02 October 2011
Last week, we discussed some of the potential moves that could be made on the offensive side of the ball in order to correct a few issues. Despite an obviously less than satisfactory showing in last week's matchup with the Clemson Tigers, the Florida State defense does not have as many problems as may be perceived. That being said, there are certain concerns that will need to be addressed in order for the Seminoles to make strides towards dominance on defense. A wealth of mental errors and penalties made for a much uglier outcome than desired on the road last week. Today, we will discuss if changes are necessary and if so, which will be made.
After a game in which your defense gives up 440+ yards of offense, it can be difficult to put things in proper perspective due to expecting Florida State to be an elite unit on that side of the ball. In order to understand the 443 yards of offense, it is absolutely critical to remember that the Clemson Tigers ran a total of 85 offensive plays. The Seminole defense can and will do a little better than 5.2 yards per play throughout the season, but that total itself also isn't too shabby either. It becomes a problem when your opponent gets 20+ extra snaps and nearly 100 yards and defensive penalty yards, creating nearly a 200 yard difference in the game. Three of Clemson's scoring drives were the direct result of penalties committed on 3rd or 4th down. A lot of these types of issues can be avoided and were particularly most frustrating to watch throughout the game. As is usually the case, the validity of many of the penalties could be debated, but ultimately the Seminoles have to put themselves in better positions throughout close games.
When you take into account that 21 additional plays were ran at roughly 5.2 yards per snaps per play (109 yards) due to penalties, you're reminded that Florida State showed the capability of making stops without actually being able to get their defense off the field. What Nole fans should have taken away from this game was that the defensive front is still as good as initially thought. The Tigers were only able to rush for 2.0 yards per carry throughout the entire afternoon, the longest rush from scrimmage being a 19 yarder late. Clemson was rarely able to sustain a long, established drive without the aid of a yellow handkerchief all afternoon. That isn't to take credit away from them for taking advantage of opportunities when given them, that is how you play good football and win games and it's something that Clemson has been doing all season thus far.
So what types of issues are the Seminoles facing personnel wise on the defensive side of the ball? In all honesty, the issues here probably require more tweaks and looks with different players than permanent changes. Two players that clearly struggled more than usual were linebackers Nigel Bradham and Vince Williams, both of which having tough times in coverage. In their defense, it should be noted that under normal circumstances they wouldn't have been placed in those positions as much as they were on last Saturday. Which brings up the next point; Greg Reid is more important to this defense than a lot of people are willing to admit. The absence of Reid led to Florida State straying away from Nickel coverage for a great bit of the day, which severely handicapped them in defending the pass. Personally, I was a bit surprised by this as the Seminoles have several talented DB's that are versatile and have seen the field enough to at the very least be reasonably effective. It seems that Stoops was unwilling to entrust Avis Commack or Nick Waisome with snaps in the nickel, which is understandable, but I would have expected to possibly see a Terrence Brooks come in and have an opportunity. Regardless of why it did or did not happen, the Seminoles suffered and had their linebackers exploited in coverage several times throughout the day. You also have to wonder why Telvin Smith was not on the field more than he was. Some speculate that he may still be in the doghouse but you have to believe that he may have been more effective in coverage than the bigger and less flexible Bradham or Williams. We will see over the next couple of weeks whether or not the staff sees the need to make any adjustments in personnel at the LB position. The return of Greg Reid is something that cannot be underestimated talent and scheme wise, it will change the look of the FSU defense.
There is a change that may begin to become more apparent for positive reasons and that is on the interior defensive line. RS freshman Cameron Erving and true freshman Tim Jernigan are making big noise when given the opportunity to play. The Seminoles are very strong up front on the interior, but these two have began to really standout. Erving looks like he will be a particularly special player which is exciting when you consider that many did not expect large contributions from him until year three or four on campus. His length and explosiveness on the inside is simply for too much to deal with and as he continues to gain confidence he's likely to get better. As for Jernigan, the fact that we are even discussing him as a true freshman at DT is all you need to know about his physical presence and talent. He will continue to see a decent percentage of snaps as the season progresses and he continues to get his feet wet.
Are there any changes you would make if you were wearing the HC cap? Maybe a little Karlos at safety? Let us know what your thoughts are on the FSU defense.
photo courtesy of Steve Chase, chase-photography.com
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