2013 Florida State @ Clemson -- Game Preview

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Basic School Information

Clemson Florida State
2013 Record: 6-0, 4-0 ACC 5-0 , 2-0 ACC
Rankings: 3 AP, 4 USA Today 5 AP, 5 USA Today
Location: Clemson, SC Tallahassee, FL
Colors: Clemson Orange and Regalia Garnet & Gold
Enrollment: 20,768 41,710
Athletic Director: Dan Radakovich Stan Wilcox
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney, Alabama ‘93 Jimbo Fisher, Salem ‘89
Record at Current School: 46-21 (.686) 36-10 (.783)
Career Record: 46-21 (.686) 36-10 (.783)
Offensive Coordinator: Chad Morris Jimbo Fisher
Base Offense: Spread Multiple Pro-style
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables Jeremy Pruitt
Base Defense: 4-3 Multiple 3-4 based
Athletic Website: www.clemsontigers.com www.seminoles.com

Overall Game Information

Game Time 8:00 PM EDT
Stadium Memorial Stadium
Host City Clemson, SC
Television ABC
Play by Play Announcer Brent Musburger
Color Commentator Kirk Herbstreit
Sideline Heather Cox
Clemson Radio Clemson Tiger Sports Network (WCCP FM)
CU Play-By-Play Pete Yanity
CU Color Commentary Will Merritt
CU Sideline Reporting Patrick Sapp

Head Coach

FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has been around the college football game for many years. Coach Fisher played quarterback at under Terry Bowden at Samford and was named NCAA Division III player of the year in 1987. Fisher became Samford's QB's coach in the early ‘90's then quickly moved on to reunite with T. Bowden as quarterbacks coach at Auburn during the mid ‘90's. He spent a year at Cincinnati then was able to catch onto Nick Saban's staff at Louisiana State and was retained at LSU by Les Miles after Saban's departure for the professional ranks. Fisher later joined the staff of another Bowden (Bobby) at Florida State in ‘06 and has been in Tallahassee ever since. He first rejuvenated their offense, then was named "Coach in Waiting," and now leading the ‘Noles as the Head Coach.

Fisher's initial move as the offensive coordinator was to revive the trainwreck known as the "Jeff Bowden" years. Fisher was able, in about two seasons, to turn this offensive attack around and create an attack that opponents actually feared. Fisher elevated James Coley to the offensive coordinator role upon being named head coach. Coley held that position until the 2013 preseason when he chose to leave FSU and return to his hometown Miami Hurricanes. Following Coleys departure, Fisher has reassumed the role of offensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching and playcalling duties. Don't fool yourself, while Fisher may have gone out and added a coach with the title of "Offensive Coordinator," Fisher held the reigns to that offense.

Defensively, Fisher chose to immediately go out and hire veteran Mark Stoops to run his defense. This decision was a drastic change from the old Mickey Andrews blitz and press defenses that we became accustomed to down in Tallahassee. Stoops brought in more backend zone coverage that wasn't as in your face as before but was much more fundamentally sound. The tradeoff, in theory, was that the offense would be forced to methodically move the football. If the offense made a mistake the Seminole defense should be in position to capitalize. Upon Stoops' departure to Kentucky, Fisher went out and got Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt to lead the defense. Pruitt has switched back to a multiple 3-4 that is similar to Saban's, though he has not yet installed the same volume of checks that Saban gives his players. Pruitt has turned this defense into a more aggressive unit that will blitz more often than years past. This move clearly indicates that Fisher is more confident with fundamental soundness and now is willing to take more chances in an effort to stop some of the faster-paced, more athletic offenses that have emerged (i.e., Clemson).

Offense

As we stated earlier, Jimbo Fisher is officially back in the saddle running the offense down in Tallahassee. Fisher's legacy as an offensive assistant and coordinator is twofold. First, he is an incredible quarterback developer, coaching and improving the likes of Josh Booty, Rohan Davey, Matt Mauck, JaMarcus Russell (who was quite good in college at least), Matt Flynn, as well as former FSU signal callers Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel. In addition, he proved to be an excellent play caller and offensive tactician, refining these skills at LSU before heading to Florida State. Jimbo Fisher is a tremendous offensive mind and has shown that his offenses can adjust not only to the team that they play but also to their own talents. Over the years we've seen Fisher beat teams by throwing the ball and by running the ball though his superiority as an offensive general was built by mixing and matching his attack to suit situations.

Overall, Fisher uses a wide array of formations. You'll see I-formation, offset I, Ace, some Jumbo Ace, 3/4 wide shotgun, pistol, etc... They will use multiple personnel groupings and, in years past, have enjoyed incorporating an H-back in a lot of these groupings. I don't believe they have as much depth at the TE/H-back position this season but typically do slide those guys in for versatility purposes-especially O'Leary. This season you will see more of the direct snap formations and efforts to assure their outstanding playmakers (wide receivers) are in the game as much as possible. Long and short, we will see a wide array of formations and personnel groupings all strategically inserted into the football game.

This season we've seen Fisher show a definitive commitment to running the football. In the past couple seasons it appeared as though Clemson dodged several bullets because the Seminoles appeared to be in prime shape to run the football but deviated from that plan. This season the FSU staff seems to be much more confident with the offensive line and their depth which in turn has given the play caller more confidence to keep on feeding the rock to his backs. Through the air Fisher has always been known as a coach who carefully layers his routes. He follows this layering by teaching his quarterbacks how to properly proceed through progressions, read the safeties, and make the proper decision. One additional item of interest has been the additional use of screen passes. These are designed to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers and, like a lot of the little screens Clemson runs, are essentially just an extension of the perimeter running game.

