Pondering Ponder and the Florida State Passing Game... plus daily notes

After watching the film, I am finally ready to talk Ponder, Jimbo, and the Passing game.  Also inside: some funny Nole quotes. 

We will not have: Kevin Mcniel and Darius McClure

Pretty Questionable: Lt Andrew Datko

Arrests could be handed down any day in the union fight case.  That has not gone away.  Let's hope our guys are cleared and that they are acting more appropriately now.

Terrance Parks might get some burn at safety this week.

Everette Brown: best available passrusher for the 2009 draft.  Good Luck EB99

I'll have our Q&A up with the Maryland Blogger, TestudoTimes.com, but for now, enjoy this Q&A from Andrew Carter.

TomahawkNation Writer TrueCubbie has an excellent preview of tonight's basketball game with Stetson.

Chanrtrant believes tonight's game between Miami and Georgia Tech is important... for Mickey Andrews.

Funny Quotes & Thoughts

NOTE: these are completely fictitious.

While listening to the press conferences, I wondered why Mickey Andrews neglected to place blame on several players who did not play due to injury or redshirt designation.  Clearly, that lack intensity as well, yet have not been the target of the intensity campaign.

In response to the rather egregious personal foul on Senior Linebacker Derrick Nicholson, Andrews remarked that  "I just couldn't see how that was a penalty.  He was clearly just pushing him because the center was biting his leg.  Still, I was extremely disappointed in Derrick; we do not teach the armbar, but rather much prefer the tongan death drop.  Maybe we're teaching it wrong, I don't know.  His half-assed armbar clearly shows a lack of intensity."
In response to criticism over his crouching ninja stance in the pocket, Ponder explained "it's all about unpredictability.  If I crouch low enough, the defensive backs can't see me and I can use the element of the surprise to my advantage with the throw.  Also, this standing tall in the pocket stuff really %$#@'s with my Chi."

When asked about zone defenses, Jimbo Fisher responded that " yaknowit'sjustoughonayoungkid.definitely.youknowhesgettingbetteratthat.sureisdoesaheckofajobwasn'twherewewouldhavelikedtoseethepass."
Programming note: Bobby Bowden will make a guest appearance on the hit Nick At Nite sitcom  "How I met your Great Great Grandmother"


Talking Ponder and the Passing Game

After watching the tape, I wanted to share some thoughts on Ponder and the passing game.  I've been accused of going easy on Ponder, but I maintain that I report what I see.  

