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November 23, 2012

Werner, Carradine Have Caught on to UF-FSU Rivalry Quickly


This weekend when Florida and Florida State renew their rivalry, the top-ranked Seminole defense will be lead by a pair of NFL-ready defensive ends that just a few years ago had no concept of the significance of the game they’re about to play in.

Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner have combined for 20 sacks this season on a defensive line that may be the best in the country.

On Saturday they’ll play a major part in one of the most historic rivalries in college football, however with neither growing up in Florida, it’s an affair they’ve had to learn on the fly.

“I knew about the Florida State-Miami rivalry but I never knew about Florida,” said Carradine, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and never followed the rivalry before arriving in Tallahassee.

For Bjoern Werner, originating from Germany, it was even more foreign.

“[I didn’t know much about it] but I picked it up fast,” joked Werner. “My freshman year when we played here and I got some playing time, that was intense, I said, ‘hey!’

“I played the whole season against other teams, I played Oklahoma and stuff like that, those are all good teams but when you’re on the field [with Florida] you see it’s different.”

“It was [different] because people were talking about the game way before the season went on,” recalled Carradine. “You’d see a lot of people out on the streets talking about the game, everyone was just hyped about the Florida State-Miami game, and the Florida Gators and Florida State game.”

This year’s UF-FSU game feels like a throwback to the rivalry’s Spurrier-Bowden glory days. Both teams are in the top ten and the excitement around the state is mounting as the game approaches.

“People are excited because they’re 10-1 and we’re 10-1,” said Carradine. “Everyone’s excited about this game. It’s the game of the year.”

It’s also Florida State’s last good shot to make a national statement. Unlike the Seminoles’ midseason rivalry game with Miami, this game carries national implications and a chance for the Seminoles to gain a much-needed BCS boost.

“We practiced really hard for Miami as well, but this week we’re really really getting after it,” said Carradine. “This is the game right here. We were never expecting to lose to Miami we were expecting to play hard as well but it’s like this week, Florida, it’s everything.

“Because all we can think is if we can beat Florida we’ll go up in our rankings. As you’ve seen we’re staying at number 10 for the last couple games. It’s really big.”

Because of a weak schedule the Seminoles have been weighed down in the BCS by unfavorable computer rankings. FSU has maintained their spot at ten while several SEC teams with two losses have jumped up ahead of them.

Florida, conversely, enjoys the highest national computer average. A win over UF could offer the kind of BCS boost Florida State needs to get into the conversation.

“Yeah, a lot of the top teams in front of us, Florida already beat,” said Carradine. “They lost to Georgia, but all those other teams in the SEC, those teams in front of us, Florida beat. So we think if we beat [the Gators] we should jump up pretty high.”

“All that BCS stuff, at the end of the season we’re going to see where we stand,” said Werner. “That’s how a lot of people on this team think and that’s good. We can’t get distracted by it.

“We’re just going to finish the season strong and at the end we’ll see where we stand.”

At the end of the season Florida State knows that the only thing they have control over is their own record, but a win over BCS-darling UF on Saturday would help with their national recognition quite a bit.

And that all starts up front with arguably the best tandem of defensive ends in the country.

Werner and Carradine will have a huge impact on Saturday’s game. Beyond the heavy pressure they’ll apply to Florida QB Jeff Driskel and their ability to shut down the run (FSU is ranked first in the country against the rush), the impact they’ve had in practice all year will pay big dividends come game-time for the Seminole offensive line.

UF boasts one hell of a defensive line themselves. They have the 4th-ranked defense in the country. But to the Florida State offensive linemen– who have to square off with the Seminole defensive front in good-on-good portions of practice all week, all summer, all spring– that’s nothing.

When I asked Tre Jackson if he’d seen a better player on Saturday all year than the guys he goes up against in practice every day he actually laughed because he didn’t think I was serious, then when he realized I was he settled down and offered an emphatic, “no.”

A decade ago neither Bjoern Werner or Tank Carradine had any idea the significance of the Florida-Florida State rivalry.

Come Saturday, their fingerprints will be all over it.



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