We chopped it up about this Saturday’s showdown between No. 13 FSU Seminoles (2-1) and the undefeated USF Bulls (3-0) with Florida State site The Daily Nole’s Editor Mike Ferguson to get insight from a great FSU football source. Below you will find a few questions Matt Staton and yours truly (Matt Manuri) put together in a Q&A Mike was nice enough to answer for USF Nation.
1. In your opinion, what was the biggest factor in the lack of offensive production against Louisville? And what caused the defensive breakdown against Lamar Jackson and Louisville a week ago? Any similar challenges you see this week against USF and Quinton Flowers?
MF: It might have been easier and come up with and taken less time if I told you what didn’t go wrong. Offensively, the Seminoles didn’t pass protect and that’s everyone from the offensive line to the backs and receivers. FSU seemed confused by Louisville’s stunts and blitzes and never really adjusted.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was largely a failure to play assignment football. Louisville receivers were routinely running free and on the zone-read, the Seminoles frequently failed to account for either the quarterback or the give-man.
2. How much has losing Derwin James hurt the ‘Noles secondary? Do you think Nate Andrews has been a viable replacement for James?
MF: Losing Derwin James is and will continue to be a huge blow to the FSU secondary. That secondary however, was blowing coverages long before James’ knee injury against Charleston Southern.
If there’s anyone who can fill in, Nate Andrews is the guy. Andrews is a football-smart senior, who has twice led the team in interceptions, and was a intricate part of a national championship team in 2013. Andrews isn’t the best athlete, but he makes up for that in several other areas.
3. Deondre Francois has taken a lot of hits this year, what has been the biggest issue with the offensive line and its lack of protection thus far? Is it a personal issue or a scheme issue?
MF: It’s probably a combination of a lot of things. The offensive line has lacked cohesiveness so far this season and in three games, there have been three different starting lineups up front. That number could become four on Saturday with Brock Ruble potentially replacing Rick Leonard at right tackle. The backs, receivers and tight ends haven’t been a huge help when it comes to blocking either.
For Francois, I would guess that since he is so new to playing major college football, there are some checkdowns he doesn’t always see and some audibles at the line of scrimmage that he’s not yet comfortable making.
4. Dalvin Cook is one of the big running backs in the country and he had a monster of a game against USF last year. How are teams able to contain him (like Louisville did) and if he is shut down, who else can do damage on offense?
MF: The blueprint for stopping Cook was sort of laid out by Houston last season in the Peach Bowl and the answer is largely stacking the box. Miscommunication up front has hurt Cook a little bit this season, but coming off shoulder surgery, there is some speculation that Cook is either hurt or isn’t completely confident in his repaired shoulder. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has dismissed that notion, but that doesn’t mean it’s utterly false.
If Cook isn’t the main guy for Florida State, junior Travis Rudolph is the Seminoles’ best receiver and is tied for the ACC lead with three touchdown grabs. Auden Tate, a 6-5 sophomore, is also emerging as a real weapon for FSU in the red zone. Kermit Whitfield, a small senior receiver, is a burner and could be used out in space.
5. Aside from Derwin James, several Seminoles appeared to get dinged up against Louisville, like Josh Sweat who was hurt entering the game? Who are some of the key players that are dinged up for the Noles and what kind of affect could that have this Saturday?
MF: Aside from the Cook speculation, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi was seen in a boot earlier this week in practice, but is expected to go. Starting guards Kareem Are and Wilson Bell have both missed time this season and Andrews just played his first game last week after nursing a calf injury.
While Florida State is deep at certain positions like the secondary and at receiver, it is extremely thin at others, including the defensive line and linebacker. If USF can rely on Marlon Mack, it could wear down a thin defensive front for the Seminoles. There have been times this season where FSU has had to turn to walk-on Nick Patti at linebacker when Ro’Derrick Hoskins and Matthew Thomas went down. Fortunately for FSU, those injuries turned out to be minor, but both Ole Miss and Louisville scored touchdowns while Patti was in.
by Matthew Manuri
Publisher & Editor, SoFloBulls.com | @Mcknurkle