  • Let's take all of the coming in criticism in context.  Our pass protection has been flat horrible.  Ponder rarely has time to look at more than two options.  The tackles really aren't ready to pass block at the major D1 level and the interior guys (McMahon and Spurlock) often are blown into the backfield, destroying any semblance of a pocket.  
  • Our receivers really do a poor job by allowing themselves to be rerouted when facing a zone defense.  I have no doubt that our man-heavy defensive scheme contributes to this as they get few looks against this in practice.  Regardless, 2 of the interceptions on Saturday were significantly influenced by receivers running poor routes. 
  • Ponder is now stepping up in the pocket on a much more consistent basis (when a pocket actually exists).  We criticized Ponder for taking huge drops early in the season, specifically when he was in shotgun.  He's really tightened this up.  In at least some areas, Ponder has shown an ability to improve. 
  • Ponder often fails to stand tall in the pocket.  I'm not sure if this is a function of his need to scramble at a moment's notice, but it's not an effective style.  His crouch can be a little ridiculous at times.  I predict that he will always crouch some, but if he can correct his excessive knee bend even a little, he'll be able to better see over his offensive line and scan the field.  His excessive knee bend definitely contributes to some of his high throws.
  • Ponder does sometimes stare down his receiver.  In scanning the message boards, however, I feel this criticism is voiced too often.  He doesn't do this on every completion or incompletion.  I think this is something that is easy for the casual viewer to latch on to and that's why they are repeating the criticism.  Looking off a safety is a technique that he can learn. 
  • Ponder doesn't throw to the middle of the field very well at all.  Again, I think part of this is related to the nonexistent pocket, which he cannot step into.  Another part could be stance related.  He can sometimes be high on these throws (stance related).  Some of the blame here also needs to go on Jimbo, as we do not call many posts, drags, or deep-ins.  I assume this will come in our offense at a later date, hopefully when the offensive line is able to form an actual pocket on a consistent basis.  It's tough to throw to the deep middle when he's running, because either way he throws, it will be against his momentum.
  • Ponder generally does a nice job throwing the ball in a spot where his receivers can run with it after the catch.  I doubt anyone would really debate this.
  • Ponder does not consistently throw the ball in rhythm (throwing late).  I'm not totally sure why this is.  Let's start with trust.  Ponder clearly does not trust his OLine  Sure, they run block very well, but their pass blocking has been suspect.  My theory is that he pays attention to the pass rush and doesn't devote enough attention to the receivers in their routes.  The other trust issue is trusting his reads.  He could have been scarred after the Wake game.  Hopefully time will heal this, as he gains confidence in his line play and is able to trust his eyes in their reads.  This is definitely a concern here. 
  • 2nd and 3rd options.  I'm not sure what to say about this.  How often does he actually have time to go to his THIRD option?!?  Not often at all.  I'm not particularly pleased with Jimbo's passing concepts in terms of designing multiple vertical stretches.  I do think he could do a better job by moving quicker through his reads, but I'd really like to sit down with the people who are criticizing this.  I'd bet that often they don't realize what they are seeing as often as they think they are.
  • Hitting the backs and the TE.  This is a catch-22.  Due to the abysmal pass blocking (don't be confused: out pass pro is horrible, our run blocking is pretty good), we often keep the TE and the Backs in to block.  Still, Ponder needs to do a better job of hitting these guys.  He started to do this against BC some, throwing 5 passes to Smith and Thomas, 4 of which were caught (Smith dropped one).  Thomas is a beast in space when healthy, and some recruited him as a receiver.  We need to throw him 3 balls per game at the very minimum.  Antone and Thomas are sometimes open underneath as a late-breaking safety valve and CP7 needs to hit them more often. 
  • Play Action.  I want to see more play action in early downs and on 3rd and manageable.  Big plays happen off of play action in run downs.  Ponder had GREAT play fakes early in the year, and he's regressed some in this area.  SELL THEM CHRISTIAN!  We're also calling a lot fewer PA passes now, for some reason.  
  • Jimbo must do a better job of scheming to give Ponder open throws in between the hashes.  I'm talking more pick-routes and a few different zone busters. 
  • Ponder throws for first downs and touchdowns.  9 of his 15 completions went for 1st downs.  This is a total 180 from Drew, who was content to take the 6 yard gain on 3rd and 11.  That helped his stats but not the team.  The proper approach to quarterbacking is somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes, the 1st down pass is simply not open and the proper play is to dump the ball underneath.  This is especially beneficial if your coach (Jimbo) will go for it on 4th down like he should.  Read this scholarly paper on 4th downs.  We saw this in his interception on 3rd and 25; a throw in which he didn't account for the safety and tried to sneak the ball to the streaking post route.  I hated that call and wanted to see a draw there.  Until we can consitently pass protect, teams will get pressure with 4, flush him from the pocket, and play excellent pass coverage with 7 defenders.  I hope Ponder never becomes selfish and settles for 6 yard gains on 3rd and 8 just to avoid throwing a pick, but he needs to understand the idea of acceptable risk.  Let's remember our familiar quote:" ...pass protections usually start out with the understanding that if the defense rushes five guys, you can pick them up, but your blockers will have to be able to block at least one defender (more likely 2) one-on-one. No pass protection scheme can count on double teaming all possible rushers. If you can’t handle anyone man-for-man, then a five man rush effectively becomes like a seven or eight man blitz, but also with sound coverage behind it._ Smartfootball.blogspot"
  • Finally, as we discussed yesterday at length (read that if you haven't yet) note that against BC we called 34 pass plays, and were successful on 16 of them.  47% is above the break-even line of 44%.  In comparison, we called 20 running plays and had success on only 7 of them.  All of the offensive burden fell on the passing game.

More to come later today.  I apologize for the grammar errors; I typed this really fast.  Thoughts so far?  On Ponder?  On Jimbo?

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