Time to open playbook
Most of what FSU can do on offense hasn't been used since offseason 7-on-7 drills
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Twelve plays represented a full day's work for Florida State's defense in a blowout of Savannah State last week.
It was barely enough to break a sweat, so linebacker Nick Moody decided to undertake a clandestine operation. As the second-team defense jogged onto the field, Moody did his best to discretely shuffle in with the backups, hoping to get just a few more reps before being permanently glued to the bench.
The ruse didn't last long.
"They told him to get his tail off the field," EJ Manuel said.
Manuel could empathize with Moody's quest for more work. Snaps have been hard to come by the first two weeks as Florida State has dominated overmatched opponents. After a long offseason, a summer filled with workouts and a grueling fall camp, the reward for the Seminoles starters has been little more than three quarters of action in their first two games.
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"The first two games were just basic stuff, and now we're opening it up," receiver Rashad Greene said. "It's very exciting."
Manuel estimates Florida State's offense showed only about 3 percent of its playbook against Murray State and Savannah State, which might be a scary thought given that the Seminoles still managed 114 points in 97 minutes of game time.
Jimbo Fisher only provided a few hints at what might be in store down the road -- an end around with Kelvin Benjamin, a few shovel passes to running backs -- but there are entire chapters of Florida State's playbook that have been collecting dust since seven-on-seven drills this summer.
"Coach Fisher likes to throw the kitchen sink at you during the summer," Manuel said. "When I saw him (Monday), he was smiling and ready to go."
The smiles, Manuel said, are a good indication that Fisher is looking to debut a few of the new wrinkles, and it couldn't happen soon enough for the players.
In the season opener, the starters were done by early in the third quarter. Last week, they were out by the end of the first.
"That was like the first three periods of practice," Manuel said. "It went by so quick when we don't get an opportunity to play."
That's something of a double-edged sword for a team preparing for a run at a conference title.
On the one hand, there's little that can be learned from the game film of these first two weeks. His offense looked sharp, his defense looked hungry, but the level of competition could certainly have skewed the results.
On the practice field, however, Florida State has been exceptional, with players' focus unwavering despite the opposition.
"I've been taking practice a lot more seriously, going a lot harder, paying attention to the little things," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "Because in the game, especially against lesser opponents, it's hard to get in a rhythm when you know in the back of your head, 'I've only got two or three series.' "
The key now, Fisher said, is taking that same focus his team showed preparing for FCS foes and delivering an equally impressive performance against better competition.
"Things will happen faster, quicker, more physical, there's no doubt," Fisher said. "But we need to keep our exact same mental frame of mind."
In essence, the preparation this summer, through fall camp and even during the past two weeks of the season have been aimed toward this Saturday.
The early afternoon scrimmages under the hot sun prepped Florida State for the noon start time against Wake Forest. The drills the offense ran against varied coverage schemes were preparation for the Demon Deacons' 3-4 defense. All the film study of Murray State and Savannah State tested the Seminoles' ability to play focused, assignment football -- something they'll need against fundamentally sound Wake Forest.
For months, the games have been an afterthought, but practice has been intense. Finally, they'll have a chance to show off their work on the field.
"Practice is the harder part to be constant," Greene said. "The game is the time to have fun and let it all show."