TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher met with the media Monday afternoon to look back on last week’s 52-8 victory over Charleston Southern, as well as look ahead to this week’s top-10 showdown at Louisville. He also provided an update on the health of Derwin James, the star sophomore safety who left Saturday’s game with a knee injury. Here are five things you need to know.
1) Derwin James will not play at Louisville, but his injury could have been worse
Fisher revealed Monday that James has torn cartilage in his knee. The good news is that James does not have an ACL tear, which would have almost certainly cost him the rest of the season. Fisher also said there is no structural damage to James’ knee. The bad news is that James will miss Saturday’s game at No. 10 Louisville, and there’s no clear timetable for when he will return to action. James had surgery on Monday, and Fisher said what doctors find when operating will help clarify James’ status.
“We’re going to do what’s best for him,” Fisher said. “All it was, was a piece of cartilage that flipped. There was no structural knee damage in any way, shape or form. Don’t know how long (he’ll be out). That’s all going to be dependent on surgery.”
James’ loss is significant. He’s already one of Florida State’s best defenders and his speed and physicality could have made him a great equalizer against Louisville’s dynamic quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
But Fisher also was quick to point out that 1) Florida State cross-trains players as much as possible, so that any number of players can step up in the event of an injury, and 2) the Seminoles still have plenty of promising young players, especially in the secondary.
“That’s why we practice like we practice,” Fisher said. “… When Chris Thompson went down at Miami, nobody had heard of Devonta Freeman. (Thompson) gets hurt and all of a sudden (Freeman) comes in. The way we practiced, we had those young guys ready to play.”
Speaking of which …
2) Plenty of options on defense
Fisher said he expects to have senior Nate Andrews (calf) back in action this week, and his experience and knowledge of FSU’s defense will certainly come in handy.
Beyond that, the Seminoles have lots of combinations they can use this weekend when they try to slow down Jackson and Co.
A.J. Westbrook and Calvin Brewton, two sophomore safeties, have both gotten their feet wet at times this season, and each could have a chance to shine on Saturday.
Fisher reeled off a laundry list of reserve defensive backs who could factor in – Westbrook and Brewton, as well as freshmen Levonta Taylor and Kyle Meyersamong them – and also said he could rearrange FSU’s other starters, if need be.
He specifically mentioned Trey Marshall and Marcus Lewis as players who could handle a variety of roles.
“The way we practice and the way we structure our team, offense and defense, we kind of – not plan for (injuries) – but you kind of put a safeguard around to make sure that all your bases are covered,” Fisher said. “We have some great young players that I think will be able to step up and play.”
Fisher also singled out Matthew Thomas, the junior linebacker who probably best rivals James’ as the most versatile and athletic player on FSU’s defense.
“(You’ve got to decide) how you play Matthew Thomas – whether he’s a ‘mike,’ whether he’s a ‘will,’ whether he’s a rush guy. There’s a lot of variation … We have some athletic guys that can run in space and play in space, and that’s the thing we’re happy about.”
3) Fisher plans to be shorthanded up front
Fisher on Monday did not have a significant update on guards Kareem Are(concussion) or Wilson Bell (ankle), but he did not sound optimistic about either lineman’s status for this week’s game.
Are has yet to play this season, and Bell was a surprise scratch for last week’s home opener against Charleston Southern.
“We’ll have to wait (to hear) from the doctors. I have no idea,” Fisher said. “We’re planning as if we don’t (have Bell and Are) and if we do, we do.”
Fisher did, however, note that he saw improvements on the offensive line from Game 1 to Game 2. He said that center Alec Eberle has graded about the highest in both games, and that left tackle Roderick Johnson has been solid as well.
“Those guys are getting better and better,” Fisher said.
4) Spotlight shines in Louisville
For the first time in nearly three years, the Atlantic Coast Conference will feature a top-10 matchup that isn’t Florida State vs. Clemson.
The Seminoles are up to No. 2 after last week’s victory, and the Cardinals checked in at No. 10 after a pair of overwhelming victories over Charlotte and Syracuse to start the season.
ESPN’s College Gameday will broadcast live from the UL campus, and the game will be shown to a national audience on ABC.
As far as Fisher’s concerned, the national spotlight is just a further confirmation of what he’s been saying for years:
“Our conference is really good, guys,” Fisher said. “I mean, a couple years ago, we he had the most players drafted in any division in college football. … It is great, great football in the ACC and I’m glad the people are starting to see it.”
5) Dalvin Cook rounding into form
Fisher brushed aside any concerns about Dalvin Cook’s status, noting that he had a beautiful 37-yard run against Charleston Southern, and, the week before, he accounted for nearly 200 yards against Ole Miss.
“Last week, everybody thought he was bad and he had 192 yards of offense,” Fisher said. “He had a 100-yard receiving game and 91 yards rushing against a pretty good team. So, he’s a good back. Everybody expects him to have 200 yards every game and that’s just (unreasonable).
Fisher compared Cook with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a Heisman finalist last year who has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start in 2016.
Watson is completing just 52.9 percent of his passes through two games, and he’s thrown four touchdowns against three interceptions.
“Everybody expects Deshaun Watson to go throw for 500 yards every game,” Fisher said. “You don’t just walk back out there and just turn it on. People plan for you, do things. Each year is different. Just because your numbers aren’t the same doesn’t mean you’re not playing as well.”