Chris Thompson knew he wasn't himself at practice Monday.
The senior tailback is usually frenetic, loud, boisterous on the practice field, but on Monday, fellow senior Lonnie Pryor was quick to point out how quiet Thompson had been.
In truth, this is a somber week for Thompson, but that wasn't why he was so low key Monday.
"It's just focusing," he said.
Thompson will be the starting running back against Wake Forest on Saturday, and that holds a special significance for him. It was against the Deacons last season that he took a handoff on third-and-1, ducked his head into a tackler and broke his back.
In the 11 months since, Thompson has made huge strides, and he's running with more quickness and energy than before, Jimbo Fisher said. But this game still marks another obstacle in Thompson's recovery, and he's had it marked on his calendar for a while.
"All the guys know it's going to be an emotional day for me," Thompson said.
There have been plenty of highs and lows as Thompson has fought his way back onto the field and worked his way back into shape since last year's injury, but in his first two games back in 2012 he's looked no worse for the wear.
On 10 touches, Thompson has racked up 76 yards and, last week, his first touchdown in a full year. A bulk of his yards have come after contact, too, and that's been particularly rewarding.
"I've been running the ball a lot harder than I have in the past," Thompson said. "I think at first it was just a whole thing about trying to prove to everybody that I'm back."
If the first two games provided proof, this week's matchup provides closure.
But while Thompson said he's eager to take on the defense that nearly ended his career a year ago, he's not looking to turn the page once it's over. This game is a milestone for him, but not the end of the journey.
"I don't think it's ever going to be behind me," Thompson said. "Even after this game, I'm going to still think about it at times. But it's nothing that's going to slow me down."
He'll be back: Wake Forest finished off a dramatic win over North Carolina on Saturday without its best defender, but Fisher said he doesn't doubt for a second that Nikita Whitlock will be back on the field for this week's game.
"He'll play. You can bank on that," Fisher said.
Whitlock sprained his ankle in last week's win, and reports out of Wake Forest said he's been in a walking boot since. An MRI isn't on the agenda for Whitlock, however, so Fisher's theory may be correct.
It would be bad news for FSU if Whitlock does play. The defensive tackle had seven tackles and a sack in last year's win over the Seminoles.
"He sets the tone inside," Fisher said. "He's quick, athletic, agile, strong. They give him a lot of freedom. You've got to always know where he's at and what he's doing. The guy is one heck of a football player. He's got a motor that doesn't stop."
"No problems," Fisher said. "We should see most everybody back on the field."
Fisher played it safe with several injured regulars against Savannah State, with Stork, O'Leary and Chad Abram among those sitting out the game.