BTP: What’s the latest on Deondre Francois? Will he be able to play Saturday? If he isn’t able to play, how does that affect FSU’s offense?
TN: I’m writing this Tuesday night and he hasn’t practiced yet this week, so I’m not sure. I will say the hit he left the game on did not look bad at all, so I don’t know what was going on there. It may have been a cumulative thing, or maybe he just decided he’d had enough. Quite frankly, I hope we see James Blackman on Saturday in Raleigh. He may not be better than Francois, but the latter has failed to improve over the course of the season, and I’d like to see what Blackman can do in live action in Taggart’s system. There’s a fear Francois will immediately transfer if benched, but at this point, I really don’t care. I don’t expect him to be Florida State’s quarterback next year, and the bowl streak is not important enough to me to keep starting him right now.
As far as on the field this week, I don’t think it greatly impacts things either way. If Blackman plays he’ll be more mobile than Francois, but he’ll have some growing pains in his first real action in the system. Francois is a known commodity. He’ll hit some throws, take a bunch of sacks, and miss a bunch of reads. Either will probably have some success against NC State’s pass defense, as the ‘Pack have struggled in this area to date. But both will be limited by FSU’s offensive line, which can only do so much this year. A key factor for either will be whether the ‘Noles can get any sort of running game going, as this would open up more options for the unit as a whole.
BTP: Brian Burns has 11 tackles for loss on the season with nine of those being sacks. How is he so effective at disrupting opposing offenses?
TN: He’s a prototypical edge rusher with great speed and length. He’s still a little light, which will limit him against the run on this level and at the next, but he’s what Harlon Barnett and NFL teams will want on the outside. Burns has improved his pass rushing repertoire and has a good motor. He was one of the guys who definitely did not quit against Clemson last week when he easily could have given his draft status next spring.
BTP: Florida State has a brutal stretch of @NCSU, @Notre Dame, BC and Florida in their last four games. What’s your expectation for how those play out, and can FSU get to being bowl eligible?
TN: Bowl eligibility is the question at the forefront of FSU fans’ minds at the moment. I think the fanbase’s optimism really took a hit last week, which is not surprising, but might be a little illogical. Florida State was not going to beat Clemson and was probably going to get blown out. Now, nobody saw a 49-point whipping coming, but it really is just one game. It’s an open question, however, how the ‘Noles respond. They bounced back from a really difficult loss at Miami extremely well. The Clemson game saw a different kind of loss, and one in which several players flat-out quit. Bowl eligibility is still within reach, but I just can’t tell you how this team will respond in a tough spot in Raleigh. I do not see FSU winning in South Bend. I think they’ll probably play a coin flip game in Doak, and might be favored. Florida looks to be ahead of schedule, but I don’t count that a sure loss at this point. I expect 1-3 over this stretch right now, which would leave FSU’s at 5-7. But it just depends on how they respond this week.
BTP: Can we just vote Clemson out of the division already? I’m tired of them kicking everyone’s ass.
TN: Yeah we need to move them to the Coastal. It’s not like they’re doing anything over there, anyway. They’ve all apparently agreed to go 4-4 again, harkening back to the old days. Sounds kind of nice, actually. I’d like FSU to go 4-4.
BTP: Nyqwan Murray and Zaquandre White are both suspended for the first half for the game this Saturday - do you see that having a major impact on the game for Florida State?
TN: As to White, no, he’s not an impact player. Murray is an interesting question. He’s a good football player, but he’s also an enigma. Francois is his buddy and looks for him way, way too often at the expense of other players. He’ll be the guy who wins the game against Louisville, and also the guy who pouts when he doesn’t get the ball and throws punches when he gets frustrated. I’d be fine not seeing him anymore this season, even though there’s not denying his talent. Florida State also has other talented slot receivers, like DJ Matthews and Tre’Shaun Harrison, and I’d be happy to see them get Noonie’s targets for the rest of 2018.
BTP: Who on NC State gives you the most concern heading into Saturday?
TN; It’s the copout answer and I hate to give it, but it just has to be Ryan Finley. Harlon Barnett’s base cover-4 scheme is quite aggressive, and as a result, opposing quarterbacks will have open shots down the field against the blitz. Florida State hasn’t faced many quarterbacks who can hit those shots (Trevor Lawrence obviously could, but he’s unfair). So I think that’s the thing to watch this Saturday. If State is able to pick up FSU’s pressure, Finley will have chances to hit big plays. If he does, I strongly doubt FSU will be able to hang on offense. That’s why he’s my greatest concern—he just has the ability to do things through the air the other quarterbacks on this schedule couldn’t.
BTP: Aside from Francois, any other injuries to report?
TN: Well, pretty much the whole offensive line, which has been a problem. Florida State doesn’t have tackles, and their best lineman (Landon Dickerson) is probably done for the year. In addition, freshman defensive tackle Robert Cooper will be out this week, as will tight end Naseir Upshur. FSU’s defense has stayed pretty healthy this year, though.
BTP: Prediction time - who do you see leaving Carter-Finley Stadium with a win?
TN: As I mentioned, I have no idea how they respond after the Clemson game. I’d prefer they had an easier task in front of them in trying to bounce back, but such is life. My ideal scenario is Blackman starts, shows the ability to make zone and RPO reads, and spreads the ball around to FSU’s young skill position talent. Whether that happens or whether Francois comes out and does more of the same, the key will be how FSU’s defense plays against Finley. I think they can force him into some obvious passing situations, but he’s good enough to succeed in them if they don’t get home and play well on the back end. Florida State has to hold the ‘Pack offense in check because they can’t win a shootout. I’ll say the Seminoles respond fairly well, but Finley makes one play too many at home and breaks FSU’s hearts yet again, 27-23.