Whether it’s with Jameis Winston, Deondre Francois or now James Blackman at quarterback, Jimbo Fisher’s FSU offense has never been that complicated when it comes to formations and the run game. Where it’s complicated is in the passing combinations and progressions for the QB. With a true freshman at quarterback, Fisher has cut down the playbook and FSU is back to its core of inside zone lead, outside zone, and play-action passing with some easy running back and receiver screens to allow Blackman less reads and more efficiency mentally.
Seminoles QB James Blackman shows absolutely no eye discipline on this tunnel screen against the Wake Forest defense. Blackman stares at the receiver the entire way, luring the weak side linebacker (Will) of Wake to the play. FSU also elects to block the cornerback who is 10 yards off the receiver, as opposed to the much closer and more dangerous Will. This allowed Wake to switch coverage responsibilities and for the Will to play the screen unabated. This led to a loss of yards on the play and the screen game has really been FSU’s bread and butter this season so far, and in years past.
To defend the tunnel screen, Miami will have to play Malek Young pressed up at the line over the number 2 threat (the inside receiver to that side. We label the threats outside in 1-3 in the screenshot above). Young’s only job will be to jam that player and run the curl/flat area where he’s standing. The FS will play the “apex” or between the #3 and the line of scrimmage. This keeps him in a run support role while also taking away seams and posts. The ‘Canes Will, Michael Pinckney, will have to break on the screen like we see the Wake Will do in the clip.
While FSU may avoid trying to run as many bubble and tunnel screens against a much faster Miami defense, they will still use the running back screens Dalvin Cook beat Miami on so regularly- now to Cam Akers the speedy true freshman.
Inside Zone Lead
The FSU inside zone lead isn’t any different than the one Miami runs under Mark Richt. I’ve written about it multiple times here on SOTU (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4) and it’s a really basic play with really good results when you have a running back like Jacques Patrick who isn’t looking to cut and needs that fullback to lead block for him. Leonard Fournette was the same way at LSU and now in Jacksonville. Certain backs need a lead blocker and from there, they’ll cut once they’re in space. Mark Walton on the other hand doesn’t need a lead blocker and will cut at the line of scrimmage because of his vision and hips.
The inside zone lead is simple. The TE for FSU will block Miami’s defensive end. The left guard and left tackle for FSU will block Miami’s defensive tackle to that side. Normally, an offensive coordinator will know what dictates where the 3-technique goes (defensive tackle that plays on the guards outside shoulder) using a tight end or maybe an H-Back in a wing to guarantee where the 3-tech lines up. This lets the offensive line know who to double team (combo).
The Center is blocking the 1-technique or nose tackle who is away from the ball. The right guard on the back side is going to “scoop” his gap or step towards the play, make sure no one blitzes, and act accordingly. In the clip, he sees blitz and blocks the linebacker. The left tackle, who is backside, will “gap hinge” the defensive end, or step left in case of blitz, then swing his hips open and block the defensive end.
The fullback leads the way for Patrick who follows behind him for a really nice gain. How do you combat this? Miami could put McCloud up on the line of scrimmage outside of the Tight End and eliminate FSU’s ability to double team either McIntosh or Norton (whoever is the 3-tech in the play). This forces FSU to block McCloud, Thomas, Jackson, Norton and McIntosh one-on-one. FSU hasn’t had much success on the offensive line so far in 2017 so good luck blocking those four All-ACC caliber players man to man.
Mixing in play-action passing will be FSU’s strong suit against an aggressive Miami defense that has some weak spots in the defensive backfield. Against 20 personnel (2 RB’s no TE’s) I would imagine Miami bringing three cornerbacks on the field with two safeties, two linebackers, and four defensive linemen. This means that the Miami strong side defensive end (Chad Thomas, probably), will have to play outside of the tight end and squeeze down over him. This will let Shaq Quarterman make a play on the inside if it is run, and keep Thomas outside jamming down on the TE so he can’t free release like he does in the clip against Wake.
Wake was content letting the TE have outside leverage and I can’ t see Manny Diaz allowing that leverage. The back end is more worrisome than the front end, where the Miami inexperienced safeties could let the cross field seam come as free as Wake did in the clip I’ve embedded.
Wake Forest’s QB Counter Trey
Wake Forest used the QB counter trey and a QB run game to play FSU close all afternoon. Wake QB John Wolford led the Deacons in rushing yards with 63 and a touchdown in a losing effort. He also threw for 271 yards on the Noles defense. The QB counter trey has become popular around the country with Clemson using it with Kelly Bryant to beat Louisville as well (it is on my YouTube channel).
Will Mark Richt get Malik Rosier as embedded into the running game as Wolford was for the Demon Deacons? I don’t think he will. Miami has Mark Walton and the emerging Travis Homer as well as the speed at the wide receiver position to not need to risk Malik any more than on a few inside zone read plays per game. However, it would be interesting to see Navaughn Donaldson coming around to kick out an undersized hybrid player like Derwin James.
Miami should make FSU a home underdog, even if it’s only a 1 point spread in the game. Miami has looked sharper and more dominant over the majority of their three games and are 3-0. FSU has played a tougher schedule but is sitting at 1-2 and a true freshman playing against Miami’s front seven could mean a lot of panic in this big time rivalry match-up.