The Breakdown – Florida State Edition
Getting to Know the Seminoles:
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Offensive Coordinator: Randy Sanders/Lawrence Dawsey
Defensive Coordinator: Charles Kelly
The 2017 season began with high expectations and a great deal of optimism for Florida State. The Noles were expected to go toe to toe with Alabama in the season opener and regardless of the outcome, they would still be favored in every game the rest of the way. 11-1, an ACC Title and a spot in the final 4 were all on the table. However, a knee injury to starting Quarterback Deondre Francois derailed the Noles season and dashed those hopes and dreams. FSU is now sitting at 2-3 coming off a road win at Duke, and have more questions than answers.
Obviously losing your starting Quarterback is a massive blow to any offense, but for Florida State, that may be an understatement. Francois was primed for a huge season but instead the Noles have turned to True Freshman, James Blackman. Blackman is 6’5” and just 169 pounds. He has an absolute cannon for an arm but he’s obviously had his fair share of struggles which is understandable for a guy who probably didn’t think he’d see the field this season. Through 5 games Blackman is completing 63% of his passes, going 68-108 with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
The best gift you can give a True Freshman Quarterback is a big Running Back he can handle the ball off too. The Noles have that in fellow Freshman Cam Akers. A five-star recruit and Mississippi’s Mr. Football, Akers has loads of talent. He is a fast and physical player capable of breaking off a big run at any moment. Akers is averaging 75 yards per game on the ground with 1 touchdown to his credit. While Akers play has been a big story, Running Back Jacques Patrick is making some headlines of his own. Patrick has racked up 364 yards on 62 carries this season, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Coach Fisher had some serious praise this week for Patrick highlighting not just his running ability but also his ability to pass block, which the Noles are in desperate need of.
At Wide Receiver, the Seminoles have been bitten by the injury bug this season. George Campbell (core) and Keith Gavin (ankle) are both questionable this week which places more pressure and focus on Junior Auden Tate. Tate (6’5”, 225lbs) is a big target for Blackman. He finished the 2016 season tied for second on the team in touchdown receptions with 6 and already has 5 here in 2017. Tate leads the Seminoles in every receiving category including yards (312), average yards per catch (16.4) and total receptions (19). Helping to take some of the aforementioned pressure off Tate is Junior Nyqwan Murray. Murray made slow and steady progression last season and then burst onto the scene in the Orange Bowl game against Michigan scoring two touchdowns with over 100 yards receiving. Murray has 18 receptions for 180 yards, averaging 10 yards per catch.
Along the Offensive Line, FSU had some well documented issues last season. Unfortunately, those issues have continued into 2017. The Noles rank 125th in sacks allowed, averaging 3.6 per game. The injury bug has also found its way to the Offensive Line with 5 Lineman out this season for a number of injuries.
Overall, this offense has struggles mightily this season. The Noles rank 110th nationally in total offense, 84th in passing offense, 83rd in rushing offense and 108th on third down.
On defense, the Seminoles return a wealth of talent from a season ago and while the stats still look good, the production on the field hasn’t necessarily lived up to expectations.
Up front, the Noles are solid. Nnadi, Sweat, Burns and Christmas have started every game this season. Defensive End Josh Sweat leads the team in tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (2.5). At Defensive Tackle, Derrick Nnadi is third on the team in total tackles with 23 and second in tackles for loss with 5.0. As a whole, the line has done a good job of clogging up the running lanes, ranking 21st nationally in rush defense, allowing just 114.6 yards per game. The pass rush however, has been virtually nonexistent. The Noles are 87th nationally in sacks.
In Florida States 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins have been making plays at the Linebacker positions. Thomas is second on the team in total tackles with 27 including 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Thomas has the ability to blitz and get to the quarterback while also being able to come up and defend against the run and drop into coverage. Hoskins is the Vet of the linebacker core and a vocal leader.
While the defensive line has had their issues with getting pressure, the secondary for FSU may be the unit under the most scrutiny. The Noles rank 59th in passing yards allowed, surrendering 216 yards per game. Florida State has big physical guys in the secondary and have shown that they can make plays at times, the issue is that they don’t make enough plays for starters and they’ve show a tendency this season to line up too far off the receivers. This allows for easy completions and yards after the catch. There are several guys to look out for in this secondary starting with Tarvarus McFadden at Corner, who leads the team in pass breakups and hard-hitting Sophomore Kyle Meyers who’s also great in coverage. Speaking of hard hitting, the Noles have their own version of Calvin Pryor in Trey Marshall. The dude can drop the hammer. Regardless of the great talent that Florida State has in the Secondary, all eyes will be on one guy, arguably the best player on the team, Safety Derwin James. James is a wild card. There literally isn’t a position that he couldn’t play on this defense, and we can say that because he’s played quite a few. He has the burst of an edge rusher, speed of a linebacker and obviously fantastic cover skills.
Overall, this defense ranks 28th in total defense and 38th in scoring defense.
Louisville vs. Florida State
What a difference a year makes. Last season, these two teams squared off in a Top 10 matchup in front of a national audience. Louisville dominated Florida State from the opening whistle and catapulted themselves into the national title conversation. Now, things are slightly different. The Seminoles have lost their starting Quarterback and the Cardinals have lost their Defense. The difference is Francois will be back, this Defense… yea I don’t even know.
The Seminoles are sitting at 2-3 and the Cardinals at 4-3. Florida State was just in a battle on the road with Duke and Louisville, well you know what they did last Saturday. I can’t even bring myself to type it but you know. While the script has changed for both teams, the goal is the same now, salvage the season. For Louisville fans, given the way things have gone, many would be ecstatic with 9-3 and an opportunity to get to the 10-win mark in a bowl game. In order for that to be a possibility they have to do something they haven’t done yet in the ACC. Go on the road and beat FSU. While the Noles are struggling, they still have elite talent and a head coach that knows how to win. The Noles defense will need to sure things up in the Secondary and create some sort of pass rush to disrupt Lamar Jackson. The Louisville offensive line needs to establish the line of scrimmage early and the Cards need to try to establish some form of a running game. Wide Receivers need to be prepared for physical play in the secondary and hold on to the football.
For the Louisville defense, it’s time to commit to something. Things have not gone well this season, we all know that, but they have a chance this weekend to get things right. This Florida State offense is, pedestrian. James Blackman has raw talent but he’s only a Freshman and has a steep learning curve, he will make mistakes. The Noles offensive line has been a hazard as well. If I’m Peter Sirmon I commit to doing a couple of things this weekend. First, rush the passer. Send everybody after Blackman, force him to make decisions under direst. Second, take away the run. FSU has two guys that can really tote the rock and they will rely on them heavily in this game especially early on. Third, tackle. Please. Anybody in a maroon jersey, even if they don’t have the ball, wrap them up.
When all is said and done, this is still going to be a very difficult game for the Cards just like we thought it would be at the beginning of the season only for different reasons. I have complete and total faith that the Louisville offense will be able to put up points. I have zero faith that the Louisville defense will be able to stop a Florida State offense that resembles an old beat up Pinto. For no other reason than just pure hope, Cards Win. 28-24.
Who’s Got the Edge?
Defense: Florida State
Special Teams: Toss Up
Impact Player(s): Lamar Jackson (UofL), Derwin James (FSU)
Player(S) to Watch: Jaire Alexander (UofL), Cam Akers (FSU)