Florida State Seminoles Defense Passes First Test: Tougher Challenge Next

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Florida State Seminoles Defense Passes First Test: Tougher Challenge Next
Bjoern Werner and Dan Hicks, one of the four sacks recorded on Saturday

WOW!  What a way to start the season for the Florida State Seminoles, with a 59-6 victory over the Samford Bulldogs. Was that a fun game to watch or what? 

I am not just talking about the way the offense was able to move the ball at-will, which was expected, I am talking about the defense showing some life and intensity for once. This defense played with heart and as a team, picking up for one another when someone would miss a tackle or blow a coverage assignment.

This defense was completely different than what we saw last year.  Maybe it was the new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and the new schemes he has implemented. Or maybe it was the impact of true freshmen Lamarcus Joyner, Bjoern Werner, Christian Jones, Jeff Luc and redshirt freshman Demonte McAllister. 

No matter the rhyme or reason, the fact is the defensive unit played significantly better. I completely understand Samford is an FCS team and that they were just a mere tune-up for our next opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners. But the way we played shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The Seminoles typically have a speedy defense, and their play on Saturday reminded me of those defenses from the '90s.  Yes, they over ran certain plays at times but that will happen with speed when misdirection plays are thrown into the mix.

But the point is they were getting to the ball quicker, making smarter reads, and communicating with one another.  This type of play is not only impressive from such a young group, but it remains critical to our success.

One of our Achilles' heels last year was the lack of production from the front four.  They were too small and too slow to make anything happen outside on the edge. On Saturday one couldn’t help but to notice they had gotten bigger, stronger and faster.  Their ability to blow up a run from the start of the play and making the quarterback scramble out of the pocket was a considerable improvement from last year’s bunch. 

It’s a great sign to see a good pass rush, especially when it makes the seven men behind them even stronger. Considering last season you could anticipate at least three to five big plays given up by the secondary.

The secondary unit from last year was burned on numerous occasions and didn’t know how to tackle a test dummy. However, this secondary, though young and not as experienced as groups in the past, played much better. You didn’t see any big plays given up this time around.

Not a single receiver was capable of getting over the top on any of our defensive backs. Just goes to show you that sometimes a little change in playing style goes a long way.

We witnessed the strengths and weaknesses of the new zone defense on Saturday.  It allowed us at times to use our speed and heavy hitting to an advantage but it also allowed too many open receivers on underneath and hitch routes. 

This zone defense is designed for a fast team with a strong secondary that can cover one-on-one, when needed, and to make the big tackles.  Though the tackling was better as a whole, you could see it still was one of our weaknesses. They may not get beat over-the-top as often with this defense, but if they miss a tackle the opposition could be off to the races.

With that being said I would like to say this to the defense, “WRAP UP.”  Trust me it was wonderful to see some of that hard hitting back on the field in Doak Campbell Stadium.

I may be a sucker for those hard hits just like any other football fan, but there comes a time when you need to stick to the basics.  It may not be as fun to watch but it is more effective and could save us from a team like Oklahoma and their star running back DeMarco Murray breaking away on a big play. 

Hopefully, watching film on Murray tallying up 218 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries against Utah State will be a wake up call for the defense to start making the sure tackle instead of the highlight reel.

One thing that you can count on from the defense this year is the effort and passion it will give for all sixty minutes of the game. That was evident when they made a goal line stand at the end of the game against the Bulldogs even with the score being 59-6. They were hyped as soon as they made the stop, showing the passion that has been missed on this team for a while now.

"Anytime you make plays it means something," Fisher said in his first postgame news conference as the man in charge. "We are going to play one way only and that's with effort and passion."

So from this one game, I can honestly say that I would take this defense over what we put on the field last year. Our “defense” last year was laughable, and anyone who watched a game can attest to that.They would have been better off throwing the marching chiefs out there to make the tackles instead of watching a certain safety whiff at every possible tackle. 

However, the performance yesterday was reassuring that this will be a more talented defense than last year. They will continue to improve and get stronger with each week of practice and game they play. Expect to see a defense that is well prepared and hungry for more this upcoming weekend against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.  A much tougher challenge than the Bulldogs, but a challenge they will be ready to take on.

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