This week we had the pleasure of discussing the Florida State football game with one of the best sites on the network, Tomahawk Nation. DKfromVA was nice enough to fully answer our questions and wish us luck for this week's game. These guys are a top class site and really know their stuff. If you don't get an answer here you want, I encourage you to head on over there and ask them about their 'Noles and they will be able answer any question completely.
Shakin the Southland: While FSU had an official offensive coordinator the past few years (James Coley), Jimbo has always had his hands in the middle of this offense. (A) How does Jimbo retaking full control of the offense effect offensive output? (B) I've heard complaints from ‘Nole fans before about Jimbo's needed to focus more on managing the team (for various reasons). How has his expanded role as effective offensive coordinator impacted his ability to lead the team in other areas and is this role expansion a good or bad thing for the Seminoles?
Tomahawk Nation: Though he had the title, James Coley was Florida State's offensive coordinator in name only. It was always Jimbo Fisher's attack, and he retained play-calling duties while Coley was at FSU. The reason Coley left for Miami was to have full control over a talented offense and further his aspirations to obtain a head coaching job at some point. His career was arguably stagnating at FSU, and even though Jimbo Fisher made a remark about a supposed "Five Year Plan" he had for turning over offensive coordinator duties, this was far from a concrete design. Coley certainly helped Fisher and the rest of the offensive staff during the week in preparation and provided eyes for Fisher in the box, but his role was nothing that couldn't be replicated by the new coaches. He was and is an excellent recruiter in South Florida, which is where his departure is mostly felt.
So, I don't think Jimbo's re-assumption of the OC title has any effect on offensive output itself. However, there is evidence that Fisher has grown as a head coach and learned to manage the offense and the team more effectively. I can't say it any better than one of our writers did in one installment of her three-part bye week series here.
While there were many cries for Jimbo to follow his supposed Five Year Plan or hire a true offensive coordinator immediately, if the offensive output continues at or near the pace it has seen in 2013, I have to believe they'll be all but silenced.
Jameis Winston has made quite a splash in his first season as starter. He has been particularly effective using his legs to get away from pressure and either pick up yards or get the ball down the field to one of his talented pass catchers. What should Clemson fans worry most about: Winston keeping drives going by breaking containment and running the ball or avoiding a rush and looking downfield? Along those same lines, how much confidence do you have in Winston's decision-making skills when he is flustered in the pocket?
While Jameis is capable of the former, the threat of #5 evading the rush and keeping his eyes downfield is definitely what Clemson fans should worry more about. Winston is not nearly the effective runner that EJ Manuel was, but he does just about everything else better currently. I know that sounds absurd to say given EJ's career statistics, first round draft status, etc., but I feel really comfortable in doing so. He does things Manuel struggled with extremely well, such as reading the middle of the field, going through progressions, and throwing with anticipation. He also has all the physical tools with his size and arm strength.
Though Winston isn't the pure running threat that some other quarterbacks around the nation are, he is certainly quick and an excellent mover in the pocket when he sees/senses pressure. His biggest plays this season have come when he evades a rush and/or hangs in and takes a hit, delivering the ball downfield. He probably does hold onto the ball too long. Winston is very, very aggressive and always looks to make the big play. He'll need to take what the Clemson defense is willing to give him, check to runs, and check down to short throws on Saturday night. I don't know that I can say I've seen Jameis flustered in the pocket, honestly. Many teams have tried to blitz him and he's stayed remarkably collected. We've seen in film review that blitzing Jameis doesn't seem to be a good idea. Now, Clemson does have the best front-seven that FSU has seen thus far, so there's a better chance of them getting home when they do bring pressure. However, it's certainly a gamble to do so given Clemson's safety play against FSU's receivers and a quarterback adept at making a big play downfield against the rush.
A tremendous amount of hype has deservedly been placed around the FSU receiving corps. Is this the best group of receivers in school history and who is your favorite receiver out of the current corps?
As a younger ‘Noles fan in our TN staff, I farmed the historical aspect of this question out to the group. The consensus that was reached was that this is not the best group in school history, but probably the best since the last national championship team at FSU. That group featured Peter Warrick, Anquan Boldin, Snoop Minnis, Laveranues Coles, and Ron Dugans. So that one is tough to beat. The late 1980's and1990's saw a lot of talent at FSU at wide receiver (and everywhere else), and 1995 was the last season to see two 1,000-yard receivers.
