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A tired <b>Allen Augustin</b> plopped down on one knee following a recent FSU practice. As Augustin took a deep breath and wiped away the sweat from his face, two members of the Seminoles' future walked by. Augustin couldn't help but smile. Fans should get a good glimpse at <b>A.J. Nicholson </b> and <b>Ernie Sims</b> when the sixth-ranked Seminoles (4-0) tangle with the Duke Blue Devils (2-2) Saturday night at Wallace-Wade Stadium. "It's unbelievable to me," Augustin said.

A tired Allen Augustin plopped down on one knee following a recent Florida State practice. As Augustin took a deep breath and wiped away the sweat from his face, two members of the Seminoles' future walked by.

Augustin couldn't help but shake his head and smile.

Fans should get a good glimpse at A.J. Nicholson and Ernie Sims when the sixth-ranked Seminoles (4-0) tangle with the Duke Blue Devils (2-2) Saturday night at Wallace-Wade Stadium.

With starter Kendyll Pope unlikely to play because of a knee/hamstring injury, Nicholson should make his first career start in his home state of North Carolina. Sims, who has been a terror on special teams, has moved up to second team behind Nicholson.

"Back when I was in their position, I was no way near… I couldn't touch the way they are playing for youngsters. It's unbelievable to me," Augustin said.

"I've never been around anything like that. I mean, I have never seen any other freshmen, other than maybe Dock (Darnell Dockett) -- but Ernie, A.J., Sam (McGrew) and Buster (Davis), they are playing unbelievable. They just go out and get the job done with a purpose."

That purpose has intensified.

Nicholson, born and raised in Winston-Salem, N.C., is obviously hyped about his upcoming opportunity. Nicholson saw extensive action against Colorado last Saturday when Pope was injured and enters with 15 tackles. The sophomore, who easily has one of the team's best personalities and contagious smiles, can't wait to perform in front of family and friends.

"I get to go back home," Nicholson said and grinned.

"Ain't nothing like game experience because you get to learn a person's tendencies during a game. How to break on it. What's he really looking at? What are his keys? Last week, getting those snaps helped. I had a solid game. I didn't have a great game. I didn't have a poor game. But it was solid and I expect to do well on Saturday."

The athletic Nicholson played in all 13 games as a true freshman last season, finishing 20th on the team with 23 tackles -- the most by any first-year player. He also saw plenty of action on special teams.

Of course, the Seminoles' defense has been special thus far, entering first in scoring defense (7.5 points per game) and sixth nationally in total defense (251.8 yards per game). Augustin is the team's top tackler with 25, while Dockett leads with seven tackles for loss and is tied for second with 22 tackles.

The unit has allowed just two defensive touchdowns (one came on a Maryland interception return).

An Andrews' coached defense has not allowed fewer points over a four-game span since it allowed 14 points during the first four games of the Seminoles' 1993 national championship season -- Kansas (42-0), Duke (45-7), Clemson (57-0) and North Carolina (33-7). That team also blanked Georgia Tech (51-0) in its fifth game.

"Honestly, I can't see anyone in the country having more talent than we do," Nicholson said.

Nicholson's mission is two-fold -- produce and have fun. Of course, he also expected an earful from Andrews when he was flagged for a personal foul (late hit) against the Buffs. Nicholson was lifted immediately after the tackle on the FSU sideline.

"You just want to hear my answer," Nicholson said and laughed.

"I know everyone had their eyes on coach Andrews (laughing). What's he doing? You know I got an earful (laughing). He wants perfection. I understand that. It's not personal. It's all in the job. I just want to go out there and have fun. Go out there and represent (the defense). Have a little swagger. But that's just me."

Sims also has made an impression, mainly on special teams, after arriving at FSU as the nation's top-rated prep player. He hasn't disappointed.

Against Georgia Tech, as Sims played on FSU's kickoff return team, he gave Yellow Jackets safety Chris Reis a concussion with perhaps the hardest hit of the season.

He's a guy who can fly and he loves contact," FSU linebackers coach Kevin Steele said. "Ernie's probably our most dangerous man right now going down on kickoffs," coach Bobby Bowden added. "Every game he's had a big hit. He's really ideal for that."

Sims, whose personality and smile matches Nicholson's, also can't wait to make an impact against the Blue Devils.

"I have to step up and be prepared. Be prepared for anything," Sims said.

"That's the main thing, getting me accustomed to the game. Special teams are a lot of fun. You get to light people up (smiling). You can do all sorts of thing. Right now, this is getting me experience. I just want to get out there and hit somebody."

Augustin looks up, shakes his head and, of course, smiles.


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