we wanted. We just couldn't get it executed."

Here's Manuel's numbers against the blitz from Saturday's game, broken down by half:

(Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info.)

Manuel said he felt he played a "pretty good" game, admitting he missed on a few potentially big plays.

But when a defense that allowed nearly 1,200 yards in two games against Tennessee and Miami pitches a shutout in the second half, there's certainly more to it than a few mistakes by the offense.

In fact, compare Manuel's numbers vs. the blitz from the first five games of the season to his production Saturday, and there's a clear difference.

(Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info.)

That last item is particularly noteworthy. Manuel had faced the blitz on 29 pass attempts (23 percent) in the first five games of the season and was sacked just three times. He faced it a whopping 16 times (48 percent) on Saturday, and was sacked four times.

NC State had a game plan -- go after Manuel with force -- and it worked. Other teams are certainly going to follow suit.

Fans weren't pleased with Fisher's answers during Monday's news conference, but his explanation is no less accurate. The problems were both widespread and slightly out of character. Blame falls on the offensive line, on the running backs, on the quarterback and, yes, on the play calling. But at the same time, the line had shown improvement, the backs had blocked well, and Manuel had looked sharp in the face of pressure prior to Saturday's game.

Whether finding solutions to a number of small problems is easier than fixing one huge problem remains to be seen, but the Seminoles are at least giving lip service to the idea this week.

Whether things change moving forward, however, will be the real answer to all those tough questions.

"We've got to figure a way to get it done, and I'm sure that teams will watch NC State and see what they did to us, and it'll open up a can of worms," center Bryan Stork said. "We're going to see more looks like that. Boston College runs a lot of stuff like that, too. I guess we'll be that much more ready for it."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Menelik Watson returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday after sitting out last week's game with flu symptoms, and while Watson still is not 100 percent, Jimbo Fisher said he's optimistic about Watson's progress.

[+] EnlargeMenelik Watson
Courtesy of FSU Sports InformationCoach Jimbo Fisher expects Menelik Watson to play against Boston College on Saturday.
"He's still a little sick," Fisher said. "He's getting his strength back. It zapped him pretty good."

With Watson out last week, Daniel Glauser got the start at right tackle, but Glauser split reps with the first team during Tuesday's practice with sophomore Bobby Hart.

Hart was last year's starter at right tackle but lost the job this spring. He's been working at guard since the start of fall camp, but Fisher said he's been pleased with Hart's recent practices, and his game experience makes him an asset with Watson out.

"Bobby's played a lot of ball in the past," Fisher said. "You've got to have those guys ready in case something happens, and Bobby's earned some [time]. He's practicing a little bit better, and we have to keep him in the mix."

Glauser's performance Saturday wasn't singled out as particularly problematic, but in the two games he has started this season, Florida State has allowed seven sacks. In four games with Watson at right tackle, the Seminoles have allowed just three.

That makes having Watson back in the lineup a priority, and Fisher said he should be ready in time to face Boston College.

"He'll work his way back into it," Fisher said. "That would be huge, because he's such a good player for us."

Back to work: Fisher said he has tweaked the practice routine this week to test his team's ability to perform well in the second half -- a designed response to last week's loss at NC State when the Seminoles blew a 16-0 halftime lead.

The results were mixed Tuesday, as Fisher said the team practiced well early but had a few mistakes in the waning portions of practice.

"The energy level was really good, and the focus was really good," Fisher said. "There were a few slips at the end, which is kind of like what happened the other day. We've got to get those fixed."

Overall, however, Fisher said he has been pleased with how the team has rebounded from last week's loss. Players have been happy to move on but are also focused on finding answers for last week's mistakes.

"There was a lot more attention to the little things," Fisher said. "A lot of the things that hurt us in the last game, our guys addressed very well."

Fade patterns: At 6-foot-6, Kelvin Benjamin makes for an inviting target on fade patterns in the end zone, but Florida State has used the play just once this season.