This year's group is on pace to end that drought, and is certainly excellent in its own right. Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, and Kelvin Benjamin are a formidable trio, and Christian Green is a very capable 4th option. Freshmen slot men Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield are very talented, as is freshman outside receiver Isaiah Jones. Rashad Greene is the best player out of the group, but for favorite I'll go with Kenny Shaw. He's got an awesome personality, and is probably the most polished of the three starters. Kenny is a great route runner and is always where he needs to be, and has made some excellent plays in the air this season. He starts in the slot, and I hope to see a big game from him on Saturday night.
As we said before, this group of receivers gets a lot of hype and it appears as though TE Nick O'Leary sometimes gets lost in the conversation. What does O'Leary mean to this offense both as a receiver and blocker and how much pressure will he put on opposing defenses particularly when you consider the talent FSU has at the skill positions?
Nick has seen an increased role in Florida State's offense this year. This is both exciting and utterly necessary. It's exciting because TE recruits across the country are taking notice, and the position is important to what Fisher has done historically. It's necessary because there are literally no other TE's on the roster in whom we have any faith whatsoever. Florida State plays almost exclusively 10, 11, 20, and 21 personnel as a result. You won't see another tight end on the field unless it's a goal line/really, really, really short yardage situation for FSU. This could theoretically present a challenge when combined with the fact that O'Leary really isn't an inline blocker.
O'Leary has had a really nice start in 2013, hauling in 5 touchdowns already. He's a talented, dangerous receiver who has provided a quality presence in the middle of the field for Jameis. I could certainly see him having a big night against Clemson if Florida State is able to run the ball effectively. If Nick gets behind linebackers that have to respect the run, he could be a difficult match-up for the CU safeties. And of course, his presence in the middle of the field can create opportunities for the aforementioned talented players on the outside.
Florida State has three very good running backs in Freeman, Williams, and Wilder. What should we expect from each of these backs and what attributes does each have that could be dangerous for the Clemson defense?
Devonta Freeman has been Florida State's best back so far in 2013. He's run extremely well both inside and outside, and has been awesome in pass protection. I think you'll see Devonta in the primary running back role on Saturday. Freeman is probably a better inside runner than James Wilder Jr., which seems odd given Wilder's size and bruising reputation. Wilder has been banged up since the opener, in which he suffered some sort of shoulder injury. He's been limited since, but FSU hopes to have him as an option on Saturday after he played an excellent game against the Tigers last season. He runs best in FSU's outside zone plays.
Then there's Karlos Williams. Up until the Nevada game, Karlos was a 235-pound safety. Thing is, he runs about a 4.45 that size. Jimbo wanted him on offense for quite some time, but Karlos insisted that he was a safety. Not even a linebacker at that size. Only a safety. So they sort of created a role for him in 4-2-5 packages where he'd stand close to the line, blitz, cover TE's and backs, but they called him a safety. He wasn't good in coverage, and was finally convinced to make the move for his future. On his first touch from scrimmage, Karlos ran in a 60+ yard touchdown. He's still very much a project in learning to run in FSU's zone scheme, but he does run very physically and has game-breaking speed when the ball is in his hands. I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved around into some pass catching situations when he does play against Clemson, but I think he'll factor into the kick return game more than he will the running back position. They'll want to play Freeman a bunch to help protect Jameis.
Mark Stoops came to FSU on a mission to instill lost fundamentals. During this process, Stoops began playing more conservatively--playing more zone and blitzing less. Jeremy Pruitt was brought in to mix things up a bit and put a little more pressure on opposing offenses. How has this season's defense deviated from Stoops' more conservative approach via scheme and player type?
You're exactly right in that characterization of FSU's defensive evolution since Mickey Andrews departed. Stoops did a fantastic job of taking Florida State from being one of the worst defenses in America in '09 and leaving them as one of the best before accepting the head job at Kentucky. He taught fundamentals and discipline, and was able to accrue so much talent on defense that he didn't have to take many risks. Florida State relied on their talent differential to dominate most teams they played, getting pressure with an awesome defensive line while sitting in coverage.
