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April 11, 2013

What to watch for: FSU Spring Game

It's Spring Game time, your one taste of FSU football in Doak Campbell Stadium before September. There's plenty of intrigue this time around, and Warchant.com gets you set with all you need to know ahead of Saturday's game. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3).

Key Info
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium.
Admission: Free.
TV: ESPN3 (internet).
Format: The first-team offense and the second-team defense will be one team against the first-team defense and second-team offense.
Note: A replay of the Spring Game is scheduled for 7 a.m. on Tuesday on ESPNU.

1. QB Battle

It's the main reason you're watching, right?

Yes, Saturday is the first public glimpse of the four-man quarterback battle that has headlined spring drills. Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire will rotate reps throughout the game, although Fisher said Wednesday he has no set plan as to how that rotation will work.

As has been the case since the start of spring, expect Trickett to begin as the quarterback with the No. 1 offense. From there it's anyone's guess.

"I think they've all improved," Fisher said Wednesday. "I think they've all made progress, done some good things, done some bonehead things. We've got to be more consistent, but they've all made very good progress."

According to the stats provided to the media following both closed spring scrimmages, Trickett has the most pass attempts (48), completions (27) and touchdowns. Winston leads with 368 yards on just 19 completions and has a team-best 57.6 percent completion percentage.

Following the first scrimmage of the spring, Fisher admitted that a more competitive format can carry more weight in the QB race because it allows him to see how each player operates in a less controlled environment. But don't let Saturday's performances sway you too much, however - it's safe to assume that this battle will brew well into fall camp.

2. Who's running the ball?

If the quarterbacks aren't getting enough attention as it is, FSU's running back situation will hardly serve as a distraction.

FSU is expected to be without its top three ball carriers - James Wilder Jr. (ribs), Mario Pender (head), and Devonta Freeman (ankle) - on Saturday. That leaves only one scholarship player, fullback Chad Abram in the backfield to carry the ball.

Abram, who is already taking the vast majority of reps as the only scholarship fullback, is expecting a boatload of carries.

"My big expectation is to not kill myself because I'm going to be taking so many reps," Abram said with a laugh. "That's my main goal. I just plan on having fun and going with the flow out there."

Note: Those quarterbacks will have their arms ready.

3. New-look defense

Sweeping changes were downplayed by FSU's new defensive regime at the start of spring. But from all early indications, schematically, this won't look much like the 2012 group.

Keep an eye out for the Alabama influence on the new bunch. Watch for defensive ends like Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher to stand up in coverage, linebackers with a hand in the dirt, defensive tackles at defensive end and plenty of pre-snap movement in the secondary and

"Yea definitely, just the look of the defense is a lot different," starting safety Terrence Brooks said. "(The safeties) still cover just as much but we definitely switch it up a lot, a lot of different guys coming, we've got Christian Jones playing D-end at some point, D-ends dropping into coverage, it's a lot of different things. But it looks real good to me."

The lead example is senior Lamarcus Joyner, who has moved to cornerback and will play the "star" position, which is a cornerback position primarily covering the slot receiver. From there he can be versatile in coverage and in the box in run support or via the blitz. Karlos Williams remains at safety and will play 'money' linebacker, which is a middle linebacker/slot corner spot in dime packages.

There will also be plenty of new faces in the secondary as a trio of experienced defensive backs - Tyler Hunter, Nick Waisome, Ronald Darby - have missed the entire spring with injuries. Look for PJ Williams and Colin Blake to get plenty of reps.

4. Who's out

Running back is just the popular position filled with players missing Saturday's action. All told, as many as 12 key contributors could be sidelined for the Spring Game.

A rundown of injured players:

Out

RB James Wilder (ribs)
DT Demonte McAllister (shoulder)
CB Nick Waisome (hip)
TE Christo Kourtzidis (shoulder)
DT Timmy Jernigan (high ankle sprain)
CB Ronald Darby (sports hernia)
CB Tyler Hunter (knee)
RB Devonta Freeman (ankle)

Who might be out

DT Eddie Goldman (shoulder)
RB Mario Pender (head)
TE Nick O'Leary (head)
CB Keelin Smith (unknown; missed practice last two days).
WR Willie Haulstead (foot)



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