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Game Preview: No. 11/12 FSU vs. Pittsburgh

Aug 31, 2013

TEAM STATS COMPARISON

#11/12 Florida State Seminoles (0-0, 0-0)
Roster | Schedule | Stats | Game Notes
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Passing (returning 2012 leaders)
Player Pct Yds TDs Int
Jacob Coker 60.0 45 1 0
Rushing (returning 2012 leaders)
Player Att Yds Avg TDs
Devonta Freeman 111 660 5.9 8
James Wilder, Jr. 110 635 5.8 11
Receiving (returning 2012 leaders)
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
Rashad Greene 57 741 52.9 6
Kenny Shaw 33 532 38.0 3
 

Pittsburgh Panthers (0-0, 0-0)
Roster | Schedule | Stats | Game Notes
Head Coach: Paul Chryst
Passing (returning 2012 leaders)
Player Pct Yds TDs Int
Trey Anderson 100.0 53 0 0
Rushing (returning 2012 leaders)
Player Att Yds Avg TDs
Isaac Bennett 29 141 4.9 3
Malcolm Crockett 12 50 4.2 0
Receiving (returning 2012 leaders)
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
Devin Street 73 975 75.0 5
J.P. Holtz 13 173 13.3 3
Brandon Mellor Brandon Mellor
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Key Players: Offense

Florida State

5 Jameis Winston

The nation watched and waited as Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker competed throughout fall camp for the right to start FSU's 2013 opener and Winston did enough to earn the start and become the first redshirt freshman quarterback to open the year as the 'Noles starter since Drew Weatherford in 2005.

Now that the job is his, the next step is to win his first game. To do so, the 'Noles' electric young playmaker must avoid turnovers and manage the offense in a hostile environment Winston's never seen before.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher thinks Winston is better off starting his career on the road, as opposed to the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium.

"My personal opinion, it is better for me to be on the road than at home," Fisher said. "I think there's less distractions."

 
Pittsburgh

15 Devin Street

A near-1,000 yards receiver a season ago as an All-Big East second team selection, Devin Street enters his first year in the ACC as the offensive player to watch for Pitt.

They have a great receiver -- [Devin] Street -- who is a playmaker," a mindful Jimbo Fisher said this week.

While the Panthers are a run-first team, Street could post big numbers thanks to the play-action game and big arm of new starting quarterback Tom Savage, who was recruited at one point by Fisher before originally enrolling and playing as a freshman at Rutgers in 2009.

Against a 'Noles defense with a lot of moving parts susceptable to some first-game jitters and potential communications issues, Street could find himself with unique opportunities to stretch the field and update the scoreboard.

 Key Players: Defense

Florida State

8 Timmy Jernigan

Much has been made about the off-season changes to Florida State's defense with the loss of Mark Stoops to Kentucky and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt from Alabama. And while Pruitt's new multiple-style aggressive defense has some specific differences from Stoops' tradional schemes, there's one core principle that remains the same -- and it all starts up front.

All of the blitzing that FSU will throw at Pittsburgh revolve around a central theme of junior nose guard Timmy Jernigan eating up blockers. As FSU's star in the middle, Jernigan is resposible for occupying two blockers and freeing up his teammates to get after the quarterback and into the opposing backfield.

Against a quarterback like Savage, who is not known for his scrambling ability and athleticism, Jernigan has the chance to collapse the pocket and cause problems for the Panthers' offense

 
Pittsburgh

97 Aaron Donald

The Big East Conference's leader in tackles for loss a season ago, Aaron Donald had a breakout junior campaign in 2012 for the Panthers. Now a senior and the driving force of a stout Panthers defense, Donald will be a key player for Pitt in its quest to combat the 'Noles' veteran offensive line and stable of stellar tailbacks.

"They do a great job of supporting and playing the run," Fisher said. "Very few big plays; a few teams have gotten some on them but not very many. They're very sound fundamentally, mixing blitzes a lot. They're very game-plan oriented on how they do things."

Pittsburgh finished last year ranked 18th in the nation in total defense with a little more than 330 yards allowed each game. With Donald leading the charge in the middle, the Panthers were actually best in the final frame of games, giving up just 52 total points in the fourth quarter.

 Four Downs: Key questions for #FSUvsPITT

1. How will Jameis Winston play?

The Jameis Winston era finally begins Monday night.

He hasn't played a single down of college yet, but already Winston is a household name. From his ballyhooed recruitment as a five-star prospect to his freshman year on the FSU baseball diamond to his memorable spring-game performance and all the one-liners and media-darling moments in between, Winston's star power has shown bright.

But now the real lights come on, and becoming a legitimate college football star means playing up to the lofty -- and perhaps unfair expectations -- that come with being the starting quarterback at Florida State University. His teammates say he's ready and his head coach says he's ready, but nobody really knows exactly what to expect from Winston until he's been under center and taken actual snaps.

