20 September 2011
For the second straight season Florida State will head into their matchup with Clemson with injury concerns at the QB position. This time around, however, their seems to be more uncertainty with how the Seminole offense may perform under a much less proven QB in Clint Trickett as opposed to EJ Manuel last year.
On Saturday evening—versus the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners—Clint Trickett was thrust into action, and there are several things I took out of his performance.
While re-watching the game I paid close attention to not only how Jimbo Fisher called the plays when Trickett entered, but noticed things that FSU will need to continue doing as well as improve upon in the case that Clint Trickett does get the start—and even if EJ gets the nod—in order to begin ACC play 1-0.
It is well known that the Seminoles have had a hard time establishing a running game in their first three games of the season. Versus Oklahoma, FSU could not find a rhythm on the ground in order to loosen up the defense to make more plays.
This coming Saturday, Florida State will go up against a noticeably different defense in Clemson. Through three games this season the Clemson Tigers have played—and defeated—the Troy Trojans (43-19), Wofford Terriers (35-27), and Auburn Tigers (38-24). Coming out of those three games—against less than stellar teams—Clemson has given up 23.33 points per game (58th in the country), given up 224.67 yards on the ground per game (110th in the country) -- and that's having faced the “Wofford rushing attack." They've also given up 194.33 yards per game through the air (46th in the country), are averaging .67 sacks-per-game (tied for 102nd in the country), have averaged 3.33 tackles-for-loss (111th in the the country), and have given up 419 yards per game of total offense (97th in the country). Comparing the two, Oklahoma has given up 13.50 points per game (20th), 78 yards rushing per game (20th), 245 yards passing (87th), gotten 4.5 sacks per game (3rd), 9 tackles-for-loss (10th), and 323 total yards per game (44th).
The defensive line of Clemson is not a bad one and is lead by DT Brandon Thompson, who many feel is the #1 ranked pro prospect at his position. Unfortunately for the Tigers, beyond Thompson and the defensive line in general there are question marks on that defense. The linebackers are lead in tackles by Junior Corico Hawkins, and the team leader in tackles comes from the secondary with Jonathan Meeks. As compared to Oklahoma, Florida State will go up against a lesser group of linebackers and defensive backs as a whole. Can Florida State excel against this Clemson defense? They could, but there are areas FSU will need to execute at better to pull out a win in a very difficult place to play.
The injury concerns have mounted with the FSU Wide Receiver corps, but Adam will explain later today why we do not feel that is an area in the Seminoles offensive game plan that should suffer. Being on the road Saturday, and with the likelihood of the young QB Clint Trickett being the starting QB, having four and five reads is not a winning formula. Not to say that FSU will not run out a four-wide look, but since it is just a realistic thought that Clint will never make it to that fourth or fifth read, play calling becomes imperative.
On the first play of the game for Clint Trickett versus Oklahoma, Jimbo called a quick fade down the sideline in an attempt (I am assuming) to loosen up the box to try one last time to establish the run game. Oklahoma was called on a pass interference giving the Noles a first down.
The next play out of the shotgun formation, we quickly saw that not only did Oklahoma not trust that Clint Trickett would be given a called run but the offensive line—still—was not getting enough push to create any gaps for Chris Thompson to break into the next level.
With a four-wide look, Clint Trickett threw a quick pass to Jarred Haggins netting the Seminoles a 14 yard gain. This will be imperative Saturday versus Clemson. Jimbo Fisher must mix in enough pass plays that allow the young Clint Trickett, or an injured EJ Manuel, to get rid of the ball quickly especially if the offensive line play does not improve by leaps and bounds in order to continue long drives. Keep in mind, Clemson—like Oklahoma—runs a fast-paced, up-tempo offense and the Seminoles will want to give the defense the rest it needs.
On play four from Clint Trickett, though it only went for a yard, what I saw was a very cognizant QB that did not force the ball over the middle, but instead checked it down to the TE Beau Reliford.
I expect Jimbo Fisher to come out and attempt to establish the run game with many different looks. Whether from a multiple back formation or incorporating receivers with end arounds and reverses, you at the least have to make sure Clemson respects stopping the run game enough for the play action to work.
Clint Trickett here on the fourth play sold the play action beautifully.
