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Talking FSU With The Chop Shop

My thanks to The Chop Shop for taking the time to answer some questions and enlighten us about the Seminoles. My answers to some Wolfpack-related questions will be up at The Chop Shop later tonight or tomorrow.

1) I heard that FSU played in front of a lot of empty seats against Rice. Was that a sign of growing frustration with the program, or was it just because Rice was the opponent?

To quote Grandpa Simpson, "a little from Column A, a little from Column B". The Rice game was the third straight home game, and for a lot of FSU fans who live out of town (like me) it's expensive and draining to travel three weeks in a row. Plus, FSU fans are accustomed to a slightly higher level of competition. At the same time, a lot of fans are fed up with the offensive staff. There was a thread on Warchant a few weeks ago asking fans to boycott the games to protest the Jeff Bowden era, which may the dumbest idea since Fox hired Tim McCarver to announce post-season baseball. But maybe some fans are going through with it. FSU has great fans, but now everyone realizes that JB isn't getting it done - and possibly never will - yet we're stuck with him as long as Bobby's the coach. It's a frustrating situation for the fans - and for the players, if you heard any of Antonio Cromartie's recent comments. Everybody loves Bobby, but six straight years of declining offense are tough to take for fans that are used to offensive fireworks and National Championship races.

2) What's the deal at quarterback? Should we expect to see any of Xavier Lee on Thursday?

Personally I would like to see more of X. The knock on Xavier has always been his grasp of the offense, but he's in his third year so that had better not be a problem anymore. He has physical gifts that Drew Weatherford can't match, but he doesn't seem to have Drew's poise. X is more of a high-risk/high-reward player at this point, but something is obviously wrong with the offense, and if it's not working why not try something else? After his performance against Rice I think he earned more playing time, but this offensive staff is extremely cautious so if the game is close - which I think it will be - we probably won't see much of Xavier until the Duke game.

3) I really thought FSU's offense would be better this season. What are some of the reasons for the ineffectiveness--aside from playcalling?

Jeff Bowden deserves all of the criticism he's received - his business card says "Offensive Coordinator" so if the offense stinks it's his fault. Having said that, no one on FSU's offensive staff has earned his paycheck this season. QB Coach Darryl Dickey hasn't received nearly enough blame for the job he'd done - or hasn't done - developing QB's at FSU, which was a QB factory once upon a time. Billy Sexton's RBs have been a major disappointment so far - especially Lorenzo Booker - with all the dancing behind the line. And OL coach Mark McHale has been the biggest disaster of all. The OL is better than last year, but they spent all summer working on the running game and FSU still hasn't found any consistency on the ground. Obviously the players have to raise their games, but this is a very young offense that seems to lack leadership - the loss of Leon Washington was bigger than people realize - and I think the burden is on the coaches to get them straightenend out.

4) Where do you think NC State can exploit the Seminoles (if anywhere)?

The most obvious problem for FSU is the loss of Tony Carter, who has been our best cover guy since his first game. Sophomore Michael Ray Garvin will take his place, with a freshman backing him up. Our most experienced CB is junior JR Bryant, and he just got benched for redshirt freshman Jaime Robinson. True freshman Myron Rolle will start at rover. Junior Free Safety Roger Williams should be the leader of the secondary, but so far he's been the weak link of the entire defense. The entire secondary is a question mark right now so that would be my first guess. Unfortunately most of FSU's injuries have been at the Defensive Tackle position, to the point that Mickey Andrews moved our best DE inside to shore up the depth. So we might struggle against the pass, but at least our run-stoppers are all hurt. Yikes!

5) What's the final score going to be?

I know I've sounded pretty negative in all my answers, but I actually have a lot of hope for the 'Noles this season. The offense looked night-and-day better against Rice - and yes, I realize it was Rice - with much better play-calling and a physical running attack that had been missing all season. Fortunately FSU has recruited well on defense and our coaches on that side of the ball are among the nation's best, so I don't think the defense will drop off too badly. I don't know if Daniel Evans is experienced enough to exploit FSU's young secondary, and the 'Noles still have a bunch of heat-seeking missiles at LB, and they'll all be aimed at Andre Brown. While I fear that Jeff Bowden may revert to being...well, Jeff Bowden, I think the 'Noles pull it out 20-14.