FSU making progress, still room to improve

Even statistical improvement has not satisfied Florida State's offensive players. The expectations after a breakout offensive season in 2009 were that high coming in to 2010. Compared to the first four games of last season, FSU is averaging 47 more rushing yards and scoring five more points per game. The pass offense, however, is down 34 yards per game.

FSU is 3-1, 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference — and it should be a positive that the offense responded from a 30-point loss at Oklahoma by scoring 30 or more points in two straight games.

But with a road game approaching on Saturday at noon against Virginia, FSU quarterback Christian Ponder is not satisfied.

"We should have done better than we did," Ponder said. "But when you look back we still had 480-some yards of offense, put up 31 points, and we're not nearly where we should be at all."

"It's exciting that we can still do so much more. We have to take the right steps to be able to progress. So I'm kind of happy with where we are but I'm also happy to see how far we can go."

FSU's running game has improved. The passing game is just now showing signs of coming around.

Ponder suffered a contusion (deep bruise) to his right arm in the Oklahoma loss, and he is just this week recovering from the injury. While he didn't miss any games, his reps in practice were limited.

And Ponder is also working with a receiving corps that overall is short on experience but is steadily improving.

Bert Reed, a junior who caught 60 passes last year, leads the team with 23 catches. Taiwan Easterling was limited by a hamstring injury against BYU, but he rebounded last week against Wake Forest to grab six catches for 112 yards.

And sophomore Willie Haulstead has also emerged as a target, grabbing two touchdown passes last week.

"I really feel like this offense is a combination of receivers," Reed said. "Spreading the ball around is what keeps this offense clicking."

That's what Ponder and backup QB E.J. Manuel were able to do last week in the win over Wake Forest. Ten receivers caught passes.

"You can throw it to anybody now," Haulstead said. "It makes it better for Christian."

Former Orlando Dr. Phillips star Kenny Shaw, a true freshman, is known as the best route runner on the team and is already making an impact. He caught two passes last week, including a 23-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter from Manuel.

"He's starting to come on," Fisher said. "I really like Kenny. His confidence is coming back and he's understanding the offense."

Injury update: Fisher said he isn't sure who will start at left tackle on Saturday. Andrew Datko (shoulder) missed the past two games and is listed as doubtful.

Henry Orelus started against BYU and Wake Forest with mixed results. But right tackle Zebrie Sanders hinted this week that he would be playing left tackle against Virginia, which means Orelus will likely switch to right tackle.

Running back Ty Jones has been slowed by an ankle injury in practice this week, but he is expected to play.


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