I'm can't speak for you but I've thoroughly enjoyed having the many Florida State fans flood our site this week to provide analysis and insights on the game from their perspectives. I had the opportunity to visit with Bud Elliott of SBN's ever popular FSU fan site Tomahawk Nation. Among the things discussed were Bobby Bowden, Christian Ponder and Seminole receivers against Oklahoma's secondary.
CC Machine: Is there still any lingering animosity over the departure of Bobby Bowden or have FSU fans moved on?
BE: There is a direct correlation between the lack of knowledge and involvement of FSU fans and lingering animosity over Bowden's departure. That is, peripherally involved and marginally knowledgeable fans still cling to the romantic notion that Bowden was somewhere close to the same coach who ascended in the 1970s and 80s, then dominated the 1990s. More astute followers of the program understand how far he had slipped. One particular area is illustrative of this decline: nutrition (or the lack thereof). Apparently, fried chicken was a three-times-a-week staple on the FSU football chow line -- part of an indifference to nutrition and wellness that led to out-of-shape and lazy players shockingly unfamiliar with ideals like hard work, discipline and moderation. Even Saturday's win over Samford was a stark contrast to past years when FSU had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to edge Troy and did the same with Jacksonville State. By any objective measurement, the program is more organized and focused than when Bowden left. His accomplishments were great and perhaps even unparalleled, but the last decade of his tenure was marked by regression, arrogance and an inattention to detail that eventually led the demise of a dynasty. The few that still don't see this are either blinded by idolatry or simply out of touch with reality.
CC Machine: Christian Ponder had a very solid opening game as the Seminoles worked Samford. Are they (the FSU offense) clicking on all cylinders or was that a performance indicative of the level of competition?
BE: Florida State couldn't have asked for a better start for the 2010 offensive unit. The group, which was one of the best last season, came out firing against Samford, averaging over 8 yards/snap. Christian Ponder is a Heisman caliber talent when healthy, although Florida State is unlikely to win enough games for him to bring home the honor in today's award voting climate. Even though the opponent was Samford, the high yards per play figures and the efficiency with which they played, allowing the reserves to see significant playing time, has to have James Coley's offense feeling good. We believe that FSU's offense will take a step forward this season and emerge as one of the best in the country. The ‘Noles feature a loaded QB position, a solid stable in the backfield, quality wide receivers, and one of the best offensive lines in college football. This is an exciting group.
CC Machine: Oklahoma's defensive secondary struggled heavily against Utah State. Tell us a bit about the FSU receivers they'll be facing this Saturday afternoon.
BE: The wide receiver position at FSU lost about 30% of its receiving yards from last season with the departure of two seniors and the dismissal of Jarmon Fortson. This year's corps will again be a talented group, though slightly less experienced. Rotating at the "X" receiver position will be the veteran Bert Reed and the sophomore Willie Haulstead. Reed is a smaller wide out with good speedand dependable hands. Haulstead is an excellent athlete at 6'3" 214 that we'revery excited about. The "Z" position is where the departure of the talented yet much-maligned Fortson will be felt. In his stead is another talented sophomore, 6'6" Rodney Smith. He has gained weight in the off-season and looked solid in the season opener, but the jury is still out on our end about just what he brings to the table. In the slot, or "Y" position, is a player that FSU was glad to see pass up pro baseball this summer in Taiwan Easterling. Taiwan is not a burner in the slot position but does well to find space in the defense and provide a reliable target for Ponder to connect with. Two touted freshmen that could see substantial time this year are Kenny Shaw and Christian Green. Shaw is an excellent route runner while Green is probably the best pure WR talent on the team.
CC Machine: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones rushed through his progressions and didn't seem to handle presser well on Saturday night. What kind of pressure do you see FSU sending at him this week?
BE: This is a question to which all FSU fans would like an answer. After an overhaul of the 2009 defense, which was one of the worst in the game, Florida State brought in our Stoops to begin the rebuilding process. Although Mickey Andrews is most certainly a legendary defensive coordinator, his scheme, like every thing FSU did, became outdated over the course of the last decade. It struggled mightily against modern offenses with its cover-0 and cover-1 blitz-heavy schemes. These tactics worked quite well when the ‘Noles had better athletes than the vast majority of teams, but this was no longer the case in his later years. With Mark Stoops comes a zone heavy philosophy, of which we saw glimpses against Samford. The ‘Noles played a lot of cover-3 with a 4-3 front, mixing in some cover-2 and zone blitz packages. The fact is, Samford ran almost everything quick. Short passes, screens, draws, you name it-Samford didn't give us much of a feel for what this unit will look like against a real opponent. We will guess that the ‘Noles defense will stay deep in their zones, attempting to keep the ball in front of them and cut out the big plays, while mostly blitzing out of zone coverage to protect a relatively inexperienced secondary. The bases for these predictions are currently scarce, though.
CC Machine: Right now the strength of Oklahoma's offense is the running game. Tell us about FSU defensive line and linebackers in relation to stopping the run game.
BE: The defensive line is an area in which Florida State expects significant improvement from the 2009 campaign. Last year's group was woefully undersized and simply a poor unit, suffering from the tutelage of an awful defensive ends coach in Jody Allen, who was fired this off-season. This year's line has already seen dramatic weight gains, which should help, but depth remains an issue. The ‘Noles lost projected contributor Moses McCray for the year during pre-season camp, and have only one upperclassman on the two-deep currently. However, competence at Defensive Ends Coach gives us hope that the defensive line can understand leverage and play as a synergistic unit, which would provide an immediate improvement from last season's debacle. Combine this with the weight gains, and we're feeling optimistic that this FSU defensive line can make the leap to an average group. The standout on the defensive line is Jacobbi McDaniel, a stud at nose tackle. The linebackers also received a massive coaching upgrade, replacing the worthless return-to Tallahassee version of Chuck Amato with a bright young defensive mind in Greg Hudson, formerly defensive coordinator at East Carolina. The ‘Noles have a lot of talent at linebacker, though most of it is young. The headliner of the group is weak side linebacker Nigel Bradham, who is a frightening individual. Kendall Smith (MLB) and Mister Alexander (SLB) will likely be the other starters, but freshmen Christian Jones, Jeff Luc, and RS sophomore Vince Williams, could also see time in the rotation. Overall, stopping the run is probably the chief concern of FSU fans this season. The size in the front seven is much improved, but this is a green unit that is completely re-learning how to play football after being poorly coached throughout their college careers. It is also important to remember that this will be the first real game, as Samford does not count, that this group will play in their scheme. The talent to succeed is present, but talent requires coaching to be good. In short, we expect Oklahoma to run successfully against the FSU defense.