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Summer Scheming ‘21: Florida State Seminoles

Miam’s biggest rivalry game of the season is on the road and in November during the heart of the ACC Coastal race.

NCAA Football: ACC Kickoff Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Norvell was a hot name in college football by the end of the 2019 season. Norvell, formerly the head football coach of the Memphis Tigers, was coming off of a 12-1 season. In fact, Norvell finished his run at Memphis with a 38-15 record, including 24-8 in the American Athletic Conference. Under Norvell, the Tigers won or tied for first in the AAC West (RIP) three times.

Mike Norvell’s first season at FSU was a rocky one. Beyond the 3-6 record, the ‘Noles had issues with cancelations of games, players quitting mid-season, and the team’s player leadership not exactly corroborating Coach Norvell’s takes in the media at times.

Info: Miami @ FSU, at Doak Campbell Stadium

Day/Time/Channel: November 13, 2021 / TBD / TBD

The Seminoles roster has been gutted and Coach Norvell is practically starting from scratch in ‘21. FSU has a tough schedule as they hit the road to face UNC, Clemson, Boston College, and Florida; and the ‘Noles host Notre Dame, Miami and NC State.

The Hurricanes lead the all-time series against Florida State 35-30. This has been a typically streaky rivalry, and especially as of late, with Miami winning four straight. Before The U’s run, FSU had won seven in a row. Miami and FSU were trading wins from 2005-2009, but prior to that Miami had won six straight to establish The U Part 2 from 2000-2004. The ‘Noles had their streak from 1995-1999, when Miami was down because of NCAA sanctions.

Throughout Miami’s Decade of Dominance, the ‘Canes owned the majority of the series. From 1983-1992, Miami only lost to the Seminoles in ‘84 and ‘89. the 1989 game was played with a young, freshman QB named Gino Torretta. I wonder if he ever amounted to anything in orange and green.

2020 Record/Ranking: 3-6/Unranked.

2020 Data: 25.8 PPG scored (86th in FBS), 36 PPG allowed (107th in FBS).

Bowl Game: Not eligible.


Key Losses: Asante Samuel Jr, DB; Marvin Wilson, DL; LaDamian Webb, RB.

The Seminoles return 14 of 22 starters on offense and defense heading into 2021. FSU has four, yes, just four players on the Athlon Magazine All-ACC preseason team. This is a far cry from 2013, or 1993 for the ‘Noles in the talent department.

A Seminole player doesn’t make an appearance until the third team. Running back Jashaun Corbin is on the 3rd team offense. Corbin ran for 401 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and five TD’s in 2020. He was able to do that with a limited passing game and weak offensive line.

Duke v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Defensive lineman Jermaine Johnson and linebacker Amari Gainer both made the 3rd team defense. Johnson transfers from UGA where he played linebacker and logged four sacks a year ago. Gainer logged 65 tackles including five TFL’s and a forced fumble last season.

Offensive lineman Robert Scott made the fourth team offense. However, I wouldn’t count out an appearance of QB McKenzie Milton on the All-ACC ranks if he can stay healthy and return to form. Freshman wide receiver Malik McClain could make the All-Freshman team if FSU has stable QB play.

FSU Scheme on O

At Memphis, Norvell’s offenses ran a ton of plays really fast. The Tigers used a mobile-enough and consistent quarterback to move the football with both big strike plays and chunk-play driven drives. Norvell still bases his run game from a zone scheme, but also added power and counter in at FSU as the season went along.

At FSU, Norvell had to throw together a rudimentary, high school looking offense. The offensive line couldn’t pass protect. Jordan Travis replaced an injured James Blackman at QB. The RPO game was struggling and Travis was running for his life. Travis led the ‘Noles in rushing with 569 yards and seven TD’s and threw six TD’s with six interceptions. The ‘Noles will run the NCAA 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) offense like 90% of the college and NFL landscape.

But, McKenzie Milton is also in Tallahassee at the quarterback position heading into 2021. Many around the FSU program think the race for starting quarterback actually leans to Jordan, because of his mobility.

How do you lose to the FSU offense? Miami in no way, shape, or form should lose to the FSU offense. However, let’s say Jordan is as accurate as Milton and flashes his mobility- it could lead to an issue. But with Miami’s strength being pass rush, by hook or by crook, and FSU’s weakness being pass pro and tight ends I can’t see Miami giving up too many drives to FSU. It would take mental breakdowns for Miami to give up more than 14 to FSU.

