Tomahawk Nation's thoughts on the spring game

A big thank you to everyone who participated on the Tomahawk Nation Spring Game community project.  A special thanks to jaguar, CSINole, TRMNole, NolesBlogger, Pbysh, Jaguar, PCNole, DA-2, Northernhaze, basbalstr101, RunninNole, as well as the e-mailers and instant messengers.  In fact, we will have pictures and maybe some video later this week!

Thanks to Basblstr1 for this photo: 


Inside I'll try to summarize what everyone said... and add some things they didn't say.  Make sure to keep in mind that the spring game is basically another scrimmage, just like the previous four scrimmages.  The only difference is that more fans come.

A Tale of Two Teams

By now you've probably heard that both offenses were sloppy, and that is true.  What shocked me, however, was that most of the slop was by the second team offense, and their lackadaisical attitude is being attributed to the first team offense (perhaps unfairly).  I don't really care about the 2nd team offense because they are run by a walk-on QB who will not be playing in the fall once E.J. Manuel comes back and Will Secord gets on campus.  

So, how bad was the offense? 

Opponent Result Plays Total Yards Yards/Play
Clemson W 41-27 63 419 6.7
1st Team Offense in Spring Game 30 188 6.3
@ 22 Georgia Tech L 28-31 65 384 5.9
+ Colorado W 39-21 68 378 5.6
+ Wisconsin W 42-13 75 410 5.5
@ Miami (Fla.) W 41-39 85 440 5.2
Boston College L 17-27 56 285 5.1
@ North Carolina St. W 26-17 80 392 4.9
@ Maryland W 37-3 68 332 4.9
15 Virginia Tech W 30-20 57 248 4.4
2nd Team Offense in Spring Game 30 130 4.3
1 Florida L 15-45 65 242 3.7
Wake Forest L 3-12 64 220 3.4


The 1st team offense averaged 6.3 yards per play against the 1st team defense.  That would have been the 2nd best offensive performance of last year (against Division 1 competition).  If we average 6.3 yards per play in the 2009 season we will win the ACC.

The 2nd team offense had a horrible day.

How did the defensive performance stack up against last year's defense?

Opponent Result Plays Total Yards Yards/Play
+ Colorado W 39-21 73 278 3.8
Wake Forest L 3-12 68 276 4.1
@ Miami (Fla.) W 41-39 63 256 4.1
@ Maryland W 37-3 60 252 4.2
15 Virginia Tech W 30-20 56 243 4.3
2nd Team Defense, Spring Game 30 130 4.3
Clemson W 41-27 71 316 4.5
Boston College L 17-27 74 357 4.8
+ Wisconsin W 42-13 54 333 6.2
1st Team Defense, Spring game 30 188 6.3
@ 22 Georgia Tech L 28-31 51 343 6.7
@ North Carolina St. W 26-17 47 338 7.2
1 Florida L 15-45 68 502 7.4


So, why are we so impressed with the defense?  If the spring game was the length of a full game, they would have given up 425 yards.


Fumble Recovery is not a repeatable skill.

That's right.  It's been proven that recovering fumbles is not a repeatable skill.  You can't teach it.  You can't improve your standing in this category.  It is entirely luck.  Recovering fumbles is a random occurrence.  

With that in mind, consider that

  • The offense fumbled 6 times, and the defense recovered 5 of those fumbles.  Luck anyone?  We know that recovering fumbles is basically a coin flip.  Oh variance, why must you rear your ugly head in our spring game?
  • The defense only forced two of the 6 fumbles.  They had absolutely nothing to do with the other 4. 
  • Only 1 of the 6 fumbles were committed by the 1st team, the other 5 were by the 2nd team.
  • 5 of the fumbles involved Ty Jones, a runningback battling a hand/ finger injury for much of spring. 

I do want to credit the defense for forcing two of the fumbles, however, as defenders were in the backfield basically intercepting the handoff.  Mickey Andrews guys did an excellent job of timing their blitzes-- something we were happy to see improve from last year, when at times it. 

Run blitzing will be an important element in this year's defense, seeing that we will likely be undersized.


On Ponder

Ponder was 10-19 for 118 yards, 1 TD and 2 int's.  Let's take a look at some of his more memorable throws. 

  • His 1st interception was a skinny post.  This is a very good route if you throw it well and Ponder did not.  He put it on the back shoulder.  Jamie Robinson made a play that was nothing short of amazing to pick the ball.
  • On the next play, we ran a Slant-n-Go, or a "POGO" (Pump and Go).  Jenijie bit hard on the slant fake, and Ponder put the ball on the money to Jarmon Fortson who raced 65 yards for the TD. 
  • Interception #2 was a good example of the problems I discussed in "How can Florida State fill their wide receiver void?".  Ponder is throwing a corner route to Jarmon Fortson (we think it was Fortson) and the young wideout quits on the route.  Jamie Robinson makes another amazing play to pick the ball with one hand, and we don't think he came down in bounds, but in any case, this isn't on Ponder.  He makes the throw before Fortson cuts and wide receiver quits on the ball. 
  • 3 bubble screens of varying effectiveness. 
  • The defense was really roughing up the wideouts.  Our guys saw 3 incompletions where the wideouts were absolutely mauled and pass interference was not called (more on this later).
  • On a 3yd completion to Reid, PI was called, but apparently declined. 
  • PI was finally called and accepted on Ponder's 3rd to last throw, as Fortson was wearing a Seminole defender as a cape. 
  • The ugliest incomplete of the day was an apparent missed line check by a young wideout (Lawrence Dawsey's boys did not have a good weekend.)  Ponder checks to a quick fade (like the one Carr caught in the bowl game), and the wideout runs a slant/in route.  Ponder throws immediately, and the wide receiver is not within 20 yards of the ball when it lands.  
  • One of the incomplete passes was a really ill-advised corner/ deep out route thrown to Louis Givens.  It wasn't "double" coverage, per se, but it was definitely good coverage and not high percentage throw, particularly considering Louis Givens lack of height.

