This week I caught up with Jon Marchant of Tomahawk Nation to discuss what’s been doin’ with the Seminoles this season. Obviously, there is a LOT that’s been doin’. Head on over to Tomahawk Nation today to find my answers to some of Jon’s questions about the Pack.
BTP: Assuming that Alex Hornibrook is the quarterback for Florida State this week, how does that change the Seminoles’ approach offensively? What are the strengths of his that they’ll want to support with playcalling?
TN: The short answer is Hornibrook probably gives you a higher floor but possibly a lower ceiling. He might not have the deep ball precision that Blackman can showcase, but - and this is admittedly a small sample size - he was a little bit faster than Blackman last week at recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out. There might be less chunk plays down the field but Hornibrook should keep FSU on schedule and in front of the chains more often. As such, I’d expect new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles to lean the offense in that direction.
BTP: Florida State’s offense has been an obvious strength so far this season, which leads to the obvious question about the offensive line: how much better are those guys than they were last year? What else is working in 2019?
TN: The short answer is they’re only a little bit better. As David Hale recently pointed out on Twitter, teams are blitzing this offense more but are getting pressure at about the same rate as last year, which wasn’t good. What’s happening is Briles is scheming around them. There’s a ton of RPOs, which allows the OL to use run block action even if it’s a throw. Briles brought OL coach Randy Clements with him, and Clements has done an amazing job; even if a lot of it is just fundamentals, the improvement is noticeable. Briles has also used jet motion as well, both to slow down the rush and pull safeties out toward the sidelines to open up space. Finally, tempo - FSU wants to go extremely fast. That helps the OL and to simplify the defensive looks and/or force coverage busts. Also, I would be remiss to not mention running back Cam Akers - he’s really good.
BTP: I watched a good bit of the Louisville-FSU game on Saturday to try to get an idea about this roller coaster thing y’all have going on this year, and I kinda did, but mostly it was confusing. What is getting the Noles off track for significant stretches of games?
TN: Where to begin? First, the offense - they have had trouble with penalties and turnovers - just sloppy play in general. But to tie into the previous questions, they must try to stay in standard downs and ahead of the chains. If they get into passing down situations they don’t have the pass protection to hold up. That’s also why tempo is important. This offense can’t score if they go slow. Running a 4-minute offense just isn’t much of an option. As for the defense, they’ve just been bad. This blended mix of issues usually rears its head in the 3rd quarter, which is how FSU blows so many early leads.
4.) NC State’s offense has been garbage lately and could use encouragement, so please discuss FSU’s defense in the most pessimistic terms possible. What’s been giving those guys problems this year?
TN: At first some people thought that because offense goes so quickly and the defense is out there for 40 minutes that it was wearing them down. But the truth is the defense is just as bad in the first quarter as they are in the fourth. The reason why they’ve regressed from last season is after losing Brian Burns to the NFL this coaching staff moved from an even four-down front to an odd (3-4) front in order to compensate for what they expected to be a lack of pass rush. It made sense, in theory. But it has messed with everything - poor or suspect linebacker play now had to take on offensive linemen and trigger into different run fits. The coverage behind the front was different than what they ran last year and what this coaching staff has a background in coaching. In short, they did it backwards, as the coverage is supposed to dictate the front and not the other way around. It’s turned into a huge mistake and a giant mess.
As if that wasn’t enough, FSU has lost two starting defenders for the season in consecutive weeks - their best pass rusher in Joshua Kaindoh and now linebacker Jaiden Lars-Woodbey. Not to mention an injury to Hamsah Nasrildeen, who has been a bright spot on defense this season. So in comes Jim Leavitt as an analyst. Can he fix it? That remains to be seen. At least Big Marvin Wilson is dominant up front.
BTP: How do you see the game Saturday playing out?
TN: Well, FSU opened as six-point favorites. The line dipped a bit and then I think it climbed back to 6. If the Wolfpack offense and the Seminole defense is going to be a pillow fight, I think I like the chances of FSU’s offense against NC State’s defense, at least for stretches. But FSU is the only team to both lead and trail in the 4th quarter in all four games this year, so buckle up for the roller coaster. FSU will probably lead early, like they always do, will blow the lead, like they always do, and like the Louisville game I think they find a way in the end. I’ll say ‘Noles win 33-26.