TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher likes to remind everyone that injuries are a part of the game. After all, according to another of Fisher’s regular refrains, football is not scripted entertainment — it’s competition.
If things were scripted for Florida State, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston — already bearing considerable national hype before even taking a single collegiate snap — would arrive as advertised, the second-coming of Charlie Ward, and lead the Seminoles to a historic season.
But as has been made a constant reminder all weekend — as young men’s knees buckle or their bones give out — there is no script in college football. Even when a team’s season does look scripted, its plot rarely unfolds predictably.
Every season — every team’s, every player’s — is just one play from ending painfully.
FSU is a acutely aware of this. One or two key injuries could be all it takes to derail a promising season in Tallahassee.
Although questions about experience linger on the defensive side of the football, the team is deep with talented four- and five-star recruits at each level. The offense, however, faces legitimate questions about its depth at several key spots — along the offensive line, at receiver and now in the backfield.
Florida State’s offensive line added several talented newcomers from the most recent recruiting class. And they could be called into action quickly as well should any injuries befall the unit. The team has three capable centers (two of whom are currently healthy), but true freshman Wilson Bell and redshirt senior walk-on Jonathan Wallace are listed as the backup tackles.
At wide receiver, which looked like a position of strength heading into last Spring, four receivers — three of them seniors — were lost over the course of the past six months, and suddenly three true freshmen find themselves behind the only four experienced receivers left on the roster.
Then on Thursday, Fisher announced redshirt freshman tailback Mario Pender would miss the season for academic reasons. After starters James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman (Miami Central), true freshman Ryan Green is now the third-string back. Behind him, walk-on Will Burnham could be the next man up. Cameron Ponder, another walk-on, is the backup fullback.
“Our 1993 team at Auburn, we had three walk-ons that started on that undefeated team. One of them played 13 years in the NFL,” Fisher said Wednesday. “We act like it’s a major thing because of recruiting now, but there’s guys that do stuff like that all the time.”
Twenty years later though, that is certainly not an ideal situation for any school to find itself in. The Seminoles, despite having an abundance of talent, could be precariously close to having to rely on walk-ons to play key roles in their rushing-attack — at right tackle and fullback.
Florida State’s season could be a great one if it stays healthy. The road is tough, but the Seminoles certainly are capable if they can avoid absorbing too many injuries.
Then again, the idea of a couple of walk-ons coming from nowhere to help FSU continue its rise?
That sounds likes part of a great script.