With his fame growing and the distractions outside of football becoming more and more plentiful, all eyes will be on Winston Monday night.

2. What will FSU's new defense look like?

Jeremy Pruitt's new defense is all about multiplicity, versatility and aggression.

Most of the off-season attention surrounding FSU has been on the quarterback battle but the shift in defensive mindset and personnel on the defensive side under new defensive coordinator. Pruitt's new aggressive, multiple-style defense has shaken up the depth chart with its moving parts and various formations aimed at disrupting opposing offenses and creating more turnovers.

While Fisher is quick to point out that the 'Noles are not abandoning the core set of principles that helped them become a top-five defense under Stoops, there are still some interesting changes taking place.

"We are keeping the same things in which we have done," Fisher said. "We have had a very good base and a very good foundation on defense, so a lot of those same principles and things we have done will stay right intact. We may add a few new wrinkles, but we are not overhauling our defense."

Still, FSU's depth chart entering the first game looks quite different than the one Stoops employed while he was in Tallahassee. From linebackers putting their hands in the ground and rushing the passer to defensive ends dropping back into coverage and defensive backs blitzing and playing like linebackers, FSU has the ability to throw looks that the Panthers -- and the fans -- have never seen.

"It's a big responsibility for us; that's how I approach the game," FSU senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said. "New in the ACC and we have to welcome the right way. We have to let Pittsburgh know why they call us Florida State and why we are one of the dominant programs in the ACC."

3. Which true freshmen are most likely to play in game one?

Expect to see Jalen Ramsey in the defensive backfield Monday night.

The incredible level of talent that FSU has secured under Fisher's regime will certianly be on display Monday night as the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes are the driving forces of a program that has national-title hopes despite the loss of a school-record 11 NFL Draft selections. Several members of the 2013 signing class also figure to make their own marks this season, with a few players in particular in line for meaningful opportunities right out of the gate.

"There's going to be a lot of [freshman in the game] at different times," Fisher said. "Some of them will have to mix in more than others, but I'm looking forward to it. I hope they all make (an impact). The more guys you get out there, the more experience you get them earlier in their career."

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey has been turning heads since the moment he stepped on campus in June and has pushed himself up the depth chart with the Pitt game looming. Ramsey has earned first-team repetitions during camp and is listed as Joyner's backup. With the amount of rotation that figures to be utilized in the defensive secondary, Ramsey has the poteintal to make an immediate impact and early returns on the Smyrna, Tenn. native are that he has superstar potential.

Joining Ramsey on defense are fellow second-team rookies E.J. Levenberry and Matthew Thomas, who are the backups to senior starters Christian Jones and Telvin Smith at linebacker. Safety Nate Andrews and Keith Bryant are also wildcards that could potentially see some snaps early in their careers.

On the offensive side the ball, Wilson Bell is running with the second-team offensive line and Isaiah Jones and Bobo Wilson are with the No. 2 group at wide receiver. The losses of senior Greg Dent, Willie Haulstead and Jarred Haggins have given Jones, Wilson and Kermit Whitfield a unique opportunity to receive early playing time and the young trio is definitely part of the 'Noles' gameplan against the Panthers.

At tailback, Ryan Green has impressed with his speed and vision and Fisher's Thursday announcement that redshirt freshman Mario Pender failed to academically qualify for the 2013 season means Green will be given his fair share of at-bats in the backfield behind co-starters Freeman and Wilder, Jr.

"[Green] is making plays, learning the offense, catching the ball [and] doing things," Fisher said. "Now he's picking up blitzes and blocks. Very proud of the way he's progressing."

4. Who will wear No. 6?

Nick Waisome won't be wearing No. 6 this year.

It's not often that a jersey number makes pre-season news but that is exactly what had happened with Nick Waisome and Dan Hicks entering the 2013 season.

A quick back story: Waisome began his career wearing No. 15 before switching to No. 6 and then starting all 14 games in place of Greg Reid at cornerback last season. Hicks, who originally wore No. 58 as a defensive end for three seasons like his father, Dan Footman, made the switch to No. 6 last year on the heels of position switch to tight end. After missing all of 2012 with a knee injury and moving back to the defensive side of the ball, Hicks -- like Waisome -- was adament about keeping the single digit.

Saturday, Fisher announced that the stand-off had ended; Waisome will sport No. 14 while Hicks, who has been in the program two years longer, will keep No. 6. The numbers announcement was notable because it means that FSU's defensive coaches won't have to concern themselves with the logistics that come from having to avoid the same number on the field at the same time.

Instead, Pruitt and Co. can focus on what's most important: beating the Pittsburgh offense.

 FSU injury report: #FSUvsPITT

Out for Pittsburgh game
Out for season

 Doak Insider Podcast game preview: #FSUvsPITT


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