How do you beat the FSU offense? Miami should focus on shutting down the FSU run scheme, containing Jordan, and letting the back seven defend the pass while getting to the QB with the front four. This is why speed at inside linebacker will be important- the game is played in space way too much for Miami to revert back to the type of inside linebackers used in the NFL in 1997. That means Brandon Jennings and Zach McCloud (already moved to defensive end) are out, and Keontra Smith was moved inside the box at WLB. Power and speed are the game versus strength and girth, especially in the 4-2-5.

FSU Scheme on D

On defense, FSU DC Adam Fuller will utilize the standard 4-2-5 defense that’s so prominent around college football. Florida State’s best player on defense, and maybe on the roster, is UGA transfer Jermaine Johnson. The senior defensive end could really shine getting another shot at his final season. The defense returns only five starters but that’s probably a good thing.

FSU used the transfer portal to bring in Johnson, South Carolina DE Keir Thomas, and three FBS level DB’s to try to put a shot in the arm of a once proud unit. Linebacker is probably FSU’s deepest and most talented unit on defense. They return Emmett Rice who logged 62 stops in ‘20, alongside previously mentioned Gainer, and freshman Stephen Dix.

How do you lose to the FSU defense? FSU’s defense is still a weakness and UNC managed to blow it against an even less talented ‘Noles defense by committing pre-snap penalties and suffering through embarrassing drops. Putting your offense in ‘and long’ situations and dropping open passes has also plagued Miami, and that’s something the ‘Canes can’t afford to do against FSU, no matter how down they are in ‘21.

How do you beat the FSU defense? The linebackers are poor in coverage compared to their run stopping ability, and their DB’s are an entirely new unit filled with freshmen and sophomores. I think beating the FSU defense will come in the passing attack where Miami needs to be accurate, sure handed, and must protect the QB against Johnson and Thomas.

So Miami needs to have a run game but to beat FSU it’s going to take a good passing performance from D’Eriq King and the wide receiving corps. This is time for Mike Harley to have a Santana Moss or Braxton Berrios type of performance versus FSU.

What concept can Miami use against FSU? Miami OC Rhett Lashlee spent time around Air Raid aficionado Sonny Dykes from his time at SMU. I assume Dykes and Lashlee spent time discussing the Air Raid staple “92” or Mesh, as it’s known on the mean streets of Air Raid Nation.

Mesh can be ran a ton of different ways, with varying progressions for the QB. Above- if the Z receiver runs a post, the QB can check the RB to a wheel and read Mesh post-wheel-to the J’s mesh.

However, Mesh can also be read 1st via the Z’s corner, to the mesh to the RB on the swing route. It all depends on what route the Z is going to run as the rhythm concept (R4 Capology) and the goal of using the mesh concept in and of itself.

However the objective versus FSU would be clear, if the linebackers are poor in coverage, and the DB’s are inexperienced, why not use a concept that will push those two weaknesses to the brink?

So now picture Charleston Rambo at the Z, with Harley at the J, Mallory at the H, and Jaylan Knighton at the RB position running a wheel route. This gives Miami an out of control amount of alleged speed coming at the left side of the FSU defense in the diagram above.

Canyonero keys to victory

1- Catch the ball. There is no reason at all the FSU back seven should be able to compete with Miami’s pass catchers in ‘21. However, if Miami continues to have the drops version of the yips at receiver and tight end, I can’t guarantee anything.

2- Establish a pass rush. Miami 100% needs to establish a pass rush versus either Milton or Jordan at QB. However, the ‘Canes can’t constantly have to rely on blitzing in order to accomplish this. Against FSU, the ‘Canes should hardly need to add pressure at all.

3- Stay focused. This is FSU, Miami’s biggest rival and a chance to continue to beat back Mike Norvell in recruiting and progress up in Tally. Manny Diaz needs to keep this team focused on the task at hand. This will be a cool weather road trip in November. Hopefully Miami will be in the driver’s seat for the ACC Coastal and a shot at a NY6 Bowl if not a playoff spot. Keep those eyes on the prize!

Way too early prediction: Miami by 14.