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October 27, 2011

NC State gearing up to slow down FSU's strengths




Florida State has three near certainties that NC State knows is coming.

The Seminoles will have fast skill players in space, defensive linemen who will be hungry to hit NC State quarterback Mike Glennon and special teams will play a large role in the battle of field position.

NC State coach Tom O'Brien talked about all three issues after practice Thursday, and noted that is part of the challenge of playing Florida State at 12 p.m. Saturday in Tallahassee.

"Everybody has to be much better," O'Brien said. "This is a team that was preseason top 10, and they are playing like they are top 10 again. If we have any kind of chance, everybody on the football team has to have their personal best day."

Combating the breakaway speed of Florida State's running backs and wide receivers is the biggest challenge for NC State's defense. The Seminoles have four speedy wide receivers and rotate two main running backs.

"You try and keep them inside and in front of you," O'Brien said. "You have to surround them the best that you can. That is easier said than done. That is the challenge of our defense. The kids are excited about going down and playing, so we'll see how we do."

Florida State junior quarterback EJ Manuel combines great size at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, and enough speed to have the Seminoles throw in some option plays. He is protected by a reshuffled offensive line that has battled injuries this season.

"I think [Manuel's] health is back, and last year, he's a guy that when [Christian] Ponder was hurt, he was forced to play some," O'Brien said. "That all adds up. You get better when you play in football games.

"We are going to have to see what [our] defense comes up with. They've studied their line, and we are going to try and put our guys in the best position to have success on Saturday."

O'Brien pointed out that Maryland's two quarterbacks were sacked six times. Starter C.J. Brown was knocked out of the game on a running play due to an illegal hit by FSU linebacker Nigel Bradham, which drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

The NC State offensive line didn't allow a sack against Virginia, but will have a stiffer challenge against Florida State defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner.

"We have to do the same thing, keep the quarterback clean," O'Brien said. "There isn't any question, that's going to be a great challenge. We seem to be getting a little better each and every week. We are really going to have to be on top of our game."

NC State freshmen Niklas Sade and Wil Baumann, the Wolfpack's kicker and punter respectively, will also play a large role in the battle of field position against Florida State. The Seminoles have one of the best kicker-punter duos in the country with junior Dustin Hopkins and senior Shawn Powell.

"Special teams is always an emphasis, but when you have the return type of game Florida State has, it has to be a huge point of emphasis," O'Brien said. "We'll just continue to work. We are not at the point where we can ask our kickers to kick the ball away. They aren't mature enough to do that right now. We have to live with it and make up for it on cover teams."


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