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October 25, 2013

FSU's defense off to impressive start

The Florida State defense is often overshadowed by the Seminoles' offense, but NC State offensive coordinator Matt Canada is expecting a challenge from a talented group of former Rivals.com five- and- four-star prospects.

No. 3-ranked Florida State starts five former five-star recruits, and four ex-four-star prospects on defense against NC State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. The quartet of senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, senior outside linebacker Telvin Smith, senior middle linebacker Christian Jones and junior nose guard Timmy Jernigan, arguably lead the way for the Seminoles, who are allowing 12.3 points per game (third in the nation).

Joyner's ability to create havoc at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, whether on the blitz or in coverage, makes him a unique player to account for. He forced a pair of fumbles and had an interception in FSU's 51-14 win over Clemson last Saturday.

"You are playing the No. 2 team in the nation, so they have a whole bunch of great players on their team," Canada said. "We have to go into it and attack with what we feel are our strengths. When you look at a team like that, they don't have a lot of weaknesses.

"You can point out him [Joyner] or a lot of great players. They are a very good football team and a very good defense. They've given up 14 points in two weeks against two very good teams."

Canada has had two weeks to prepare for Florida State, and also welcomes the return to health of fifth-year seniors Brandon Mitchell and Rashard Smith at quarterback and wide receiver respectively. Mitchell hasn't played since the third series of the season opener against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 31.

"He is coming along," Canada said. "He was ready to go and had two really good drives in that first game. Now, he is out. He did that after 29 practices and been working all summer with his teammates. Now, he has been out a bunch of weeks. It's why it's a challenge with a guy who hasn't gotten a bunch of reps."

Mitchell's backup, redshirt junior Pete Thomas, is listed as "questionable" after injuring his shoulder against Syracuse in the previous game. Mitchell's health is of utmost importance if Thomas can't be the backup. Freshman quarterback Bryant Shirreffs will continue to give a running dimension in the Wildcat look.

"Pete certainly played very well and did a great job when he was in there, and now Brandon is coming back now," Canada said.

Smith's ability to be part of NC State's running game and ability to take short passes and create something was sorely missed since got injured in the first half of the Wake Forest loss Oct. 5.

"We've had some challenges and he was playing very well, and doing a good job," Canada said. "It's next man in and we had to score more points."

NC State is more concerned with getting better at what they do, than anything.

"We are trying to get better at some things and we have to perform better," Canada said. "We have to execute plays when there are opportunities to make plays. We cleaned up some things in the last game as far as penalties and turnovers, but we still didn't make enough plays to win the game. That is all that matters. I have to do a better job of putting us in position to make plays."

NC State has had piped in noise at practice this week of FSU's famous "war chant," and Doak Campbell Stadium seats 82,300.

"I've never been there, but I've heard it is a special, special place," Canada said. "I'm excited to go down and experience it. You don't get to play the No. 2 team in the nation too often in your career."

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