It's the start of a new era for the Florida State Seminoles. While they are sure to be coming off a win over lowly Samford, Post- Bowden Seminoles will have plenty of inexperience, but talent on the roster to match any team. This is a large game for the sooners, and will likely determine how the season goes. There are many things to be careful about with this young explosive team, and there are even more things you should know about.
One word: Explosive
The definition of an explosive offense, they can really put up points on the board. Even with their offensive star injured towards the end of the season, Florida State ranked just 2 spots behind oklahoma, at #23, with total offensive yards (5477). They averaged just under two yards less than Oklahoma in yards per game, but had a more balanced attack. In fact,they averaged about 15 yards more on the ground than the sooners.
That said, most of the danger of the offense is through the passing game. With a heisman candidate leading the charge, the offense uses different recieving looks to sling it all acorss the field. Plenty of play action and out-routes are used, with the occasional deep slant.
Special note: Although they gain a majority of yards in the air, the majority of their touchdowns came from rushing. This suggests that their red zone offense switches primarily to the run game. Expect this to be more balanced with Christian Ponder playing more of the season.
A scary good quarterback, Christian Ponder is a preseason Heisman Watch List member. He has a cannon for an arm, and is surprisingly mobile. He is a great pocket-passer and has a tendency to roll out if he sees the pocket starting to collapse.
He can throw off his fron foot for accuracy while on the run, and in general, is very hard to sack. In 2009, he gave up 15 sacks for the 9 games he played. However, he is fragile, and was badly injured last year. expect every sack to be followed with a cringe by the Florida State fans.
Last year, Christian Ponder had moments where he could just take over the game. With a completion percentage hovering around 70 % for the whole year, he averaged around 300 yards a game. Agaisnt the unfortunate BYU ( who semi-deserved it after taking out Sam Bradford) and North Carolina, his completion percentage rose to over 80 % showing this kid can step up.
Major Weakness: As Jason Pierre Paul and the rest of the South Florida Bulls showed, a "speedY' pass rush resulted in plenty of tackles for a loss and very few points scored. Another key weakness,although not of ponders is behind Christian Ponder on the depth chart, an injury prone qb, sits two freshman (one redshirt) qbs. Essentially, this puts Florida St as a disadvantage as they will most likely not call any high risk to ponder plays.
This is quite the position of interest next year. In general, their running game is to pushed on first downs and 3rd and shorts. However, interesting, on 2nd and over 7, they will usually take a shot at two mid-range or slant passesrather then attempting to run it. With that in mind, their run game could be especially dangerous this year.
Their leading rusher, Jermaine Thomas, after rushing for 9 touchdowns, 832 yards, and with a 5.1 YPC average, is actually second on the depth chart as of now. The sophomore, Chris Thompson, who rushed for 120 yards with a 5.2 YPC average is listed on top. Having seen Jermaine last year, Chris must be fairly special to have grabbed the top spot from him.
Since they now have two quality backs, (Jermaine and Chris) expect them to now have the ability to grind it out a little more. They now have the ability to create a much more balanced offense, and will most likely add a few screen passes to their impressive repertoire.
Finally, their fullback, Lonnie Pryor, is also a talented back. Expect the big guy to get quite a few a carries, especially in the red zone.
Again, Florida St has been weaker in recent years against Defensive end contains and also linebacker blitzes, so watch for stoops to send linebackers right up the middle to both pressure Ponder and try to get a solo tackle on the RBs.
Although the Seminoles lost their leading reciever in Rod Owens, their true number one, Bert Reed is still around. At 5'11" and 165 pounds, this guy can shred. Hes a quick rather than fast reciever with great hands, and very few drops. Last year, he caught 60 passes for 710 yards. However, it wshould be pointed out that he has no touch down catches, and his size makes it hard for him to catch in large amounts of traffic.
The other key reciever for the seminoles, and is the tall and strong Jarmon Forston. At 6'3" and 231 pounds, Forston is a huge target and a great possession reciever. In contrast to Reed, Forston is exactly the type of reciever that can catch in heavy traffic with breathtaking athleticism and major strength. He caught 4 touchdown passes, but expect him to be a major weapon on long 3rd downs and inside the red zone.
With a more experienced line than last year, expect the seminoles to be able to hold the pocket better. That is except..
One of their startng offensive tackles is redshirt freshman. He beat out a sophomore for a position, and although he is very sdkilled, expect that to be the part of the line that break to defensive tackle pass rushes.
Also, since their line is fairly large and athletic, expect the run blociing to be much better than last year as they gain experience.
Finally, expect the man pictured, Beau Reliford, to make a name for himself. At 6-7 and 241 pounds, Beau is a huge,athletically gifted tight end who is a nightmare to cover in the red zone. He has pass catching abilities and is a huge target (massive understatement!).
Here in lies the shocking difference between this year and last year. While the Florida State defense from last year was a joke, with noone tallying over 100 tackles, and 205 yards rushing, 230 passing per game averages on them, there will be vast levels of difference between this year and last.
This year, with Mark Stoops behind the helm, the defense will most likely cut those numbers by a quarter. Not only did the defense gain more experience, but they had a serious talent upgrade with a couple of redshirt freshman coming in, more experience with their sophomores, and one true freshman by the name of jeff luc.
With players like Greg Reid, and Nigel Bradham, this defense is scary capable, and the only knock on them is how inexperienced they will be when facing OU. I would hate to be florida and face them at the end of the year.
Anchored by senior linebacker Kendall Smith and Junior Nigel Bradham, expect improvement in the run defense. Everybody on the defensive line ids returning more experienced, and although the pass rush will take a small dive, Mark stoops disguising schemes will keep runs to the outside contained. If you are going to run the ball, it weill most likely be through the tackles with the hard-hitters at corner and safety positions.
The player I'm predicting to have a big season is Markus White. Last year he had only 2 sacks, but he also had an astounding 10.5 tackles for a loss. This kid can get in the backfield and will be a problem if not contained all day.
The hope in Tallahassee is that the secondary will see vast imporvements under Mark Stoops. I, for one, am not one to doubt his abilities. He has all the talent and atheliticism in the world to work with, and with a more experienced crew, expect him to concot a stingiersecondary. Also, since experience quite a bit of difficulty covering over the middle of the field, expect Mark to have the middle linebacker drop into coverage occasionally.
That said, Florida St. has some of the best lockdown corners in the country. Greg Reid is in for a huge season, and Jenite, althoug not considered the number one at his position (Rhodes a massive 6'1" 200 pounds horror took that honor) is still an interception fiend.
Out of the 20 fumbles opposition coughed up, 13 were recovered. That demonstrates the speed and the hunger this defense will show out there. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THEM.
Florida State is a high quality team, that is a serious contender for the acc. Expect their inexperience to show in glimpses, but overall for this to be a good hard-fought game. Athletically,this team can compete, and I"m sure Mark relishes the chance to coach agaisnt Bob.
Let me know if I should add anything and what you think.