TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins met with the media Monday to recap the Seminoles’ recent open week and preview Saturday’s rivalry game at Florida – otherwise known as the Fresh From Florida Sunshine Showdown.
Here are highlights from that conversation:
‘We’ve got our hands full’: Florida State’s last game of the regular season will provide one of the Seminoles’ biggest tests. Florida is ranked No. 8 in the country, boasts a 9-2 record and has lost only to No. 1 LSU and No. 4 Georgia.
As such, and as Haggins noted, Florida has talented players across the board.
“Florida is a very good football team,” he said. “Excellent defense, excellent skill-position (players) on offense, extremely good quarterback.
“So we’ve got our hands full.”
The Seminoles, 6-5 after beating Alabama State two weeks ago, have made themselves at home in Gainesville in recent years.
They’ve won four consecutive games at UF’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the longest winning streak by a visitor in the series since the mid-1970s.
“It’s a big game,” Haggins said. “A one-game series.”
Akers, Boselli expected back: An open week allowed the Seminoles a chance to rest and recuperate, and, as a result, they’ll go into Saturday’s game as close to full strength as can be this time of year.
First and foremost, Haggins confirmed that running back Cam Akers is expected to be available after missing the Alabama State game with an undisclosed injury.
“He’ll be back,” Haggins said.
Having Akers in the lineup will give the Seminoles’ upset bid a boost. The junior has amassed 1,042 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and will be in the conversation for All-ACC honors in a few weeks.
Haggins also said he expects center Andrew Boselli to return to the lineup against UF.
Boselli, who took over as FSU’s first-choice center midway through the season, has been nursing an ankle injury.
“He’s all right,” Haggins said. “He’s going to be there.”
Starting QB to be determined: For the first time in a few weeks, both Alex Hornibrook and James Blackman are expected to be healthy and available. As for which will be first onto the field Saturday, Haggins wasn’t ready to say.
“We’re going to find out who’s playing the best in practice. That’s who is going to play,” Haggins said. “Kendal (Briles, FSU’s offensive coordinator) and myself, we get together and talk about the situations on offense that we need to talk about.”
Blackman, a redshirt sophomore, has thrown for 1,945 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while Hornibrook, a fifth-year senior, has 986 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
More pressure needed: Asked if he’d like to see his defense generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Haggins smiled and said that, ideally, the Seminoles would have 10 sacks in every game.
That might not be realistic, but he would like to see more than just the two that they generated against Alabama State. Particularly against a Florida line that ranks 75th nationally in sacks allowed (2.18 per game).
Haggins noted that modern offenses can make it harder to get sacks, because quarterbacks are so quick in getting rid of the ball.
So, in that case, the Seminoles need to find other ways to disrupt opposing offenses.
“What we’ve got to do is start batting balls down,” he said, “getting our hands up.”
Turkey Day Plans: Despite the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the Seminoles will have a normal week of practices – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning – before spending Thanksgiving dinner with their respective position groups.
Haggins’ holiday plan is the latest sign of his commitment to bringing the players and coaches together and creating a family atmosphere throughout the locker room. He did something similar two weeks ago, following the Seminoles’ win at Boston College.
“As a coach, I think that’s very important,” he said. “The guys can go out to the house, relax, eat, sleep. Then eat some more and sleep some more.”
“Florida State is built on a family,” Haggins continued, “and that’s what I wanted our kids to do – go out and have fun with their coaches and their wives and their kids.”