BSD: I know this year's team isn't a finished product, but describe the differences between this year's team and last year's national championship team.
Thankfully, I think FSU fans are beginning to come around to your line of thinking on this year’s team not being a continuation of the 2013 team. It definitely took a while. A lot of fans expected the ‘Noles to come out of the gate setting the world on fire in 2014, but what many fail to remember is that the 2013 team wasn’t the death machine that it became down the stretch until around this point or even a week or two later last season. The 2014 ‘Noles are certainly still a work in progress, and I hope to see them take another step forward this weekend.
This year’s offense brought back four of five starters on the offensive line, including some definite NFL players, but has still struggled at times this year. The Seminoles aren’t as good at wide receiver, as the 2013 featured less depth but three excellent receivers who had clearly defined roles. The talent is definitely present for the unit to perform at a very high level, but it’s unlikely they’ll reach the astronomical heights of the 2013 team on this side of the ball.
The defense lost nose tackle Timmy Jernigan to the NFL, and his replacement Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the season against Clemson. Nose tackle was the one position at which the ‘Noles could not afford a loss, and yet it happened. The depth on the line has been better than we expected entering the year, but defensive tackle play at nose and depth behind Eddie Goldman at 3-tech will be a concern for the rest of the year. Florida State is also not as good at defensive back this season after losing safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Terrance Brooks to the League. Again, this is a very talented group of players on defense, but the 2013 team that was the best in the country on defense and a historically great team overall just isn’t a fair measuring stick for this year’s team.
BSD: For those who didn't watch your game against NC State, what caused FSU to fall down 24-7 and what adjustments did they make?
On offense FSU didn’t do much of anything differently after going down 24-7. This was good, as it continued to move the ball with ease against the NC State defense, and also bad, as it continued to turn the ball over, finishing with three on the day (FSU also muffed a punt, so not on the offense). It was a solid game for this unit and a better showing from the offensive line. The defense definitely did make some adjustments towards the end of the first quarter and stopped blowing assignments to give NC State huge plays. Dave Doeren and Matt Canada went to the well early and often with many of the same concepts that Boston College used in 2013 to give FSU trouble early. They used some motion and unorthodox alignments, schemed players open on the back side of plays, took advantage of some busts, and benefitted from some fantastic quarterback play from Jacoby Brissett. Florida State was able to settle down and contain these elements, and it wasn’t really due to one single adjustment. FSU played assignments better and really got after Brissett, forcing three fumbles of its own in the second half. The 49-17 run to end the game was much closer to what we’d hoped for coming the game. There were still issues on the interior defensive line, as well as in the defensive backfield, and we expect these to continue. The extent to which the FSU defense can minimize these will determine the team’s success in 2014.
BSD: Which remaining game on your schedule worries you the most?
Right now I’d have to say Notre Dame. They’ve looked solid so far this season and have recruited enough talent to play with Florida State. I’m glad the game is at home, and am also glad that the ‘Noles have a couple of weeks to continue to improve before the game is played. The Louisville Thursday night road game on October 30 is still cringe-worthy, but the Cardinals haven’t looked nearly as good in the last few weeks as they did to open the season against Miami (though the jury is still out on the quality of the Canes). The UVA-Miami-BC-Florida stretch to end the season will be a test, and I’m not thrilled with the prospect of playing bruising BC the week after Miami and before Florida, a classic letdown situation. But FSU should be favored by double digits over every team it will play before a potential playoff birth. If the ‘Noles can put it all together in early-mid October as they did a year ago, I have to think the chances of a playoff berth are pretty good.
BSD: What worries you the most about this Wake Forest team?
I can’t honestly say I’m worried about losing this game. I think my biggest worry would be that the offense starts sluggishly against a decent Wake defense and doesn’t get much separation in terms of the score, forcing the starters to play longer than I’d like. As Bud noted in his article yesterday, the Wake Clawfense is production-challenged, to put it kindly. But if the ‘Noles can’t put points on the board early and often, the starters will continue to play, as Jimbo has shown. Injuries are my biggest concern, as FSU is banged up at a lot of positions. Multiple defensive linemen and running backs are already sporting injuries, and the Seminoles need to get healthy in the two weeks before Notre Dame. Putting the game out of reach and getting the starters out after a half would go a long way in attaining that goal, and I hope that the team comes out with the necessary intensity on both sides of the ball to get that done.
BSD: Florida State is a massive favorite, and it's a foregone conclusion that they will emerge victorious. What improvements are you and other Florida State fans looking to see in this contest?
I’m hoping to see the offensive line continue to improve after last week’s showing at NC State. I’d like to see Jameis continue to spread the ball around to targets not named Rashad Greene, Nick O’Leary, and Bobo Wilson. I want to see linebacker Reggie Northrup play a much more disciplined game this week, or I think he may be out of a job in a couple of weeks. It would be great if Jalen Ramsey, the ultra-talented star safety position player, could play under control and within his role at the position he’s still adjusting to. The younger interior defensive linemen need to continue to show improvement and the ability to provide quality snaps down the stretch. And finally, just competent play on special teams. We’re at the point where we don’t ask for anything special (outside of kicker Roberto Aguayo, who is a minor deity), merely passable will suffice. Don’t shank punts and simply catch returns. That’ll do.
Many thanks to DKfromVA from Tomahawk Nation for taking his time to answer our questions. For all things Florida State, be sure to check out Tomahawk Nation. In my opinion, it's the best college site on SB Nation.