For Florida’s final game of the 2013 season we dragged the editor of TomahawkNation.com away from “SodaGate” and the allegations against Jameis Winston to talk a little ball. Florida State enters the game a 26.5 favorite, the highest spread for either side that either of us could find dating back to 1985.
Has FSU played a defense as aggressive as Florida?
Bud Elliott: Certain teams, at times, have tried to play really aggressive on defense. Pittsburgh started out bringing some pressure and Jameis Winston just torched them. Clemson initially tried to play off a little bit and then, I think, got frustrated and tried to make things happen and brought some pressure.
Winston at one point of this year was No. 1 in the country, according to ESPN Stats Info, in passer rating against the blitz. They handle the blitz exceptionally well because they have an offensive line that’s played every game together, three NFL receivers, an NFL tight end and backs that understand the protection scheme.
I talked to Jimbo Fisher about this and he said one of the reasons they’re so good against the blitz is, first of all, they rep the blitz in practice all the time and it’s something he really believes in having coached against Nick Saban in practice. Secondly, they are very committed to being multiple against the blitz, having multiple answers for different blitz schemes, so they don’t get predictable in their protections. It’s something he really believes in.
But to your question, have they played anyone that presses and blitzes like crazy, not necessarily, no.
How can Florida win this game?
Bud: I think that it all starts with limiting Florida State’s at bats. By that I mean this game needs to be eight or nine possessions total, very slowly played, perhaps even slower than Florida’s normal pace. If this gets into an area where you have 11-13 possessions, that’s just too many at bats and Florida State over that many possessions is just going to win out. I think Florida has to limit possessions and you do that by milking the clock, running the football, taking the play clock down, not going out of bounds, not throwing incomplete passes and you also do that by limiting Florida State’s ability to hit big plays. That’s where you have to strike that balance of being aggressive and being conservative but if you’re Florida, you don’t want Florida State to have scoring drives that last two minutes. You need them to last five or six minutes, if they happen.
I think you need to win in the red zone. Even the best offenses in the country will struggle in the red zone. Florida State’s been the No. 1 offense in the red zone in the country this year but in a small sample set that is one game, anything is possible.
If you don’t allow the big plays and you execute in the red zone, maybe they kick some field goals and I feel like they need to do a good job of creating turnovers and on special teams. You probably need to steal four possessions, I would say. If you told me Florida was plus-4 in the turnover game and then have a special teams score, I think they would have a chance to win that ball game, if they follow that formula.
What is Kenny Shaw’s true impact to this team?
Bud: He actually goes back to what we talked about with the blitz. They line him up in the slot and most teams in college football don’t have a third corner who can consistently hang with Shaw. He’s a senior, exceptionally quick, he’s a really good athlete, catches the football well, but most importantly he just knows how to run routes real well. He’s a great technician and understands how to get open against zone and is really difficult to cover in man because he’s so slippery and he has great chemistry with Winston. When teams bring blitzes, many times the guy he’s checking it off to is Shaw, who’s open in the slot.
How many offensive/defensive players at Florida would start at Florida State?
Bud Elliott: I’m trying to think here. Not the tight ends, none of the receivers, definitely not the running back. I think Joyer’s pretty good, is he still healthy?
Nick: Legitimate question, yeah, he’s healthy.
Bud: He’s a pretty good blocker but they like the Chad Abram kid that they have at full back. This is a really good question because A, there isn’t anyone that really stands out and makes you say, “I would take this kid.” And B, even after thinking about it a lot I don’t know that there’s anyone I would take. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, it’s just kind of been that year for Florida and FSU’s offense has grown up quite a bit.
I think Hargreaves could maybe start at one of the corners. I covered him in high school and he was really, really good. Saying that, Florida State has Lamarcus Joyner who might be the best slot guy in the country, especially the way they use him to blitz. P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby both of whom they think are going to the league but I think he [Hargreaves] would have a starting role in the secondary.
Fowler I definitely think could start at one of the defensive end spots, for sure. That’s a guy FSU wanted quite a bit and he is a really good player. Easley if he was healthy would certainly start and I think that goes without saying.
What doesn’t FSU do well (you can’t say punting!)?
Bud Elliott: Oh man, I really wanted to say punting.
Patience, sometimes. Sometimes on offense they will get impatient. They’ve had so much success hitting the big play this year that occasionally they can go a couple series where Winston and the guys just want to push the ball down field so much that they ignore some of the underneath stuff. That’s something that the coaching staff just continually has to remind Winston of, you have to play within the context of the offense. When the coverage dictates that the ball needs to be checked down, you have to check it down.
I think that’s one thing that shows up in film reviews a little more than I thought it would at this point of the season.
They don’t do a great job of rushing the passer with just four. They are a really good blitzing team but they’re not quite as good just sitting back, playing coverage, just rushing four a getting pressure on the passer with that. They need to bring extra rushers.