Seminoles offense has been prolific; Spiller impresses FSU defensive coaches

Tigers wary of Ponder, Fisher

pstrelow@thestate.comNovember 3, 2009 

  • SEMINOLES VS. TIGERS

    WHO: Florida State (4-4, 2-3 ACC) at Clemson (5-3, 3-2)

    WHEN: 7:45 p.m. Saturday

    WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

    LINE: Clemson by 8 1/2

    TV: ESPN (TWC 26/DTV 206/DISH 140)

    RADIO: ESPN 93.1 FM

CLEMSON - Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder said Monday that a rib contusion wouldn't prevent him from playing in Saturday's 7:45 p.m. game at Clemson.

Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher took it a step further, reminding reporters that his standout quarterback played all of last season with two cracked ribs.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel said the injury may prohibit Ponder from scrambling on occasion.

But he doesn't expect it to diminish the potential potency of FSU's offense, which has averaged 39.7 points the past three games.

"No offense to the Miami offensive coordinator, but Jimbo Fisher is at another level," McDaniel said. "He's running things out of every formation. ... He does a lot of stuff you have to prepare for. We're probably going to have our biggest (defensive) package we've ever had."

Strong words considering the praise afforded Miami coordinator Mark Whipple, whose offense generated 37 points and 433 yards two weeks ago against the Tigers, both season-highs.

FSU's offense, though, rides on Ponder, a 6-foot-3 redshirt junior who is averaging 306.6 passing yards per game and has thrown 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

During his stint as the Seminoles' linebackers coach from 2003-2006, Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele recruited Ponder out of Coffeyville, Texas.

Ponder graduated summa cum laude with a finance degree in 2 1/2 years and is expected to complete his master's degree in business administration later this year - proof enough for Steele that Ponder is as smart a player as he is talented.

"I don't know about you guys, but I wasn't working on a master's when I was a junior," Steele said.

Returning the praise favor

For as many dynamic athletes as FSU has produced the past two decades, longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said he is not sure any compared to Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in terms of versatility.

And that includes multi-dimensional receiver Peter Warrick, whom Andrews said wasn't as big as Spiller or as dominant on special teams returns.

"I don't know we've faced many people who can do as many things to hurt you as he can," Andrews said. "You hold your breath every time he gets it in his hands."

Second opinion

Junior corner Marcus Gilchrist wouldn't go so far as to echo McDaniel's sentiment that FSU's offense is more expansive than Miami's.

"They're both Florida, and when everybody thinks Florida, they think speed," Gilchrist said. "There's a lot of speed at receiver, and they also have Ponder. That combination, it can be lethal."

Extra points

Senior tight end Michael Palmer returned to practice after a one-game absence for a concussion and is expected to play Saturday, according to a school release. ... For the second straight week, ABC and ESPN have exercised a six-day window for deciding when to televise any of four ACC games next week, including Clemson's road game at N.C. State. ... Fisher said he doesn't seem many similarities in FSU's defensive scheme to what Steele, a former Seminoles assistant, uses at Clemson. "What he's doing now is what he did at Alabama," Fisher said. "That's Alabama's front. There are all kinds of different quirks to what he does." ... FSU's receiving corps could get a boost with this week's expected return of senior Richard Goodman (groin), the team's fourth-leading receiver.

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