October 14, 2012

Tape review: FSU's vertical offense, multiple defense

Top to bottom, Florida State enjoyed the spoils of a complete effort Saturday night. The 'Noles featured a vertical passing attack on offense and a multiple gameplan on defense. Let's look at the nuts and bolts behind what made each side so effective in a 51-7 win.

Florida State offense

Vertical passing math

Alright, this is admittedly nerdy. But here's the equation I've come up with for a successful vertical passing game:

Time to see x Check x Pickup = Time to succeed

The beginning of the equation starts with time to diagnose. If the Seminole offense is running according to plan, the quarterback typically has plenty of play clock remaining as he surveys the defense. If that initial time is there, the quarterback can check either to a new play or fix facets of the current play - like protection. From there, if the offensive line and skill players around the quarterback pick up their assignments, time in the pocket is there to allow big plays.

Why talk about this universal principle now? There was no better example of all components going right than a first quarter completion to Jared Haggins up the right-hand sideline. Before the snapshot below was taken, EJ Manuel caught a Boston College defender showing blitz too early and called out the protection scheme. In this instance, running back Chris Thompson would handle the blitzer. Thompson does an outstanding job, showing upper-body strength as he seals his block up high.

Manuel's time to survey then communicate, plus the offensive line and Thompson's blocking created the time for Haggins to gain 42 yards.

'Old reliable'

Manuel's nickname for senior running back Lonnie Pryor is 'old reliable.' Aside from a recent rash of fumbleitis, Pryor has been just that. Look at the snapshot of Pryor making a textbook cut block on an edge rusher in the second quarter. (Really nice camerawork by ESPN here)

This play is the first of James Wilder Jr.'s two receiving touchdowns. As this play was being reviewed, Wilder and Pryor could be seen interacting and smiling on the sideline. Both backs, plus the offensive line, executed as planned to help put FSU ahead 21-0.

Florida State defense

Wrinkle city

How shall we count the ways that FSU's defense mixed it up this weekend? Those taking notes on the fly would likely have run out of paper as coordinator Mark Stoops was as multiple as he's ever been in Tallahassee.

The 3-2-5 plus 'Los

Let's first take a look at a three down-lineman look that was frequently used on third and passing downs. Stoops has found a formation for Karlos Williams to roam the field, and depending on the positional title for Williams, it could be considered a 3-2-6 Dime or a 3-3-5 Nickel package. At any rate, notice the three linemen, and the linebackers and defensive backs walking up to the line. This type of pre-snap look is a nightmare to handle because it puts a heap of stress on the offense to know its stuff protection-wise.

Who stays, who blitzes? This look will test the ability to react to those answers.

Corner blitz

Defensive backs were often called upon to attack Eagle quarterback Chase Rettig this week. We highlight a second-quarter Ronald Darby blitz below, but this wasn't the only call of its kind. Xavier Rhodes, Tyler Hunter, and the linebackers were frequently firing towards the backfield Saturday in both run and pass blitzes.

Notice how Stoops gets unlucky in this situation. Darby's track speed allows him to get a shot in on Rettig and force an interception opportunity for Terrence Brooks. However, Rettig's lifespan on this play lasted as long as it did only because he rolled out to his left. Darby disguised the blitz well pre-snap.

Wrinkles and rotations

Florida State did a lot with the starting 11 formationally. It did everything from standing up Bjoern Werner (although that's been done before), to the aforementioned down-and-distance formations, to going one high safety and bringing the heat from different angles on different downs.

The 'Noles also got a lot of bodies reps while the game was still in order. Role players like Mario Edwards Jr., Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Darby helped keep the overall unit rested before mop-up duty. Backups like Reggie Northrup and P.J. Williams also impressed late.

The takeaway

Overall, is this a game that allays all concerns? It never could. But both sides of the ball have now presented future opponents more headaches to consider as gameplans are drawn up and implemented in the second half of the season.

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