The Daily Nole

FSU’s Biggest Questions for Wake Forest

FSU athletics

Florida State football looks to get back over .500 on the year with a win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon. The pivotal home game is currently projected as Florida State’s most likely win for the rest of the year, with tougher opponents ahead. It is crucial that the Seminoles find their confidence and deliver a comfortable victory on Saturday.

There’s more than a few questions surrounding their ability to do that. We break it down below and discuss the most obvious questions that Florida State needs to answer to emerge with a win in front of the Doak Campbell Stadium faithful.

Is Francois’ Job Secure?

The Wake Forest pass defense is by no means a juggernaut. It has exactly one truly good player in the secondary, and everyone else has led to the Demon Deacons having one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. FSU quarterback Deondre Francois has shown that he can put up gaudy numbers against teams like Louisville and Northern Illinois, who have similar (if not better) defenses. It should be no problem for him on Saturday, right?

Maybe not. Francois had a full blown meltdown against Miami and has yet to improve on various facets of the position. From read-option mistakes to unforced errors, Francois is slowly losing his grip on the starting quarterback spot. He can quiet those rumblings with a great game against Wake Forest. If not…James Blackman waits in the wings.

Will Anyone Emerge at Left Tackle?

Landon Dickerson might be out for the rest of the season and will almost certainly not make an appearance until November. Jauan Williams has a bad case of shattered confidence and is viewed as a last-ditch effort in case of injury. That leaves exactly one person, Derrick Kelly, to man the left tackle spot opposite Brady Scott. Kelly was injured against Syracuse and was not fully healthy against Miami.

It’s dangerously close to doomsday scenario when Kelly is your first option on Francois’ blind side. While the Seminoles haven’t showed any signs that true freshmen will be playing, it’s hard not to imagine that someone like Christian Armstrong, Christian Meadows or Chaz Neal will get a shot under the right conditions. At what point will FSU throw in the towel on Williams and let someone else show you what they can do?

Observations out of practice suggest that the staff is testing out completely new lineups as well.

Is the Running Game A Lost Cause?

Problems on the offensive line mean that running the ball is nearing “impossible” level. Neither Jacques Patrick nor Cam Akers have been able to spark a competent run game, and it’s easy to see why. They have no room to work with.

Which brings up the question as to how dedicated FSU will be to running the ball. It certainly helps when you can force a defense to load up the box, but more often than not, FSU’s ground game has been shut down with just five or six defenders. The Seminoles were able to evade this issue against Miami with some impressive play calling. Florida State spread out the field and finally used tempo to wear down Miami for a half. Then the turnovers happened and it was all wasted.

That half against Miami does give hope that FSU will be able to salvage a running game. Even if it is minimally effective and only works in chunks at a time, that still helps considerably. It should be noted that the Demon Deacons have the worst run defense in the ACC.

Are the Secondary Issues Getting Corrected?

There will not be many excuses left for defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett if the secondary gets routinely burned by the Wake Forest passing offense. Much like other aspects of their team, the Demon Deacons have one standout player (receiver Greg Dortch) and not much after that. Freshman quarterback Sam Hartman is also a fine player but he should not be having a career day against FSU.

Some signs of improvement were apparent at Miami. When not backed in the red zone to start a series, Florida State was able corral receivers and take away most deep shots. That stopped being true later in the game, but it was apparent early on. The Seminoles still put some of their freshmen defensive backs into unfavorable situations, and that cannot continue if they want to finish drives.

Now is a great time for Florida State to unveil corrections. It has had a full bye week to review the problems and adjust in practice, and now is facing an opponent who will not be able to consistently test FSU like others.

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