Thursday, December 18, 2008

Florida State's defense

I asked Rich at Chant Rant for an overview of the Florida State defense, and he responded with this excellent breakdown:

As the season wound down, FSU fan frustration peaked -- mostly due to the defense.

Throughout this decade, offense has taken the brunt of the criticism. Meanwhile, the defense made big plays, produced turnovers, and kept the team in the game. Even when the D deserved equal credit for a loss, they seemed to get a pass. Until this year.

In 2008 the D's roster of juniors and seniors was supposed to hold the fort, while the wet-behind-the-ears offense grew up. Instead, they gave up too many points in too many big games. So for the first time in his 24 years in Tallahassee, D-coordinator Mickey Andrews is feeling the heat -- even to the point of considering retirement, so it's rumored.

The growing case against Andrews's defense includes inability to adjust to the spread offense, relying too much on man-to-man pass coverage and too little on zone, plus an overall lack of discipline. That last point, critics say, is what opponents have learned to exploit, using misdirection to juke FSU's fast-reacting defenders out of position.

The disconnect is when you check the national stats. FSU is 13th in Total Defense (allowing 291.75 yards per game) and 8th in pass defense (164.95 yards per game). Scoring Defense is another story, though. The 20.8 point per game average is somewhat deceiving. Miami scored 39 in a shootout (FSU scored 41), while Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida all put up big numbers with misdirection and creative scheming.

Which is exactly what Wisconsin's offensive staff should be working on. Though the Badgers don't appear to run much spread and misdirection, mixing some in with Big 10 power football could be a winning combination. On the other hand, the Noles defense should be out to regain some respect after being drubbed by Tim Tebow and company in the final game of the year.

Who are the key players to watch for on FSU's D?

Let's lead with the leader, All-ACC defensive end Everette Brown (6-4, 248). This bull rusher is third in the nation in sacks, with 12.5. Brown's high-revving motor should be in top gear for what's probably his last game as a Nole. The junior appears certain to leave early for the draft. Pressuring from the other side is senior Neefy (as in beefy) Moffett (6-1, 256). No slouch at getting to the quarterback, Moffett pulled a batted pass out of the air against Clemson and scooted for a score while shrugging defenders off his back like water off a goose.

If the ends are the strength of the defense, the tackles are the disappointments. Bud Thacker (6-2, 280) and Kendrick Stewart (6-2, 256) too often get neutralized by opposing linemen. Justin Mincey (6-5, 284) showed some late season promise that may have earned him increased PT against the Badgers.

FSU's starting linebackers are out of the same mold (6-2/6-3 and 225 - 230). Senior Toddrick Verdell is a former safety and the most mobile, able to drop into coverage or blitz. Another senior, Derek Nicholson, is the biggest and leads the team in tackles with 76.

Keep an eye on senior cornerback Tony Carter. Playing his final game in Garnet and Gold, Tony is a feast or famine pass defender. He might make a diving pass breakup one moment, and give up a TD on the next play. A more consistent CB, and probably better NFL prospect, Patrick Robinson mans the other side, when not called on to play Safety.

The Noles are proud to have an All-American at one safety spot. Make that Academic All-American. He's Myron Rolle, the much hearlded Rhodes Scholar and a future surgeon. The Nole nation is all very proud of Myron. But while he's played steady and been a credit to the school, he's never quite lived up to the potential he showed as the number one prospect coming out of high school. Perhaps he's saved the best for his last collegiate game.

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