September 29, 2013

Film Review: Addressing concerns on defense

Give Jimbo Fisher credit for this: He did not run away from addressing the Seminole defense. Though he made it clear he was not disappointed in the team itself, Fisher expressed some concerns about the fundamentals of his defense.

No doubt he echoed the sentiments of many interested observers of Saturday's 48-34 win over Boston College.

"You've got to make your mind up you're going to play football," the head coach said in his post-game press conference. "We've got to get better at that."

So, why were eyebrows raised after another potent offensive performance? A couple of fundamentals defensively that put the team in an early precarious position.

Tackling, toughness

No screen-grabs necessary for this topic. The Seminole defense had some issues wrapping up for the second straight week. Both the defense and special teams had moments to forget, allowing Boston College to gain extra hidden yards after contact.

Rather than looking at any one play or player from Saturday, the talking point is where does the coaching staff go from here to address the issue? No doubt film room meetings will be unpleasant as the 'Noles prepare for Maryland, but will the tackling concern affect the wrap and thud rule in practice? To go live this week may be a bit drastic, but what is certain is Fisher expressed in no uncertain terms that the in-game focus will be to play more physically in the trenches.

"You've got to butt them in the throat," he said.

With a more threatening opponent coming into town in the Terrapins, the Seminoles will have to work on tackling as well as physicality up front. The assignments have, in theory, changed for the defensive line, but Fisher and coach Jeremy Pruitt will have to make some adjustments as to how players like Timmy Jernigan and Nile Lawrence-Stample attack or hold the interior.

Staying at home

Though coach Fisher was very careful not to over-criticize the defense, he was adamant about needing to stay assignment sound. The key, Fisher stressed, is in training his defense's line of sight.

"If you can't see a play," he said simply, "you can't make a play."

Though there were several examples to choose from in terms of backside plays with busted coverage, the best example is the first quarter tight end screen. When Fisher references "eye discipline", he is referencing a defender staying with his man and assignment before committing himself to following the ball.

Notice the eyes of the defenders highlighted. All are following Rettig and his rollout to the top of the frame. This type of fake is unusual, true, but keep in mind that this radical example is just one of several for the defense. Given what he said in the post game, coach Fisher would teach in this moment by stopping the frame and showing his defenders where their eyes are trained. All are enamored by the football, and will have to work on "training their eyes" for their assignments.

Another situational headscratcher

Given momentum, score and flow of the game, Eagle head coach Steve Addazio made a debatable decision to kick a field goal rather than to attack a gassed Seminole defensive front in the second quarter. At the time, Boston College was on the Seminole eight-yard line, led 14-3 and had rushed for 106 yards on 20 total carries.

Convert, score six and who knows how much panic sets in on the Seminole sideline? Fail to get the yard, and the Seminole offense is pinned back deep in its territory. Though it may not have seemed like it at the time, Florida State's defense could certainly look at the red zone hold as a victory.

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