ACC: James Wilder


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The game was billed as a battle of division leaders, but Duke hardly looked the part Saturday as Florida State dominated the Blue Devils en route to a 48-7 victory.

Despite Duke's upstart status this season, little has changed in its rivalry with the Seminoles. EJ Manuel threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler Hunter added a 75-yard punt return for a score and Florida State cruised to its 18th victory in as many tries against the Blue Devils.

It was over when: James Wilder Jr. rumbled into the end zone from 1 yard out just 1:50 into the second quarter. That touchdown put Florida State ahead 24-0, and it was already clear that in spite of all the buzz leading up to the game surrounding Duke's sudden resurgence, the Blue Devils simply weren't in the same class as the Seminoles.

Game ball goes to: Wilder and Devonta Freeman. There were plenty of stout performances, from Manuel's long passes to stellar defensive work by Cornellius Carradine and Christian Jones. But coming into the game, the big question was how Florida State's ground game would respond to the loss of starting tailback Chris Thompson, and Freeman and Wilder offered an emphatic answer. The pair combined for 174 yards on 25 carries and scored three times on the ground. Since Thompson's injury, Wilder and Freeman have averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

Stat of the game: Manuel wasn't asked to do much against Duke, but when he unloaded in the passing game, it was usually for a big play. Manuel averaged 17.6 yards per attempt against Duke -- the highest average of his career. Five of Manuel's eight completions gained at least 30 yards, and he finished with 282 yards passing. In his two career starts against Duke, Manuel has completed just 17 passes, but five have gained 50 yards or more. Meanwhile, Duke's quarterbacks averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt Saturday.

Unsung hero: Dustin Hopkins. OK, so neither of his field goals meant a whole lot in determining the outcome, but Hopkins connected on a 56-yard kick with 9:40 to go in the fourth quarter to set the ACC's all-time record for most field goals in a career, eclipsing former Maryland kicker Nick Novak. Hopkins has 15 field goals in his last five games, but the 58-yarder was a career-long for the senior. He's just 10 points shy of setting the NCAA record for most points scored in a career.

Record performance: Hopkins provided the only ACC record of the day, as Duke's Conner Vernon will have to wait to set the conference record for receiving yards. Vernon entered play needing 94 yards to break Peter Warrick's career mark for ACC receivers, but he managed just three catches for 12 yards.

Cause for concern: It was an easy win for Florida State, but fumbles remained a big problem for the second consecutive game. FSU coughed up the football four times Saturday, with Duke recovering each of them. This comes on the heels of a six-fumble performance against Miami last week. The problems were across the board, too, with Manuel fumbling on a QB run, Rodney Smith fumbling after a long reception, Freeman coughing up the football on a running play and Hunter muffing a return.

NoleNation links: Green, but big, OTs

August, 28, 2012
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David Hale writes: Opposing defenses in 2012 will be greeted in a most unfriendly manner by FSU’s big, bruising -- but relatively new -- offensive tackles.

Hale: Murray State coach Chris Hatcher Q&A in advance of the Seminoles' season opener.

Hale: Florida State’s Monday afternoon practice notes.

Corey Dowlar writes: Class of 2015 ATH Ryan Davis from St. Petersburg, Fla., is glad to have his second offer so early in his high school career, this one from the Seminoles.

Hale: While he’s excelling beyond expectations in fall camp, one of RB James Wilder Jr.’s biggest hurdles for the time being will be proving he's matured as a person.

Hale: Chat wrap on all things Seminoles. Also: Check back tomorrow to chat with Corey Dowlar in NoleNation's forum, Tomahawk Talk.

NoleNation links: Wilder gets sentence

June, 28, 2012
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NoleNation has more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles:

James Wilder update: The FSU running back accepted a plea deal and admitted to violating the terms of his probation. He will serve three more days in jail.

Carry the Spear Insider: The series looks at Kelvin Benjamin. He arrived in Tallahassee as a raw product, but the 6-foot-6 receiver is steadily developing.

March on 2012: Murray State preview: Florida State opens the season with Murray State. The only drama for this one could be whether Bobby Bowden returns for his Hall of Fame induction.