That's something quarterback EJ Manuel said he'd like to see change, but Benjamin said he's not likely to lobby his coach for the opportunity.

"I'd probably throw it in there sometimes," Benjamin said. "But I don't try to do that."

FSU Notes: Flu sidelines Watson

October, 7, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. -- There were enough missed assignments that Jimbo Fisher could hardly pin the blame for the offensive line's struggles on any one member, but that doesn't mean right tackle Menelik Watson wasn't missed.

[+] EnlargeMenelik Watson
Courtesy of FSU Sports InformationThe absence of Menelik Watson didn't help FSU against NC State.
The first-year starter woke up Saturday morning with flu symptoms, and Fisher said there was no way Watson could have played against NC State.

"He woke up with a temperature of 102 and was throwing up at the hotel," Fisher said. "He got it real bad, dehydrated. And that happened [Saturday] morning."

Daniel Glauser got his second start of the season in Watson's place, and while he wasn't the only concern on the line, he wasn't sharp either. It was on a bootleg to the right side that EJ Manuel was dumped for a 15-yard loss in the second half that pushed FSU out of field-goal range.

Florida State has allowed 12 sacks this season, seven of which came in the two games Watson didn't start.

"We have to get that fixed," Fisher said. "We have to dominate up front."

Timing isn't everything: Fisher wasn't certain it would've made a difference in the end result, but Cason Beatty's blocked punt late in the fourth quarter made for a much easier game-winning drive for NC State.

Beatty was punting from his own 33 with 2:32 remaining in the game, and the NC State pressure came straight up the middle. It was the second time Beatty had a punt blocked in as many games, and both ensuing drives resulted in touchdowns.

"You can't have a punt blocked there," Fisher said. "That's very critical for us."

But while it would be easy to hang the responsibility on the freshman punter, Fisher said Beatty hasn't been the problem.

"The time -- he's right at the range," Fisher said. "We keep the times, and the times have been coming back good."

Just for kicks: The problem was the decision on third down, Fisher said of Florida State's doomed eight-play drive early in the fourth quarter.

Florida State moved the ball to the NC State 19, but Manuel took a 15-yard sack on a bootleg play that pushed the Seminoles just out of field-goal range.

"It would've been a 52-yarder," Fisher said. "I felt if we punted them down and pinned them, we could hold them and get it back. It wasn't a risk worth giving them the momentum."

But as the Seminoles made their last-gasp attempt to win the game in the final seconds, Fisher would've been happy to get the chance at an even longer attempt.

Manuel hit Kelvin Benjamin for 21 yards down to the FSU 21, but his next two passes fell incomplete, and kicker Dustin Hopkins never got a chance at his fourth field goal of the game.

"Sixty-five was probably the absolute most we would try," Hopkins said. "I've hit 72 before, but that was with a good amount of wind at my back. We had the yard line in mind, and we didn't quite get there."

Halftime Analysis: FSU 16, NCSU 0

October, 6, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The good news for NC State is that it could have been worse. The bad news is that there are no signs the Wolfpack will turn the tide in the second half.

Three Florida State drives stalled and ended with field goals, but the Seminoles' stout defensive front has dominated the line of scrimmage and Chris Thompson has already crossed the 100-yard mark on the ground as FSU has jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead.

Stat of the half: 115. That's the rushing yards for Thompson in the first half. Thompson needed just 11 carries to top the 100-yard mark for the third time this season, as he set the tone for the Florida State offense. The FSU O-line has had trouble protecting EJ Manuel, but the running game has had no trouble finding holes, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Thompson's 115 yards on the ground give him 546 for the year -- just 33 shy of Devonta Freeman's team-leading total from a year ago.

Player of the half: Thompson, but the FSU defensive line can also make a good argument for the honor. Thompson has been the game changer on offense, but FSU's defensive front has tormented Mike Glennon, who is averaging just 3.2 yards per attempt. The NC State running game hasn't fared any better, with starting tailback Tony Creecy tallying just 21 yards on 10 carries.