When he set his feet and saw the pressure coming from his right side he did not make a rookie mistake in forcing the ball, he checked it down to the wide open Beau Reliford.
With a three-wide look Clint Trickett, again, had a nice read inside to Jarred Haggins over the middle for a 24 yard gain. First, it was a nice move to get separation by Haggins and secondly it was a throw that only Haggins could have made a play on. Granted, had Haggins been hit in stride it may have gone the distance.
Haggins did have the room for yards after the catch, but you take what is given and Clint Trickett put the pass where only Haggins could have made the catch and the Seminoles got another much needed first down to continue the drive.
The Seminoles simply will not be able to send Trickett out there without attempting a ground game and here on the sixth play the give to Devonta Freeman went for just a yard. If running on first down is successful, it makes the later downs more manageable for Clint, as well as eats clock and gives the defense something else to worry about defending.
Play 7 from Clint Trickett is another learning aspect of the game plan versus Clemson that I am sure Jimbo Fisher is keeping in mind and putting an emphasis on.
I expect whether EJ or Clint gets the start, for Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to apply pressure when and where he can. When this happens, the backfield for FSU must to be able to pick up those blitzes to give—not only—the QB time to make a pass but to keep Clint or EJ healthy. If EJ Manuel is a no-go, it is obvious that FSU cannot afford to move to the 3rd option at QB Secord. Look for the backs that are most adept at pass protection to be helping out in this game.
Here, the middle closed was closed up quickly by the FSU offensive line, though freshman RB Devonta Freeman moved there anyway and failed to pick up the blitz by Tony Jefferson. One of the greatest enigmas through three games for the Seminoles is that pass protection has been fine. EJ Manuel—and Clint Trickett for that matter—have been well protected on called passing plays. The problem, obviously, has been the run blocking and creating the holes and gaps for the RB to hit. Zone Blocking is very technical and it appears the new faces on the offensive line have just not grasped the concept to date.
Play 9 I again was impressed with Clint Trickett.
The play was another play action pass and as you can see when Clint dropped to his point noticing the pressure coming from his right side Clint showed great poise and footwork to shuffle up, into the clear and hit Beau Reliford for a 20 yard gain.
On play 10, out of the I-formation Clint Trickett never had the time to go through more than one read and was dropped for the sack.
Another area that I believe FSU can exploit the questioned Clemson linebackers is in the screen game. FSU seemed to do a good job, when they attempted screen passes and definitely have the weapons. I expect Lonnie Pryor to roam in the backfield a great deal Saturday afternoon, and would not be surprised to see more of Jermaine Thomas. Chris Thompson, Lonnie Pryor, and Devonta Freeman do catch the ball well, and I see this as an area for FSU to take full advantage of no matter who is lined up under center.
After the hold negated the screen pass to Chris Thompson, Jimbo attempted to drag Haggins for a shovel pass. Had Florida State had an extra man in the backfield to pick up the blitz from the right side, it may have worked and this is another area to keep your eye on Saturday.
Saturday is being termed, and rightfully so, as a “survival” game. Whether EJ Manuel or Clint Trickett is the starting QB, I do not expect QB runs to be apart of the offense so it becomes increasingly important to protect the signal-caller from all angles. I expect to see many multiple back sets in the run and pass game from Florida State.
As I have touched on, the screen game could be the key to Florida State’s victory Saturday afternoon. As you see here, the set up was perfect for Rodney Smith.
The offensive line got out and into the next level very well, and the WRs did an exceptional job of blocking in order or Rodney Smith to gain the 16 yards and the first down.
On play 19, Clint Trickett actually had a good read.
However, the ball was tipped which created the turnover for the Sooners.
The final drive came with Florida State down by 10 and in desperation mode.
When Florida State travels to Clemson this Saturday, the keys to victory for Florida State will remain the same, whether EJ Manuel is able to go or if Clint Trickett is called upon: protect the QB and establish some balance in the running game. If these goals are met the Seminoles can defeat Clemson in Death Valley for the first time since 2001.
The Seminoles faced the best offense they will see all season this past Saturday in the Oklahoma Sooners, and they passed the test. The new test will now be going on the road and beginning their journey for an ACC Championship.
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