No. 11 FSU, No. 21 Clemson face injuries

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t so sure injured

quarterback EJ Manuel will play Saturday. Clemson coach Dabo

Swinney is.

”I expect him to play,” the Tigers coach said this week as No.

21 Clemson gets ready to host the 11th-ranked Seminoles in an

Atlantic Coast Conference game.

Manuel hurt his left, non-throwing shoulder in a 23-13 loss to

No. 1 Oklahoma last week and the Seminoles (2-1) are eager to

bounce back at Death Valley. That won’t be easy without Manuel, a

junior who did not practice this week and was listed as

questionable.

Swinney is planning for Manuel, but Florida State’s staff isn’t

so sure their quarterback will be healthy enough to play. Fisher

twice had similar injuries during his playing days and understands

how painful they can be.

”But they are tolerable and you can manage through those,”

Fisher said. ”You’ve just got to make sure it doesn’t affect your

throwing motion.”

An MRI showed no structural damage to Manuel’s shoulder.

Manuel’s motion was near flawless before the injury. He’s

completed 67 percent of his passes for 666 yards and six

touchdowns, and is among the top six in ACC pass efficiency and

total offense.

The junior has also been the Seminoles most effective rusher for

a ground game that’s yet to take off. Manuel leads the Seminoles

with 79 yards rushing.

If Manuel can’t go, Florida State would again call on Clint

Trickett, a freshman who subbed against Oklahoma and tied things up

13-all in the final quarter with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Rashad

Greene.

Trickett took all the first-team snaps and looked good doing it,

Fisher said. And all the while, ”Guys are getting healthier,” he

said.

Clemson had its own concerns after starting tailback Andre

Ellington hurt is hamstring and was on the sideline for much of the

second half in a 38-24 victory over defending national champion

Auburn. But Swinney said Thursday that Ellington will play.

Manuel isn’t Florida State’s only issue. Receiver Bert Reed

didn’t play against Oklahoma because of an ankle problem, while

wideout Kenny Shaw left the field in an ambulance after a

helmet-to-helmet hit. Shaw returned to the sideline before the end

of the game.

While Reed hasn’t practiced, Shaw was back for Thursday’s

workout. Fisher said injuries to key players makes for uncertain

times around the football offices.

”It affects you,” the second-year head coach conceded.

”Injuries are a part of football.”

So is coping with them.

Clemson didn’t do that so well a year ago when Ellington left

the Boston College game with a foot injury. The Tigers lost to the

Eagles, 16-10, then lost three more games in November and December

to go 6-7, their first losing season in 12 years.

Ellington had offseason surgery and appeared strong this season,

posting his longest touchdown run, a 74-yarder in a win over

Wofford. But Ellington played 47 snaps against Auburn with only a

handful coming in the second half after he tweaked his

hamstring.

It appeared backup D.J. Howard would be a reliable option after

he rushed for 86 yards last week. But Swinney said Howard hurt his

hamstring at practice Tuesday and is questionable.

Howard’s play was critical down the stretch as Clemson held the

ball and ran out the final 9:34 of the game.

”Really proud of the way D.J. stepped in,” Clemson offensive

coordinator Chad Morris said.

The Tigers rolled up 624 yards of offense on the defending

national champs. They’re not likely to have it as easy on a very

healthy Florida State defense, which held Oklahoma to under 200

yards passing and fewer than 3 yards a carry.

”There’s no doubt how physical they played against Oklahoma,”

Morris said. ”That’s our biggest task.”

Seminoles middle linebacker Vince Williams called the Tigers

offense, ”smoke and mirrors kind of stuff.”

”They try and get you confused. They call the offense from the

line of scrimmage like Oklahoma,” he continued. ”They also do a

lot of the same things” as the Sooners.

Clemson is trying for its 4-0 start since 2007 and to keep alive

a streak of Death Valley success over Florida State, which hasn’t

won at Memorial Stadium since 2001.

Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla. contributed to this

report.