Football is all about matchups. Whether it is offensive line versus D-line or linebacker versus running backs, matchups dictate the game and who will eventually come out on top. While all of the focus this week, and this season for that matter, is on Jameis Winston (and rightfully so), I want to take a look at the guys that will be catching the ball for him. More specifically, I want to look at which of Miami’s guy’s will take on the task of making sure they don’t have big days. FSU’s receivers are a talented bunch capable of big plays, but Miami has talent in the defensive backfield as well. Here’s who I think will get the assignments of covering these guys.
Receiver: Kelvin Benjamin
Defensive Assignment: Ladarius Gunter/Artie Burns
Kelvin Benjamin is a BIG guy. Mark D’Onofrio must have lost a lot of sleep this week figuring out what to do with him. He is a matchup nightmare. At 6’5 235, he is capable of simply out jumping defenders when Winston puts the ball up for grabs (see Clemson game). Does Miami have anybody that is that big to cover him? Well, no. They don’t make defensive backs that big these days (unless you play for the Seattle Seahawks). What the canes can do I put their biggest corner on him, and that’s Gunter. While he isn’t 6’5, he is listed at 6’2 and has the athletic ability to stay in front of Benjamin. Burns is the other bigger corner the canes have that they could use when Gunter is on the other side of the field. He has all the tools to be a great cover corner, but is still raw and lacks experience, which could lead to a lapse in coverage. You lose Benjamin for a second and you could be in the hole 6 points. That’s why I think Gunter gets the call, but Burns will be there as needed.
Receiver: Rashad Greene
Defensive Assignment: Tracy Howard
Greene is FSU’s home run threat. He’s there leading receiver averaging over 17 yards per catch and already has 8 touchdowns on the year. To stop him, Miami will have to use, in my opinion, their best cover guy in terms of talent. Howard has shown flashes of a guy who cuts the field in half, where, at times, quarterbacks will not throw to his side of the field. He has not, however, seen a receiver as talented as Greene this year. He will have to keep Greene in front of him and do everything he can to avoid the big play. When Greene does get the ball in front of him, he has to be able to tackle in space, which has been an issue for him and the entire team this season. If Greene manages to slip a tackle, he could be piling up a lot of YAC.
Receiver: Nick O’Leary
If you asked me at the beginning of the year who would get this matchup, I would have instantly said Deon Bush and moved on to the next question. Bush has not lived up to the hype from his promising freshman campaign, mostly due to his sports hernia surgery in the off-season. So the duties of covering the star tight end is going to have to be by committee. O’Leary is not going to wow you with his speed or quickness, and he actually isn’t as big as the previously mentioned Benjamin, but he is a guy that runs good routes and knows how to get open. Miami got burned a few weeks ago by another star tight end in North Carolina’s Eric Ebron. O’Leary isn’t the freakish athlete Ebron is, but has a way of finding space in the red zone to operate. I think Rodgers, being the veteran of the secondary, gets the majority of the looks, but this one is going to be a team effort. Perryman might be Miami’s best player on defense, and he will need to play the part to stop this guy.
So there you have it. FSU is loaded with weapons (I didn’t even mention Kenny Shaw) and Miami while their defense has improved from last year’s unit, they have not seen anything in the same stratosphere as what they will face Saturday night in Tallahassee. All the talk this week has been and will continue to be about how to stop Jameis Winston, but if you contain the guys on the other end of his passes then you might find that the Freshman looks a little more human. Miami is a huge underdog in this game. If the young, but talented, secondary can step up in a big game, the canes might just have a shot to leave Tallahassee with a win.