NoleNation links: Opening day

June, 26, 2012
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Today is the launch of NoleNation, RecruitingNation's site dedicated to the Florida State Seminoles. Check it out here.

David Hale writes: Jimbo Fisher has revived the energy in the Florida State football program, thanks to loyal fans who thrive on tradition -- and a recent infusion of talent.

Hale also writes: Insider Running back James Wilder remains jailed after violating probation Friday night. His attorney says he expects a hearing Wednesday or Thursday and that his time served will put an end to the case.
Our series continues today with the Seminoles, who face the same storyline that they seem to face heading into every season: Are they back?

For a complete recap of the series, click here.

Florida State: LT Cameron Erving

2011 stats: The 6-foot-5, 304-pound Erving played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman … and recorded 20 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack as a defensive tackle.

What he means to the Seminoles: So how is a player who is stepping into a new position the most important on a squad with the talent to contend for a conference crown? Simple: To compete, FSU needs to protect EJ Manuel, and it needs a consistent ground game. The Seminoles were the nation's No. 104 rushing offense last season. Manuel, for one, carried the ball just 10 fewer times than leading running back Devonta Freeman, who was banged up this spring. FSU should be deeper in the backfield, with Chris Thompson, James Wilder and Mario Pender seeing more action this spring. And with FSU's returning talent among its receivers, Manuel will need the opportunity to make more plays with his arm. Which brings us to Erving, who is replacing left tackle Zebrie Sanders, a likely draft pick this weekend. Sanders was the only non-freshman starter on the line at the end of last season, and growing pains still have to be expected among the young unit in 2012. Erving is the newest of the bunch, and he is playing the most important position. And a smooth transition there could go a long way in helping FSU protect Manuel, improve its ground game and compete for an ACC crown this coming season.
Our Travis Haney puts the spotlight on specific position groups for five different elite programs, saying these are the units that are key to each squad fulfilling expectations in 2012.

Not surprisingly, Florida State's running backs crack the list .
It was a carousel last year, with six backs getting more than 23 carries. That's not counting quarterback EJ Manuel, who ran 110 times -- only 10 fewer than the team's leading rusher, Devonta Freeman. Freeman, who ran for 579 yards and eight touchdowns, eventually won the job as a freshman. The half-dozen backs rushed for 4.2 yards a carry, but the coaches felt that could have been better.

The competition was opened up this spring, and thrust even wider by injuries to Freeman and oft-banged-up senior Chris Thompson. Sophomore James Wilder, a larger candidate at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, could be a possible breakout back. Early enrollee Mario Pender could become a factor in the fall, too. Freeman showed last year that coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff are not afraid to play a freshman.

It's not all on the backs; FSU is still going to be extremely young along the offensive line. It could start as many as three sophomores up front.

The Seminoles ranked 105th last season in rushing yards per carry. They started four true freshmen offensive linemen in the Champs Sports Bowl win over Notre Dame. And they had way too many three-and-outs to balance their offense. If FSU wants to finally live up to the annual hype, it will need a boost from the backfield this season.
There are only a few recruits in the country who have the power to make grown men scream and rejoice like the teenagers they're pursuing.

James Wilder is one of them.

Wilder, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back from Plant High School and the No. 19 player in the ESPNU 150, chose Florida State over Florida and Georgia. He had a little fun with Georgia fans, torturing them in the process, thanks to a false Internet rumor that said he was heading to Athens. Wilder is the son of former NFL player James Wilder, and his commitment could have a ripple effect on the rest of the 2011 class.

Florida State is recruiting like it's 1999.

The Seminoles haven't done a darn thing on the field yet to impress these recruits, which makes what Jimbo Fisher and his staff have done on the recruiting trail even more impressive. Florida State just beat Florida where it counts the most. The Seminoles aren't back in the national picture on the field yet, but they've returned to that level in recruiting. It's only a matter of time before that translates into wins.

"We talk personnel and recruiting every day," said offensive line coach Rick Trickett. "He's wearing it out. He's on the phone every day. He's all over that. That's his No. 1 priority right now."

And it shows in this recruiting class.

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