On the ground, the Seminoles have three legit running backs. Junior Devonta Freeman leads the team in with 54 carries and 385 yards on the season. Karlos Williams does not have more than nine carries in a single game but has rushed for 244 yards and 6 TDs so far this year. James Wilder Jr. has 36 carries for 214 yards on the season.

The ‘Noles have been impressive throwing the football in 2013. As stated earlier, Fisher assures he layers his routes in addition to running basic combination routes. Layering routes involves creating multiple depth levels for the receivers. For instance, FSU may run a deep post, a 12 yard dig, and a TE drag on the same play. This places at least one receiver on a deep route, one on an intermediate route, and one on a short route. These layers drive the quarterback's progression and Jimbo (and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders) are very capable of teaching their guys how to get through their progressions. Fisher also likes to implement combination routes like the

We'll begin discussing personnel with the signal caller then work our way out to the pass catchers. Jameis Winston came into FSU with a lot of hype and, following a tough preseason quarterback competition, the freshman has been as advertised. Winston is an athlete and a playmaker. His coming out party was obviously going 25/27 for 356 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions on national television Labor Day weekend in Pittsburgh. On the year he is completing 73% of his passes resulting in 1441 yards and 17 TDs through 5 games. Winston is also extremely elusive with his legs and can move the ball on the ground. To date Winston has 36 carries for 135 yards and 2 TDs. This ability to move around has been impressive as he's frequently eluded what appeared to be sure quarterback sacks to turn trashed plays into big gainers for the ‘Noles. The knocks on Winston come from his slow release and his gun slinger mentality. Hopefully the former will give enough time for our front seven to get to him and the latter will give Clemson a gift.

Kenny Shaw, Rashad Green, and Kelvin Benjamin are the three receivers that instantly stick out. These guys are good and any of them can cause trouble for an opposing defense. Combine these three stud receivers with tight end Nick O'Leary and the Seminoles have a passing attack with the ability to pick you apart on multiple levels. As we stated earlier, Fisher will stretch the field, have intermediate routes, and have shorter dump routes on each passing play. Clemson will need to play solid fundamental pass defense to assure that these receivers (and backs) don't have a monster game.

Defense

As we mentioned, Mark Stoops has moved onto a head coaching job in Kentucky and was replaced by Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt came to Florida State from Alabama where he was the secondary coach. Prior to his time at Bama, he was a coach at Hoover High School (a top national HS power) along with several other prep schools since '98. Pruitt played his first two years of college ball at MTSU before moving on to finish at Alabama following the '96 season and staying with the Tide program the following year as a graduate assistant.

The Seminoles look to be evolving their defense from a more conservative approach to one that is multiple, tries to assure the best athletes are on the field, and is not afraid to take more chances with their defense. FSU alternates between fronts that feature three and four defensive linemen. They use both over and under looks with the 40 front, will walk up multiple backers in their three DL front (effectively creating a 50 front), and will be content with the simple three man front based on situation. This group is made of more prototypical 30 front types than their previous 4-man line that had much better edge rushers. Their use of defensive formations appears to be a direct reflection on the ‘Nole defensive staff simply attempting to put their best players on the field and to help mitigate the use of spread offenses in college football. LB Christian Jones has been moved to the edge some to improve the pass rush and speed on the edge. These adjustments also allow the ‘Noles to get more hybrid-type players on the field and give the FSU defensive coaches more in-game decision making options.

FSU is making the transition to a mostly one gap 3-4 base defense, there is little argument there. They don't have all the personnel today to completely convert to this scheme but have shown a lot of odd fronts with 3 or 5 defenders at the LOS. We've discussed here some of the advantages of playing 3-4 personnel against hurry up and spread type of offenses due to the flexibility gained. I am by no means saying that FSU will play a straight 3-4 against Clemson (they, like most we play will want to try and get another DB on the field)...only that they've showed three down lineman fronts more this season and look very comfortable covering the center and walking down a linebacker or two.

Overall

Clemson's key on offense is getting something that resembles push when running the ball and fending off the FSU pass rush on those occasions. We've really struggled at the right tackle position. We all know this. Clemson's coaches have to understand this point and provide help to Anthony and/or Timothy if they get in trouble-be it bringing in a TE or even reverting to a heavy set with max protect if needed.

Tajh has made great decisions for most of the past two season and will need to continue that trend. One item I'll be looking for is for Boyd to avoid getting happy feet if/when the pocket breaks down. Certainly we encourage him to use his feet to get out of trouble and extend the play. One thing we cannot see here is what we saw against SCar. Tajh never got into a rhythm and walked into several sacks.

This moves along to Morris' responsibility. We'd clearly love to run the ball with our running backs. If that is possible, do it to it. Otherwise, The Chad absolutely has to get Boyd into a groove early. There are a couple easy throws that Boyd can make to get him in his comfort zone. When he is there, the game looks to be in slow motion with Boyd pulling the strings. When Tajh gets a little flustered early, he tends to start forcing things-both pulling the ball then running and staring down receivers.

Clemson has to assure that Winston is forced to beat them through the air. I know everyone has heard how great Winston is (and I am not doubting this) but you have to make a freshman quarterback in a night game in Death Valley beat you. This means the Tigers need to bottle up the FSU running game and contain Winston. The Clemson secondary (particularly the safeties) are in for a battle but it is harder for FSU to win the battle heaving the ball down the field than simply methodically moving the chains. Clemson's front seven is also improved and there are quite a few questions surrounding the FSU offensive line, so I say get after them

Finally, we don't need a superb day out of the special teams but we certainly can't give up a big one. The return last year completely flipped that game, gave FSU momentum, and stunned Clemson. I'll take an average day from special teams so long as we don't make silly errors, don't give up a big return, and please don't waste an unnecessary time out. Those are killing Dr. B and at a minimal taking years off my life!

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