#9 RB Karlos Williams: Williams missed last week with an ankle injury, and with backup Mario Pender out this week due to an ankle injury of his own, Williams will need to be ready to carry the load. This is Williams’ first full year at the RB position as he moved from safety several games into 2013.
Williams has an outstanding size/speed combination at about 6’1, 235 while running around a 10.7 100m, but he seems to have lost some of his fluidity as he gained extra weight over the offseason. He is, however, a very natural receiver out of the backfield, and FSU has looked for him on BUS and wheel routes against linebackers several times this season.
Williams has also gone through an adjustment period so far this season, as he has not looked as natural as he did in bit action last season, though the early struggles of the FSU offensive line didn’t help matters. He did, however, start to look much better in the five quarters or so before injuring his ankle against Wake Forest. Florida State will need to run it well to win this game, and it all starts with Williams.
#7 LB Matthew Thomas: Scout’s #2 OLB recruit in the nation from the class of 2013 has yet to play a down at Florida State, and everyone around the program is excited to see Thomas make his debut against the Irish on Saturday. Thomas redshirted as a freshman due to injury and was suspended for the first six games of the season due to a failed drug test at last year’s BCS National Championship Game. He has been practicing with the first two units the past two weeks and will have a significant role on Saturday as his explosive athleticism will be especially important against Notre Dame’s spread. I expect to see Thomas in a spy role at times, and his ability as a coverage linebacker and a pass rusher should be put to use on long yardage situations throughout the game.
#11 DT Derrick Mitchell: Starting NT Nile Lawrence-Stample is out for the season with a pectoral injury, and Mitchell is his primary replacement. (Both are, of course, replacing Timmy Jernigan, now with the Baltimore Ravens.) Mitchell has missed the last two games with a knee injury, and FSU has been vulnerable inside without him. If FSU wants to take advantage of Notre Dame’s difficulties on the offensive interior, Mitchell will need to be solid between studs Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards, Jr.
#41 DE/OLB Lorenzo Featherston: A true freshman who has gotten more reps in this role after sophomores Chris Casher and Demarcus Walker were less effective than hoped. You’ll still see a good bit of Casher and Walker, but Featherston now leads the team in tackles for a loss (5.0) despite only getting significant defensive reps the last two and a half games.
Featherston is a 6’7, 225 pound freak with a 7’3 wingspan and 38” vertical. He doesn’t carry much weight on his frame and has not always been assignment-sound in setting the edge against the run, so look for Notre Dame to try running the football at him when he’s in the game. Nevertheless, Featherston is the best pass rusher on the team (along with Thomas), so look for him to be released to cause havoc around the edge while FSU has the other defensive linemen “mush rush” to try to keep Everett Golson in the pocket.
Florida State has not rushed the passer especially well most of the year, so Featherston’s will need to put pressure on Golston without giving up contain if the FSU defense intends to slow down Golson and the Notre Dame offense.