What's working for FSU: Aside from the run game and the defensive front, it's been all Dustin Hopkins, who has connected on three field goals for the second straight week. That's good news for Hopkins, who struggled three weeks ago against Clemson, but bad news for an FSU offense which has endured some notable red-zone struggles of late.

What's not working for FSU: The biggest problem for the Seminoles has been pass protection. Manuel was sacked three times in the first half, a season high. Even when he hasn't been brought down, he's been under pressure. Manuel has fared rather well -- 11-of-15 passing for 117 yards and a TD -- but he hasn't had the time to look downfield as Miami did in exploiting the NC State secondary a week earlier.

Worth noting: Right tackle Menelik Watson has an illness, according to FSU sports information, that sidelined him for the game. Daniel Glauser got the start. ...Thompson left the game for a series in the second quarter for treatment on his elbow. He returned to the field, but with the elbow heavily wrapped. ...Rashad Greene tied his season high with four catches in the first half. ...Anthony McCloud recorded his first sack of the season.
Jimbo Fisher hadn't seen the play in person, so when he got his first look at offensive line coach Rick Trickett's sideline collision with a referee while watching the tape of Saturday's game, he couldn't help but laugh.

The laughter drew the attention of Fisher's wife, and before long she had pulled out her cell phone to shoot video of the replay and text it to all the coaches' wives.

Even Trickett's son, Clint, offered little sympathy once he knew his father wasn't hurt.

"If he would've been hurt, I would've said a couple things to the ref, too," Clint Trickett said. "I wasn't happy. The dude's old. You've got to be careful. He can't be taking them hits."

Trickett's tumble came in the second quarter as tailback Chris Thompson sprinted down the sideline for a long touchdown. A flag came in as Thompson cruised into the end zone, and Fisher first thought a receiver was being whistled for an illegal block.

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Fisher concerned about blocking

September, 17, 2012
Chris Thompson, Chibuikem Okoro Melina Vastola/US PRESSWIRESome miscommunication led to some breakdowns for the blocking schemes against Wake Forest.
By the time EJ Manuel completed his second pass of Saturday's game, Florida State was already up 28-0, and from there it was easy.

But while the Florida State offense soared to its third consecutive game with at least 50 points, Jimbo Fisher found plenty of points of concern when he broke down the film, particularly in the passing game.

Start with the offensive line.

Daniel Glauser got the start at right tackle over a dinged-up Menelik Watson, and on the first play of the game a miscommunication on the right side of the line forced Chris Thompson to go down in the backfield.

Fisher said communication improved as the game progressed, noting that Glauser "gave up a couple things here and there, but for the most part, I was pleased."

Watson should be a full participant in practice today, Fisher said, after getting some late work with the No. 2 offense Saturday.

"He'll be ready to roll this week," Fisher said.

The offensive line flubbed two plays on the goal line in the second quarter, too.

Florida State had a first-and-goal from the 2 and was stuffed on three consecutive plays. The first was the fault of running back James Wilder Jr., who failed to make a proper cut.

"It's a walk-in and he missed the cut," Fisher said.

The next two plays were missed signals by the offensive line, which opened gaps for Wake Forest to stuff the run.

The goal-line issues plagued Florida State a year ago, and Fisher said it will be a primary area of focus this week as FSU prepares for Clemson.

While the line wasn't perfect in pass protection either, Fisher said a number of the problems were actually the result of mistakes by receivers, backs and tight ends.

While Fisher noted that protection broke down a few times early, Manuel's designed runs and option plays helped neutralize Wake Forest's blitz, but the Seminoles still failed to capitalize on some big-play opportunities.

On the second play of the game, Kelvin Benjamin dropped a quick pass over the middle that could have been a big gain, something Fisher attributed to a young receiver trying to do too much before securing the football.

"That's something Kelvin's got to go through," he said.

