There is no quarterback controversy
It's clear that junior signal caller E.J. Manuel still has a long way to go if he wants to live up to the promise he showed backing up first-round pick Christian Ponder, as he finally played a legitimate defense this year and struggled to be a difference maker against No. 1 Oklahoma. Aside from perhaps battling another case of nerves in such a big game on a national stage, his lack of polish was revealed by several inaccurate throws and borderline sloppy footwork -- even some of his completions were well off target, not allowing his receivers to make plays after the catch. The 6-5, 245-pounder was incredibly effective running the ball, so coach Jimbo Fisher would be wise to start featuring more designed QB keepers, although that notion Manuel tried to sell Florida State fans about knowing how to avoid a hit better than Ponder got tossed out the window from the moment he grimaced and grabbed his left shoulder.
All that aside, despite the fact that freshman passer Clint Trickett made some plays in relief and seems to have earned the trust of the garnet-and-gold faithful following this school so passionately, this is still Manuel's team provided he's healthy enough to give it a go Saturday at Clemson.
Linebackers need to step it up now
While sophomore Christian Jones has a chance to be a special player at strong-side linebacker, as he recorded eight tackles -- including one for a loss -- against the Sooners, senior Nigel Bradham hasn't morphed into the vocal leader this unit needs from his spot over on the weak side. Sure, Bradham tied for the team lead with nine tackles, including 1.5 of them behind the line of scrimmage, and he even recorded an interception when he managed to corral a batted ball, but he lost his cool at a crucial moment and got flagged for a 15-yard personal foul. The "or" situation in the middle appears to be a thing of the past, as junior Vince Williams was credited with six tackles while his supposed "co-starter," sophomore Telvin Smith, didn't even dent the stat sheet.
We know the defensive line is deep and talented up front and we know the secondary has a handful of playmakers on the back end, but the linebackers leave a little to be desired right now and don't really scare anyone.
Interior O-line is a complete mess
More often that not, the pass protection provided on the outside by senior tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders has been strong for three straight weeks, as Manuel repeatedly had time to throw and most of the pressure Trickett was subjected to came courtesy of the blitz. However, the Seminoles have big problems right now at center and both guard positions, highlighted most glaringly by the complete lack of a ground game and, therefore, no semblance of balance whatsoever on offense. Moving junior Jacob Fahrenkrug from center to left guard and sophomore Bryan Stork from left guard to center made zero difference, plus senior right guard David Spurlock hasn't lived up to the standard expected of a player with his experience.
The tailbacks are far from blameless here, as they aren't creating holes on their one when none are there and, aside from senior Ty Jones -- he's a hard worker, yes, but he should not be getting more touches than freshman Devonta Freeman -- their blitz pickup has been shaky.
New stars are beginning to emerge
Junior defensive end Brandon Jenkins is an All-American candidate and made the preseason watch lists for a handful of prestigious awards, but an argument can be made that he's not even the best player on this team at his own position at this point. Sophomore Bjoern Werner really had a coming-out party in Saturday's prime-time affair, registering half a dozen tackles, two tackles for loss and the lone sack of OU quarterback Landry Jones. We heard a lot about junior Cornellius Carradine in the offseason upon his arrival from community college, and he's shown some flashes here and there as a reserve, but every play the enemy offense runs with Werner on the sideline is a play that has a greater chance of success.
In the defensive backfield, while junior cornerback Greg Reid -- his Jim Thorpe Award campaign didn't last long -- was getting burned by Kenny Stills for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, senior cornerback Mike Harris and sophomore safety Lamarcus Joyner were nothing short of sensational.
DCS can be one very special place
Doak Campbell Stadium may be one of the more recognizable college football facilities in the country because of the success authored by former coach Bobby Bowden during the '80s and '90s, but it's not necessarily the most hostile of environments for opponents and supporters can't always be counted on to fill the place when a cupcake comes to town -- both the ULM and Charleston Southern contests had thousands of empty seats. However, the fans deserve a lot of credit for coming early, staying late and making every television spectator from coast to coast wish he was fortunate enough to be on hand for what became a special event, even in a loss. The student section in particular gets a tip of the cap, as several Sooners said they couldn't hear a thing when backed up near the north end zone.
It's been a rough decade for the 'Noles, a brutal stretch that seemed incomprehensible following the most dominant 14-year run the game had ever seen, but seemingly the entire community is taking the 23-13 defeat remarkably well and collectively believing that a return to powerhouse status is finally right around the corner.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
What We Learned: OU 23, FSU 13
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