Jimbo has always been a Saban guy, and it was no surprise that he brought in Jeremy Pruitt as his next defensive coordinator. Pruitt has brought a Saban-style defense with him, and it's certainly been a transition. He's been installing pattern-match, press and combo coverages with basic Alabama defensive elements of fire zone looks and increased two-gapping on the line. It's been a transition with its ups and downs, as should be expected when changing schemes so dramatically with the exodus of NFL talent that FSU saw last season. This year's defense has definitely featured much more blitzing with the Seminoles looking to force mistakes by affecting the quarterback through rushes and pushing the pocket. The player type preferred by Pruitt hasn't differed much from Stoops, actually. FSU wants big, physical defensive backs and a lot of size in the front-seven. They'll play a 3-4/5-2 against pro-style teams, but Clemson will see a lot of nickel and even some dime from the ‘Noles with three and four man fronts.
How far through the process is Pruitt in installing his defense at FSU, how closely will the end product resemble Alabama's defense, and what are the major hurdles that will need to be overcome to get this scheme 100% implemented?
Well, I don't think the installation is nearly there. The early season has seen teams succeed in moving the ball against FSU, particularly early in games with the run. At times the ‘Noles have played selfishly, not doing their jobs in taking on blocks and allowing the correct player to clean up the play in attempting to make the big play themselves. The game against Maryland was much better, but I'm not sure that everything has been fixed. Florida State dominated Maryland's offensive line, something I don't see happening to the same extent against Clemson.
I do think that FSU matches up better with spread teams than it does with pro-style attacks. The ‘Noles have no shortage of size and speed in the defensive backfield, and the nickel linebackers Telvin and Terrance Smith are good against spread looks. However, the Smith boys are very small for linebackers, which poses problems against teams that line up in heavy formations and run right at the Seminoles. I think the end product of the Florida State defense will very closely resemble Alabama's. At least that ‘s the goal. We'll see how well Pruitt is able to teach his concepts, something Saban does with unparalleled success in college. There's no doubt he'll have the talent to succeed, which is something FSU fans are hanging their hats on early in Pruitt's career. There's always the chance that this four and five-star talent has a good day and makes some huge plays. I think year two will be one in which we see a jump, as it's widely seen during that time period in a lot of instances around the country. I know Clemson fans can attest to that this season under Venables.
Boston College had some success using FSU's defensive speed against them through some misdirection runs and by throwing back across the defensive flow. How susceptible has this defense been all season to the use things like counter plays and throwback screens?
The BC game in particular was an instance of what I was talking about with FSU defenders getting out of their gaps, not taking on blocks, and playing selfishly. It was frankly a flat, ugly performance. To Addazio's credit, BC had a nice game plan and came out on fire. Florida State didn't match the intensity. A lot of people wanted to know what adjustment FSU made to go on its 35-3 run in the middle of the game, during which time BC gained about 19 yards on 16 plays. The answer, at least schematically, was nothing. We don't talk much about effort and intensity at TN because we feel it's usually a shallow analysis that overlooks larger issues, but against Boston College the ‘Noles really did seem to turn it on down 17-3. And then, sadly, they seemed to turn it off. Boston College moved the ball and scored several more times after the run that put FSU comfortably on top. But, so go the ups and downs of a first year college defense.
As far as the misdirection stuff, the term "eye discipline" became the new team mantra after the BC game. I think we heard it no less than 65 times from different coaches and players during the Monday interviews after BC successfully used the throwback stuff on multiple occasions that harkened back the dark days of 2009. The Seminoles handled the option, veer, and misdirection stuff that Maryland did very well, and didn't fall prey to the trick play. However, they did routinely blow up Maryland's thin offensive line. I have no doubt that Chad Morris will have plenty of designs ready to unleash on the ‘Noles, and I'm hopeful that the mantra and last season's tape will have FSU ready to defend it competently. The Florida State-Clemson match-up in 2013 is just so fantastic. Every individual and position group contest is intriguing. I'm truly excited for a great game.