Greg Dent should have been open for an easy score on a deep ball in the first quarter when Wake was in a cover zero defense, too, Fisher said, but he ran into the corner and Manuel was forced to throw the ball away.

Several bubble screens might have gone for big yards, too, but the blocking from the wide receivers -- which had been excellent on Thompson's two long TD runs -- was noticeably absent.

"One of those, EJ had to take a sack on what might have been a 90-yard bubble play," Fisher said.

Given that FSU had unveiled only a small portion of its passing attack in the first two weeks -- just "three percent," Manuel guessed -- and Wake Forest ran an unusual 3-4 scheme against the Seminoles, the early miscommunications and missed assignments weren't a complete surprise.

What was encouraging, Fisher said, is that the the passing game improved as the game progressed. If Florida State can open this week's game already firing on all cylinders, there's a chance for a lot of plays to be made.

"When we started blocking and running where we're supposed to run," Fisher said, "we're throwing, we're catching, we're doing it."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Tre Jackson delivered the first block, and Chris Thompson didn't need much more help.

The tailback burst through the line of scrimmage and shot down the sideline for the first of two long touchdowns, the highlights of another blowout win for Florida State.

[+] EnlargeEj Manuel
Melina Vastola/US PresswireEJ Manuel spent much of the first half on the run against Wake Forest.
"That's the best feeling as an offensive lineman you can have, when you set the block, open up the hole, and you see your running back bust through," Jackson said. "You're just running behind him cheering him on."

Florida State's offensive line was dominant in the running game on Saturday, as the Seminoles racked up nearly 400 yards on the ground, dismantling a Wake Forest defensive front that had no answers.

In the passing game, things weren't quite so pretty.

EJ Manuel was under pressure throughout the game. Manuel was sacked three times, forced out of the pocket far more often, and by halftime, FSU had completed just five passes.

Given the myriad questions regarding the inexperienced offensive line entering the season, the struggles in pass protection against Wake Forest are reason for some concern.

"It wasn't perfect," fullback Lonnie Pryor said. "It may look good watching, but it wasn't perfect. We had some good plays and we had some bad plays. We still need to work on pass blocking and be more focused and do things right."

Wake Forest didn't make things easy.

The Demon Deacons routinely threw a five-man front at Florida State, forcing the line to adjust, the backs and tight ends to pick up blitzes, and forcing Manuel to make quick decisions. It took one full half before Florida State adjusted to those things.

Moreover, Wake’s base 3-4 defense was further complicated when Jimbo Fisher was forced to use backup Daniel Glauser at right tackle after starter Menelik Watson missed two practices -- and a bulk of the preparation for the Deacon's defense.

"It was a little different," Jackson said. "I believe we were coached well on it during the week. Our coaches got us some good looks with the scout team and we were well prepared for it."

Still, there were missed assignments on the line. There were backs that failed to pick up blocks. There were receivers that broke off routes too soon and times when Manuel held the ball too long, left the pocket too soon or simply delivered a throw that was off the mark.

After two straight weeks in which Florida State was simply far more physical and athletic than the opposition, Wake Forest at least provided a test, and the grades weren't quite as high as Fisher might have liked.

"We've still got a lot of things we've got to clean up, still have a lot of sloppiness in a lot of areas," Fisher said.

Even in the running game, things weren't perfect.

Late in the second quarter, a 20-yard screen pass and a 10-yard run set up what appeared to be another easy scoring chance for Florida State, but Pryor and James Wilder Jr. failed to find the end zone on three straight tries from inside the 2-yard line.

A year ago, pass protection and short yardage doomed the Florida State offense. On Saturday, there was no slowing the Seminoles, but those problems haven’t disappeared.

Still, Manuel insists progress has been made, and the steps Florida State needs to take to iron the remaining flaws aren't major.

“Nothing out of the ordinary, but just to be more consistent," Manuel said. "I think that there are some throws that I missed and then some catches that they usually don’t miss, but just as an offense we have to be more detailed.”

That's how Fisher sees things, too.

