FSU offensive line shuffle continues

TALLAHASSEE — The offensive line shuffle continues. When Florida State plays North Carolina on Saturday, the Seminoles will use their sixth starting lineup on the offensive line in nine games. The latest concern is at right guard, where Bryan Stork will not play due to illness. Stork had played well in his first college start, a loss at NC State on Oct. 28.

FSU (6-2, 4-1 ACC) is forced to now play third-team right guard Rhonne Sanderson.

"You hate that it happened numbers-wise, but Rhonne has had a really good week," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

FSU's regular starter at right guard, David Spurlock, will miss his second straight game due to concussions.

All-American left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon have started every game this season for FSU, providing consistency to the unit. But Zebrie Sanders alternated between the tackle positions when left tackle Andrew Datko missed three games with a shoulder injury.

FSU's offensive line was considered the best in the ACC going into the season. All five starters were juniors or seniors and the line was dominant as FSU's running backs had four straight 200-yard games.

But FSU's offense has sputtered since then as the Seminoles escaped with a 24-19 win over Boston College and then lost to NC State 28-24.

Against the Wolfpack, FSU's offensive line committed five penalties in the first quarter alone.

"Just a few mistakes by each person interrupts things," Datko said. "One mistake can hurt the team here and there. We just have to regroup and refocus to get those long drives."

FSU outcoached?

FSU linebacker Kendall Smith had a career-high 15 tackles in the loss to NC State. Earlier this week, he said that the Wolfpack had a better strategy in the second half with quarterback Russell Wilson and that FSU was outcoached.

"They really utilized their quarterback and his running ability," Smith said. "But I feel like they spread us out and let him do his thing. I can honestly say we (were) outcoached on that one."

The comment didn't please Fisher, who felt the problem had nothing to do with defensive coordinator Mark Stoops' schemes but instead was a lack of execution by players. Fisher said he talked to Smith about the comment.

"Had nothing to do with coaching," Fisher said. "...That's very disturbing because the plan was very good. Very uncharacteristic of him. I don't think he meant it like he said it, to be honest with you."

FSU's trio of backs

Before the season, Fisher argued that FSU didn't need a true No. 1 tailback to be successful. Two or three guys could do the job, rotating to keep each one fresh and punishing defenses.

Chris Thompson (484 yards), Jermaine Thomas (446) and Ty Jones (426 yards) are all on track to have solid seasons. And FSU hasn't had three running backs surpass the 500-yard mark since 1984, when Greg Allen, Roosevelt Snipes and Cletis Jones each rushed for 600 yards.

Matchup of the game: UNC quarterback T.J. Yates has improved dramatically in his senior season. But the key matchup on Saturday is Tar Heels tailback Johnny White (713 rushing yards) against FSU's rush defense (115 yards per game).

"He's a great running back," FSU linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "We know they are going to try to take control of the game by running the ball. And that's something we can't let them do...He's going to lower his head. You pretty much just have to be ready."

The Seminoles are No. 2 in the ACC against the run. If FSU stuffs the run, it will be a long day for Yates.

Tracking Ponder

FSU quarterback Christian Ponder has 6,211 passing yards in his career. He could move up to No. 4 on FSU's all-time list on Saturday.

Danny Kanell (6,372) is in fifth place, and Gary Huff (6,378) is in fourth place.

Series history

FSU leads the series with UNC 15-1-1 and has won four straight games.

Bowden honored

Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden will receive the Amos Alonso Stagg Award, which recognizes the person whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.

Bowden will receive the award at the American Football Coaches Association's awards luncheon on Jan. 11.

"I'm excited about it," Bowden said. "I've been to the American Football Coaches Association's conventions through the years and I've been proud of the men who have won this award. I never thought that I'd win this award, let alone be considered."

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