Overall, Ponder was not sharp.  He was inconsistent.  He did do a much better job of staying in the pocket and stepping up.  


Nobody saw any evidence of a 15 step drop (see also: Forest, Wake).  He was not inaccurate, though he was far from pinpoint.  He was below average in his reads.  Commenters noted that he missed check downs at least twice.  One in particular seemed to be noticed by the entire stadium.  On the whole, considering some of the DB play and missed assignments by the wideouts, I am going to label Ponder's day as below average, but not horrible.  

I wish I could comment on his mechanics, but nobody has mentioned them yet, and it's obviously difficult to judge those live.


Offensive Line

This is always hard to evaluate live.  I haven't seen any Trickett quotes yet.  Our observers believe that they lacked intensity in the run blocking game.  The defense was able to shoot the gaps and get some tackles in the backfield.  The pass protection was above average, but not great.  Here, a user submitted a shot of Ponder in the Pocket.  Zebrie Sanders is driving his man past the pocket.


Both of the sacks were a result of the "one hand touch of the QB rule."  Systemic of the entire offense, they lacked the fire that they had shown in the previous two scrimmages.  Ryan McMahon had a horrible day, getting beat numerous times and launching 3 bad snaps.


Wide Receivers

Poor.  These guys did not fight for the ball and they ran incorrect routes.  That was not unexpected: "How can Florida State fill their wide receiver void?"  Lawrence Dawsey has work to do with these guys.  Still, the defense was clearly playing in a style that would draw multiple flags in a real game.


Running Backs

Jermaine Thomas was average.  Ty Jones was terrible.  5 or 6 fumbles from one guy really tarnished the game.  Nobody mentioned that the backs were good or bad in pass protection, so I am operating under the assumption that it was average.  There were not multiple obvious missed blitz responsibilities.  The 1st team only ran the ball 10 times (as opposed to 20 throws), which was rather curious.


Defensive Line

These guys played well, with good intensity.  McCray, Mincey, and White stood out.  White played on the 2nd team as a motivational ploy.  We will need these guys to not only start, but play at a high level this fall.  I am very concerned that we are playing tiny Everette Dawkins and Kendrick Stewart at Nose tackle.  Writer CaStauch thinks that O'Dell sees himself in the tiny guys and thus plays them.  He'll need to cut that out if he wants to stick around under the next defensive coordinator.



Played well.  Got hit by a few misdirections, but these guys flew to the football and really excelled against our pro style stuff. 


Defensive Backs

Jamie and Patrick Robinson played out of their minds.  The rest got away with some serious pass interference.  I like the aggressiveness, but I want to see more technique, less attitude and shucking.  Jamie Robinson though... wow... we might have found a true center fielder.  He showed impressive range and instincts throughout the scrimmage.

It's also extremely encouraging that the defense played some cover-2 shell.  Cover-2 shell allows you to play your corners aggressively, knowing that the safeties are there to provide help if the corner gets beat.



FSU is one of the most heavily penalized teams in the nation.  That's not a bad thing, as penalties actually strongly correlate with winning.  Interestingly enough, penalties were not called on Saturday.  The first team defense was flagged once for pass interference and the offense committed one false start.  Our observers noted that the 1st team defense should have been flagged for at least two (possibly as many as four) more pass interference penalties.  I believe that the refs were instructed to "let the defense play."  The physical play of our defense that would have certainly drawn a flag in real life was probably very impressive to the recruits at the game (almost all were defensive players).  They had to like that attitude ;).  It looked like the rhythm of the offense was very disrupted by some of the stuff the defense did, some legal, and some definitely flag-worthy.



The format is not conducive to our offense.  The subbing in and out of 2nd and 3rd team players hurts the rhythm our offense likes to operate with.  Twice the offense had drives in which they ran out of plays.  There was no rhythm to this game because of the created scenarios and the need to sub in 2nd and 3rd teams. I thought the first team offense played fairly well despite the format. It was a good stepping stone for players like Thomas and Reed who have never really had to be, "the man" before.  Jimbo is trying to press upon them the importance of playing hurt, playing tired, assuming the role of leader and until they are asked to do it in a game with all eyes watching they can't learn how to embrace that.  

I will work on an alternate format for the spring game after final exams.


Final notes:

  • We ran a lot of pro-set stuff. 
  • There was practically NO running out of the spread.
  • The game was pass dominated (20 passes, 10 runs)
  • Ponder only has 1 run.
  • The defense played with a lot more energy and "want-to" than the offense.  Maybe the offense thought they would shred the defense again?
  • If you look at who we had visiting (recruits), they were all defensive studs.  No pass interference being called, defense allowed to play very rough, and we didn't run the ball out of the spread.  Sort of curious... ;)
  • I'm glad we have more practices left.  
  • Fisher was chewing out everyone on the sidelines
  • Make sure to focus on yards per play as the measure of defense.  That's what stays consistent, not fumble recoveries.
  • Additional recap and video here.  
  • Make sure not to draw too many conclusions based off thirty plays.  A set of 30 plays is less than half of a regular game.
  • Keep in mind that the spring "game" is really just another scrimmage, just like the previous four scrimmages.



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