Criticism is tough to come by after winning three games by a score of 176-3, but Fisher knows there is work to be done.

And yet, there's no ignoring the outcomes, regardless of the level of competition or the handful of flaws that managed to surface anyway. For now, at least, he'll measure progress by how far FSU's line has come rather than how much further they have to go.

"We're head and shoulders above where we were," Fisher said. "Are we where we want to be? No, we're not close. But we're making a lot of progress."

Grading the Game: FSU 52, Wake Forest 0 

September, 16, 2012
Through the first two games, grades had to be scaled down a tad because the opponents weren't very good.

This week? Well, it's tough to say. The final score -- a 52-0 FSU win -- hardly indicates Wake Forest was much of a challenge either. On the other hand, there's a good case to be made that the Demon Deacons are still the fifth-best team FSU will face this year, so how easy could it have been?

In the end, there were a few causes for concern Saturday, mostly in the passing game, but it was such a complete all-around performance, with a dominant day from the running game, the defense and on special teams, that it's easy to understand why so many fans walked out of Doak Campbell believing they'd finally gotten an answer to the question: Is this the year Florida State is back?

Fisher sees room to improve on offense

September, 15, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher could list the ugly plays from memory.

EJ Manuel missed a sideline route to Rodney Smith. He overthrew Lonnie Pryor on a route that Pryor gave up on too soon. He had hands in his face too often throughout the game. There were a few drops by receivers, too.

It was a 52-0 win, but Fisher knows his offense could've played better.

"I've got it on the quarterback, I've got it on our protection, and I've got it on our receivers," Fisher said. "I think all three phases could do a better job."

Complaining about missed assignments and dropped balls are a luxury for a team that is now 3-0 for the first time since 2005 and has outscored its opposition 176-3 thus far.

But the task gets tougher this week with Clemson looming on the horizon, and Fisher aims to iron out any flaws in the offense.

Some of the problems were caused by Wake Forest's 3-4 scheme, which offered few surprises but still managed to prove a bit complex for Florida State's blockers. Right tackle Daniel Glauser looked bad on a number of plays in his first start of the season, while fullbacks and tight ends failed to pick up blitzes on several others, Fisher said.

"It was a little different," guard Tre Jackson said. "All we really came out trying to do was not mess it up. We continue to work and get better."

Glauser was in the lineup because starting right tackle Menelik Watson missed three practices this week with an ankle injury. Watson played in the second half, but Fisher said he was wary of giving the junior college transfer a lot of work against the unique Wake defense without the proper preparation.

The rest of the offensive line looked a bit perplexed at times, too, and at halftime, Manuel was just 5-of-11 passing for 75 yards. His production improved in the third quarter, but he was under duress throughout. The Florida State line allowed its first three sacks of the season.

But while the offensive line struggled at time in pass protection, the run blocking was stellar.

Florida State racked up 385 yards rushing Saturday, led by two long touchdown runs for Chris Thompson. Both runs went to the right side, with Jackson opening up the holes.

So while there remains work to be done on the line, Jackson said, it's tough not to celebrate the line's performance against Wake Forest.

"That's the best feeling as an offensive lineman you can have, when you set the block, open up the hole, and you see your running back bust through," he said. "You're just running behind him cheering him on."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A year ago, Chris Thompson's career nearly ended against Wake Forest. He took a handoff, cut inside, lowered his head, and ran into a tackle that broke two bones in his back and ended his season.

Thompson said this had been an emotional week as he thought back to the injury and how far he has come since, and, in the first half Saturday, he marked the occasion by delivering one of the best running performances in Florida State history.

Thompson had touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards in the second quarter, helping Florida State to a 38-0 halftime lead.

Stat of the half: 197. That's Thompson's rushing total in the first half, more than double his total for the entirety of the 2011 season. In addition to his dominance on the ground, Thompson added two catches for 23 more yards.

