Florida State is coming to town for a huge game on Saturday afternoon. To prepare for this highly anticipated match-up, here are some of the key offensive players for the Seminoles that could pose the biggest problems for the USF defense.
The Seminole offense comes into this game averaging 39 PPG. They also average 167 yards on the ground and 267 yards through the air, bringing a balanced attack that could hurt the Bulls in multiple fashions. Leading them under center is redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois. Francois is 65 for 102 on the year (63.7%) for 782 yards including 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has 27 carries for a net gain of 22 yards, but the rushing numbers are a bit skewed because of all the hits he has taken so far. Francois has been sacked 11 times this year and hit another 17 times. Francois is a gifted athlete with both his arm and his legs, but the offensive line in front of him as struggled to keep him on his feet through the first three games. On the other side, the USF defense has produced 6 sacks as a unit and could add to that total unless the front five for the Seminoles improves and keeps Francois on his feet.
Probably the biggest weapon the Seminoles have on offense is junior running back Dalvin Cook. Cook has 50 carries on the year for 228 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and 2 rushing touchdowns. He also has 9 receptions for 118 yards (13.1 yards per catch). Cook is their most versatile weapon and was a nightmare in the game last year in Tallahassee. Cook had 30 carries against USF last year for 266 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns as he gashed the USF front 7 and outraced the secondary. Cook is a dynamic athlete both running and also catching the ball out of the backfield as a receiver, something FSU has increased over the past two years with him. It will be up to the front seven and more importantly, the linebackers of the USF defense, to contain him. Auggie Sanchez leads the team with 25 tackles including 2 sacks while Nigel Harris has 17 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss on the season. Both of them, along with the front line getting pressure, will be key in attempting to keep Cook contained throughout the game.
When the Seminoles are not handing it off to Cook, Francois has a solid corps of receivers he can get the ball to. Junior wide receiver Travis Rudolph is their main target through the air. He has 15 receptions for 219 yards (14.6 yards per catch) and 3 receiving touchdowns on the season. Flanking him is senior Jesus “Bobo” Wilson who has 14 grabs for 186 yards (13.3 yards per catch). Both of them were effective in the game last year against USF with Rudolph catching 6 passes for 55 yards and Wilson catching 3 for 54 yards including one touchdown. Wilson and Rudolph are small, quick receivers that can catch the ball on the short passing routes and get up the field in a hurry. USF struggled a bit against those short throws against Syracuse that allowed the Orange offense to sustain extended drives and convert multiple third down attempts. The USF defense cannot allow these skilled playmakers to catch the ball and get extra yardage.
The Seminole struggled to sustain drives against Louisville last week, but with a week of practice, I fully expect Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team to come prepared for this game. Coach Raymond Woodie and his defense better be prepared.
by Matt Staton
SoFloBulls.com Columnist | @USFMatt
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