Florida St.-Wake Forest Preview
(AP) - Most everyone around the Florida State program knew there would be growing pains with the offense. The learning curve, however, has been steeper than imagined.
Coach Jimbo Fisher hopes being off last week has helped.
Fisher said he was encouraged by what he saw from Everett Golson and the offense. Whether the offense will be more consistent is one of the major questions going into Saturday's game at Wake Forest.
The struggles on offense after losing seven starters, including No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jameis Winston, is also why there are questions nationally about Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC). Despite not playing last Saturday, the Seminoles dropped a spot in the Top 25 to No. 11.
Fisher said during the week off he saw signs of progress by Golson.
After throwing for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Texas State, he's passed for 282 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games against South Florida and Boston College. Fisher, though, wasn't about to put most of the blame on the shoulders of the graduate transfer.
''We've got to make good throws. But we've also got to run a route better, got to catch better,'' Fisher said Monday. ''There's a block or two we've missed when he's had an opportunity to make a big play or two.''
The offensive line has struggled with pass protection the past two games, and Fisher announced two changes Thursday. Ryan Hoefeld will get the start at center and Derrick Kelly will open at right tackle.
The sacks allowed number would be higher if it wasn't for Golson's elusiveness. With the passing game inconsistent, Dalvin Cook leads the ACC in rushing with 476 yards and is averaging 7.4 per carry.
Golson's status as the starter does not appear to be in jeopardy but Fisher said he was encouraged by the progress of Sean Maguire as the backup. When Golson was named the starter Aug. 31, Fisher did say that he thought Maguire would be called upon at some point during the season.
The one thing Golson has made improvements on is taking care of the football after his struggles in that area led to him being benched at Notre Dame late last season. The Seminoles don't have a turnover in their first three games.
"I think he will (improve) as his knowledge of what's going on gets better," Fisher said of Golson. "I think he did that last week some and felt better and hopefully will continue to do that.
"It's not a direct criticism on him or that I think he's at fault for what's going on. ... We want to be perfect all the time, knowing we never will be, but we've got to be excellent in the meantime. I think that's where he's going to get to and I think that's his mentality."
Despite winning the past three meetings against Wake by a combined 154-6, Fisher believes the Demon Deacons (2-2, 0-1) will present a challenge defensively due to the number of different blitzes they bring. They are 11th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 145 yards per game.
As for their own passing game, the Demon Deacons must better protect the quarterback regardless of who it is. They have allowed an ACC-high 15 sacks, including six in a 31-24 home loss to Indiana last week.
Wake Forest starts two redshirt freshmen on the offensive line and will be tested by the Seminoles, who have six sacks in three games after finishing 2014 with an ACC-low 17.
Florida State defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample was complimentary of the Wake Forest line, calling it "stout" but adding that ''we're going to be attacking the front just like we do every single week.''
Which quarterback the Seminoles will be chasing hasn't been decided yet, with sophomore John Wolford recovering from an ankle injury and freshman Kendall Hinton coming off his first start. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said that ''when John is healthy, he will be our starting quarterback'' but added that if Wolford is only at 70 or 80 percent, then ''Kendall gives us our best shot to win.''
Hinton replaced an injured Wolford two weeks ago at West Point and led the team to a 17-14 win, but he completed just 19 of 46 passes against the Hoosiers.
The Demon Deacons lead the ACC with 300 yards passing per game, mostly thanks to Wolford. Hinton, meanwhile, has led the team in rushing in each of the past two weeks, running for four touchdowns, but was limited to 57 yards on 22 carries last week.
''I think part of it is John's ability to read coverages quicker - the ball gets out quicker with him,'' Clawson said. ''Our rushing totals are up. ... Some of that is by design, and some of that is Kendall's creativity.''
Wake has dropped 11 in a row against ranked opponents since a 35-30 home win over a No. 23 Florida State team Oct. 8, 2011.