TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State defense expects a test on Saturday, but it at least will be different than what the Seminoles have gotten used to over the first month of the season. North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is big-armed, accurate and productive, and he can take off running when he needs to. But, compared to the likes Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or USF’s Quinton Flowers, Trubisky might not present the same every-down running threat. While the Seminoles don’t believe that makes Trubisky any less dangerous, they’re at least looking forward to a new challenge.
Trubisky and the No. 23 Tar Heels visit No. 12 Florida State on Saturday (3:30, ESPN) for the first meeting between the two programs since 2010.
“It’s a little bit better because smaller, more mobile quarterbacks can make us look kind of crazy with our feet,” sophomore defensive tackle Fredrick Jones said.
“But,” Jones quickly added, “he can still move, there’s no doubt. … he’s got some wheels on him.”
He does, as evidenced by the 39-yard scamper he had against Illinois a few weeks ago.
Where Trubisky is really dangerous, though, is through the air. He ranks 10th nationally with 1,306 passing yards this season and, after an uneven performance in his debut against Georgia, Trubisky has upped his passing yardage and touchdown totals in each subsequent game.
Trubisky’s early success culminated in last week’s win over Pittsburgh, where Trubisky completed 35 of 46 attempts for 453 yards and five touchdowns.
“I like him,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But he’s going to be a pain in the tail.”
Trubisky’s only number that hasn’t gone up? Interceptions. He has yet to throw one this season, and his 74.5 completion percentage is the second-best in the nation.
“I think he’s the most accurate quarterback that we’ll face,” senior cornerback Marquez White said. “He has really good ball placement, and has really good receivers to throw the ball to. That always helps, too.”
Chief among those receivers is speedy senior Ryan Switzer, who at 5-10, 185 pounds has emerged as both Trubisky’s top target and one of the most dynamic receivers in the ACC.
Switzer, a native of Charleston, W.Va., (FSU coach Jimbo Fisher affectionately called him “a dadgum hillbilly from West Virginia.”) is second in the league with 33 catches and 429 yards.
He’s also perhaps the best punt returner in the nation, with seven punt returns for touchdowns throughout his career.
Trubisky’s big day against Pitt coincided with a comparable effort from Switzer – 16 catches, 208 yards and a touchdown.
“He runs real smooth routes, kind of similar to Travis Rudolph, who I go against all the time,” FSU cornerback Marcus Lewis said. “He’s a real good receiver.”
So the passing game will likely be on display Saturday, which means another opportunity for FSU’s secondary to test its chops against one of the finest passers in the nation.
Consider that in the first month of the season, FSU faced a potential Heisman candidate in Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and the current Heisman frontrunner in Louisville’s Jackson, as well as USF’s dynamic dual-threat Flowers.
And the road doesn’t get easier. The Seminoles will face Trubisky on Saturday, Miami’s Brad Kaaya next week, and then Clemson’s Deshaun Watson at the end of October.
White says he welcomes the challenge, starting this week with the Tar Heels.
“Me, I want to see a couple more passes (thrown my way),” he said. “I know they’ve got great receivers. I know I can get a couple more targets.”