Player of the half: Thompson, of course. The senior tailback had already tallied the 10th-best rushing day in Florida State history with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. The two long touchdowns were the fourth and fifth of Thompson's career of at least 70 yards. Thompson was responsible for 62 percent of Florida State's total offense in the first half.

What's working for FSU: Aside from Thompson, the special teams have been the key. Rashad Greene returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, his second of the year. Dustin Hopkins has pinned Wake Forest inside the 20 on five of six kickoffs, and punter Cason Beatty delivered two exceptional kicks in the first quarter to pin the Deacons deep in their own territory.

What's not working for FSU: Despite Thompson's big day, it's hard to say the first big test for Florida State's offensive line has gone well. The pass protection has been bad, with EJ Manuel sacked twice and under pressure throughout. The Seminoles also were stuffed three straight times from inside the 2 in the second quarter. Pass protection and short-yardage play were big concerns a year ago, and the revamped line has done little to show it has turned a corner.

Noteworthy: Florida State has outscored its first three opponents of the season by a combined 162-0 in less than nine quarters of action. … Right tackle Menelik Watson (ankle) was available for Saturday's game, but Daniel Glauser got the start. … Defensive end Bjoern Werner added 1.5 sacks in the first half and has 6.5 for the season.

Wake gives FSU first big test

September, 15, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State has opened the year with big expectations before, but, for the past six seasons, that early hype has worn off by Week 3.

The Seminoles haven't opened a season 3-0 since 2005, and, to snap that streak this year, they'll need to get by a Wake Forest team that has won four of its past six meetings with Florida State.

"They’re much more athletic than people think," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Wake’s got good players."

Despite the history and Fisher's words of warning, Florida State remains a four-touchdown favorite for the game.

Perhaps a bigger concern for the Seminoles is the fact that their starters have played only about three quarters through two games, both blowout wins over FCS opponents. Wake Forest represents by far Florida State's biggest test thus far as well as the opening of conference play.

"I don't think the fact that we haven't played a whole lot will bother us at all," quarterback EJ Manuel said. "I think if I still played, I'd have had the same focus and mentality. I don't think it's going to affect us. If anything, it's going to help us because we're more rested. Those guys have had two dogfights."

Florida State right tackle Menelik Watson missed several practices this week with an ankle injury, but he was on the field for warm-ups and Fisher said he expects the junior to be available for the game. Still, fellow junior college transfer Daniel Glauser will get the start at right tackle.

Wake Forest, on the other hand, will be without starting nose guard Nikita Whitlock, who had seven tackles and a sack in last year's win over the Seminoles.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher expects to have Menelik Watson and Xavier Rhodes ready for Saturday's game against Wake Forest after the pair of starters missed practice time this week.

[+] EnlargeXavier Rhodes
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreFlorida State defensive back Xavier Rhodes is expected to play on Saturday.
Watson injured an ankle during Tuesday's practice and did not work out with the team Wednesday. He was limited during Thursday's drills, but he appeared to be moving well and Fisher doesn't anticipate a need to sit the right tackle Saturday.

"He was out there moving around, took a rep or two, and the ankle is good," Fisher said. "We're expecting him to play."

Fellow junior college transfer Daniel Glauser took the bulk of the reps with the first-team offensive line, and Fisher said he wouldn't be concerned about using the backup right tackle against Wake Forest if necessary.

Rhodes missed Tuesday's practice with flu symptoms, but he was back on the field Thursday, laughing and joking with teammates during drills and appearing to be past the illness.

In fact, Fisher said Rhodes has been remarkably impressive this week.

"Xavier has looked as good as he's every looked the last couple days," Fisher said.

The only new addition to Florida State's injury report is linebacker Markuss Eligwe, who will not be available this week with a hand injury. Eligwe was already slated to redshirt this season.

Going for Goldman: Ronald Darby's quick start in the secondary and the will-they-or-won't-they decisions on redshirts for Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher have garnered the most attention among freshmen performances thus far, but defensive tackle Eddie Goldman continues to make progress, too.

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