FSU Notes: Up-tempo offense a concern

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's not just the talent on the field that will challenge Florida State's defense this week, cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. It's the tempo.

Clemson's offense moves quickly, playing a lot of no-huddle, and that means the Seminoles' defenders will have to patch that intensity.

"Urgency," Rhodes said. "Get the play and line up fast and be in condition."

Clemson ranks 16th nationally and tops in the ACC plays per minute of possession time, which should provide a challenge for Florida State on both sides of the ball.

For the defense, it's about getting plays in quickly and being prepared to execute without much time to catch their breath.

"They're very quick, and they're good with what they do," safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "We have to be looking forward to looking at Coach [Mark] Stoops, looking for signals quickly, and then get into position."

For the offense, it will be imperative to stay on the field and protect the football.

"If the offense gets a three-and-out and we're back on the field, or if they get a turnover, that's back-to-back we're on the field and now we're tired," Rhodes said. "So we have to be ready."

Being ready for the up-tempo pace might be something of a concern, given that FSU's defense has been on the field for the second-fewest plays in the country through three games -- and the starters haven't taken a snap in the fourth quarter yet this year.

Things will be different this week, but Joyner said the defense is prepared.

"It's fun," Joyner said. "Guys want to go fast, and it's hard for defenses these days to stop that. But you train for that in the offseason, and when you're ready for it, that's a real good feeling."

Running Wilder: Chris Thompson remains Florida State's nominal starter at tailback, and he certainly solidified that status with 197 yards on the ground against Wake Forest.

But after Thompson retired to the sideline for the second half, it was James Wilder Jr. who got the bulk of the remaining workload.

Wilder finished with 16 carries for 94 yards against Wake, dwarfing the production from last year's starter, Devonta Freeman, who had six carries for 14 yards.

For the season, Wilder has nine more touches and 73 more yards of offense, and Fisher said he expects Wilder's role to continue to expand. That doesn't necessarily mean Freeman's role is diminishing, however.

"(Wilder) has done very well, but those guys will all continue to play," Fisher said. "We've got a three-back rotation and we'll keep them rolling in there."

Dynamic threat: Florida State's defensive backs have faced their share of questions about Sammy Watkins this week, but Fisher has been quick to point out that the Clemson receiver is more than just a downfield threat.

After sitting out a two-game suspension, Watkins returned to the field last week against Furman and did the bulk of his damage with his legs, scoring on a 58-yard touchdown run.

"They give him the speed sweeps, the bubble screens, they can hand it to him, pitch it to him, reverse," Fisher said. "He doesn't have to get it way down the field. That makes him unique. You've got to always know and keep leverage on him."

Feeling good: Unlike a year ago when FSU faced off against Clemson without starting quarterback EJ Manuel and a handful of other regulars, the Seminoles aren't worried about any significant injuries hindering their game plan.

Aside from defensive end Brandon Jenkins, who suffered a season-ending injury in FSU's opener, Fisher said there are no major problems for players near the top of the depth chart.

"Just your typical football things," Fisher said. "For the most part, we're pretty healthy."