TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There were a couple of small surprises included in sixth-ranked Florida State’s opening game lineup announced Monday by coach Jimbo Fisher.
Senior Mike Harris drew the starting nod at cornerback over redshirt sophomore Xavier Rhodes while veteran Jermaine Thomas begins his senior year no better than the fourth team tailback. Thomas missed much of fall camp with migraine headaches, but has 1,804 career rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
Fisher said junior Chris Thompson, who led the Seminoles in rushing a year ago with 845 yards, or senior Ty Jones will start at tailback with freshman Devonta Freeman running third team. Thomas and freshman James Wilder are also likely to see action Saturday, Fisher said.
The second-year head coach cautioned the media not to make too much out of his initial depth chart for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe, a team picked to finish in a third-place tie with Middle Tennessee behind Florida International and Troy State in the Sun Belt Conference.
“These guys are all going to play about the same amount of time,” Fisher said. “That’s what happens when you get good players, you have depth. You have to keep that rotation. You have to keep guys fresh.”
Rhodes won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s defensive rookie of the year honors last season when he and Harris each had four interceptions. Junior Greg Reid plays the other corner position for the Seminoles.
“You can only start two of them,” Fisher said Monday. “When you go nickel, and everything else in there they’re going to be right in there playing at the same time anyway.”
The Seminoles, who finished 10-4 last year and advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game for the first time in five years, are likely to be without junior wide receiver Willie Haulstead for the opener. Haulstead, who caught 38 passes for 597 yards and a half dozen touchdowns last season, suffered a concussion in the team’s final scrimmage last week. He also missed a game last year with a concussion.
Freshman Nick O’Leary was listed along with Ja’Baris Little as second team tight end behind Beau Reliford. The two-deep depth chart that Fisher released included a dozen freshmen.
The game will mark the first time Florida State and Louisiana-Monroe will meet on the football field. The Seminoles are 8-1 all-time against current Sun Belt members with their only loss coming in their first year of football when Troy State defeated them 36-6 in 1947.
In Florida State’s last meeting with a Sun Belt Conference team, the Seminoles escaped with a 21-14 win against Troy State in 2006.
“We need to be ready and prepared,” Fisher said. “Control what we can control. That’s our big challenge.”
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