Sept. 1, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After months of conditioning and three weeks of on-field practice, the fifth-ranked Florida State football wrapped up their preparation for Saturday’s home-opener with Louisiana-Monroe in the team room for Thursday’s final mental quiz.
“I think our guys are ready,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’ve got a couple days now to get our legs ready … and our bodies ready to hit on Saturday. ULM is going to be a great opponent. It’s an experienced team, a good team and we’re going to have to go play our A-game. I was pretty happy with the way we practiced.”
Coming off a 10-4 season, the Seminoles are about to embark on one of the most highly-anticipated seasons in a decade. They will face a ULM squad that was 5-7 last year but is favored to win the Sun Belt Conference and land the school’s first bowl berth.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Single-game tickets are still available through the Seminoles.com or the Florida State ticket office.
Game management has Fisher on alert
In 2010, Fisher’s Seminoles were never penalized for delay of game and had less than a handful of substitution infractions. Those are the kind of game management issues that confront each team and coaching staff in the opening week of the season.
The uncertainty of how a team will handle those situations is one reason for uneasiness by coaches leading up to season-openers.
“There always has been for the last 100 years and there always will be for the next 100,” Fisher said. “Every coach feels the same until you go play a game and an opener. You feel good and guys have done it, but still, you go out there and play on Saturday … and see where your guys are.
“If go you ask every coach at every level across the country right now and they have the same feeling.”
Though Fisher was “extremely happy” with how the 2010 Seminoles handled those situations, a new year and a different team brings an entirely new sideline and game management element into play when it comes to substitutions and getting plays signaled in.
“All of those little things like that, you try to coach and prepare, but until you get in a game and do it (you don’t know),” Fisher added. “Those are first game things that hopefully you’ve got ironed out. Those are administrative things that you hope won’t plague us on Saturday.”
Avoiding those “self-inflicted” wounds requires discipline from both the players and coaches, and go a long way toward earning a high mark from the head coach.
“That’s a thing as a coach you don’t sleep about,” Fisher said.
Warhawks’ no-huddle will be a key test
ULM’s no-huddle, spread offense, featuring a lot of motion and an ample sampling of misdirection and trickery, has had the Seminoles’ attention throughout preparation for Saturday. FSU’s defense struggled at times early last season against the no-huddle, most noticeably in the Oklahoma loss.
No fewer than five teams the Seminoles faced after Oklahoma used the no-huddle at some point.
To that end, ULM should provide a good gauge for the progress the Seminoles have made in that area.
“Everybody’s doing it,” Fisher said of the no-huddle. “That’s becoming the norm now instead of the exception. That’s the hot trend of what’s going on in college football out there right now. You better be able to handle it.”
Shaw’s return helps improving receiving corps
Sophomore wide receiver Kenny Shaw, who suffered an ankle sprain in FSU’s final scrimmage a week ago, has been back at full speed throughout game week practice. That’s especially helpful since it appears the Seminoles will be without wide receiver Willie Haulstead (concussion).
“Kenny played the whole week,” Fisher said. “He was rolling. He makes a big difference; a huge difference. He’s been very productive and had two great scrimmages.”
Haulstead’s absence should be lessened by the continued development of the entire receiving corps, led by senior Bert Reed, junior Rodney Smith, sophomores Scooter Haggins and Greg Dent, redshirt freshman Christian Green and true freshman Rashad Greene.
“I think we’ve got six, seven or eight guys ready to play,” Fisher said. “I feel great about all those guys.”
In case you’re wondering …
There is no plan in place to limit starting quarterback EJ Manuel’s repetitions against ULM in an effort to get redshirt freshman back-up Clint Trickett his first taste of action. Fisher made that abundantly clear following Thursday’s practice:
“You play the game to win. If [other quarterbacks] get work, they get work. We expect this to be a tough game. … We expect EJ to be playing 60 minutes.”
The following players will not play in the opener due to injury:
OG Henry Orelus (concussion)
WR Willie Haulstead (concussion)
WR Josh Gehres (knee)
LS Chris Revell (wrist)
LB Holmes Onwukaife (shoulder)