Thursday, October 3, 2013
Planning for success: Florida State
By David M. Hale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The preparation for Florida State's defense has been monotonously similar through each of its first four games this season. Teams have worked tirelessly to run the ball against the Seminoles, and for a defense eager to get after the quarterback, it's been a bit frustrating.
In spite of four easy wins, the opposition has run the ball 63.1 percent of the time this year -- the ninth highest percentage any team in the country has faced. Up next for FSU is Maryland, and the Terrapins’ game plan this year has been eerily similar -- 63 percent runs for the season.
But there's one big difference between what Maryland offers and what Florida State has seen already. The Terps run the ball to set up the pass, hoping to lure defenses into a routine before exploding for a big play.
"They kind of remind me a little bit of Clemson," Florida State linebacker Christian Jones said. "They like to do a lot of motion and play action and try to hit you with big plays, just get your eyes out of whack."
That makes this week's matchup a particularly intriguing one on many levels for the Seminoles.
In last week's win over Boston College, the FSU defense struggled to stop the Eagles' power running game and BC scored 34 points. Jimbo Fisher chalked up most of the problems to eye violations -- defenders looking in the wrong place and missing an assignment -- and he's made it a focus in practice this week.
Maryland's offense figures to test how far the Seminoles have come this week, and that test comes just in time for FSU's next game -- against Clemson.
“Getting our stuff right is definitely a priority right now," safety Terrence Brooks said. "We see what can happen when we don’t do our job and every guy doesn’t work together cohesively."
The Terps have a mobile quarterback in C.J. Brown and a star playmaker at receiver in Stefon Diggs, and both are capable of exploiting defenders who are out of position.
Maryland has racked up its share of big plays, both on the ground (12 runs of 20-plus yards, seventh most in the country) and through the air (30 passing plays of 15 yards or more).
Brown, in particularly, is a dangerous weapon. He's accounted for seven passing TDs and six more on the ground this season, and his mobility makes him difficult to defend. But even after last week's struggles, Jones said Florida State's defense is eager to get its shot.
"A lot of those guys think they can just outrun us but we have an athletic defense," Jones said. "He's athletic and we can't let little plays get out because he can hurt us. But so far we've been doing a good job game planning against him."
Freshman Jonathan Franklin has played the part of Brown on Florida State's scout team, and the speedy quarterback has given the Seminoles' starters a good look at what's in store on Saturday.
Meanwhile, coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has made a point of focusing on the mistakes that cost the Seminoles against Boston College. He's thrown in myriad trick plays at random, keeping FSU on its toes and testing his players to ensure their eyes are trained on their assignments, not the football.
“It’s a part of just adjusting as a defense," tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "There’s never going to be such a thing as a perfect game. You’re always going to make mistakes. We just have to do better by getting things fixed before the game starts.”