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Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with Tomahawk Nation

I got together with Bud Elliott of the well-regarded FSU blog Tomahawk Nation to chat about the Chick-fil-A Bowl. I'm sure you'll be interested to read his insightful responses to my questions. You can view my answers to his questions here.

1. The big story in Tallahassee this season is that it's Year One after Bowden. Talk about new head coach Jimbo Fisher, how he's affected FSU's identity, and what he's done right this year.

Fisher has transformed the program.  Everything is different.  The overarching theme has been attention to detail.  Fisher is a Saban clone and I see very little Bobby Bowen in him.  Jimbo was fourth in charge until this year and the changes he has implemented show just how little control he had until this year.  Bringing in bright, young coaches and insisting they work really long hours is an enormous improvement over the staff of has-been or never-weres that Bowden called a staff. 

Having the best season in almost a decade has helped a bunch, but what really has people excited is the recruiting.  Fisher is bringing in a class that may end up #1 overall.  If you out-recruit every SEC team, Texas, OU, and USC, fans take notice.  USCe fans should like that as well.   It is much easier to win the SEC East if FSU is taking some kids from UF every year.

2. With only a couple of exceptions, Carolina's offense has generally gone as Marcus Lattimore has gone; when Lattimore has been effective, we've scored points and won games, and when he's struggled and / or been injured, we've struggled to move the ball and have lost. Talk about how FSU will work to limit Lattimore and whether or not you think FSU can swing the game in its favor that way.

One of Jimbo's mandates was to get much bigger overall.  FSU's S&C program was a joke.  This year the front seven is almost 100lbs bigger.  The 'Noles also have a hammer of a safety in Nick Moody (big hitter, poor in coverage).

This defense jumped from 88th to 48th, but of the defenses South Carolina has played, Clemson, Bama, Arkansas, Florida, and Auburn are clearly better.  FSU is about the level of UGA's defense (45th). 

FSU has an extremely young defensive line featuring seven sophomores/freshmen in the two-deep.  They were a massive improvement over 2009, but with very limited depth they were dead down the stretch.  Perhaps having almost four weeks off will make the difference.  If FSU's young defensive line is fresh, it will have some success limiting Lattimore by dropping Moody into the box.  Whether FSU will be able to defend the passing game from that look is another question entirely.

3. Other than Marcus Lattimore or Alshon Jeffery, which Carolina player would you most like to have on your roster? Why?

Tough question!  While I like Gilmore a lot, FSU has a ton of talent at corner.  It would come down to Matthews, Robinson, or Chisholm.  Matthews is a special defensive end, and Robertson is a good defensive tackle.  I like him on film.  Either of those two would do well since FSU is so young on the defensive line.  But Chisholm is the pick here as FSU has used five players at the right guard position this year (Concussion, broken ankle, ineffective, mono).  Left tackle Andrew Datko is a great pass protector, but needs surgery on both shoulders and really gives very little in the run game.  Chisholm could offer some stability on the right side and would improve the run blocking.

4. Tell us about an FSU player who Carolina fans may not have heard of but who you think will influence the outcome of this game.

I will go with safety Terrace Parks.  Parks isn't a good player, but that is the point.  FSU will load the box against Lattimore, leaving Parks as the high safety.  He doesn't need to play a great game, but he does need to avoid blowing coverages.  On offense, whichever outside receiver (Willie Haulstead or Rodney Smith) does not draw Gilmore in coverage will need to have a big day, particularly if Ponder does not play.