The Conversation: Talking USF @ Florida State with

This week's guest is  It's a forum, and we've never had a Q&A with a forum before.  After reaching out to some USF beat writers, and getting no response, we turned to these guys.  Their response was very good.  If you're a USF fan finding this on google, you need to get to ans sign up.  It's a nice community and they are pretty serious about their football.

Waylon Jennings & Hank Williams Jr - The Conversation (via Slasheri)

There's a story behind the clip.  People said we needed to use more youtube clips.  I happen to like Waylon and when you type "the conversation" into youtube, this is what you get.  

First up, USF's questions to us:

With FSU's revent struggles with mobile QBs how do you think they will deal with USF's type of spread where an athletic QB and his ability to hurt you running or passing is the centerpiece?

I don't think this FSU defense is any good.  It's easily the worst in my lifetime (born '85).  They rely on a lot of young kids, who mix great plays with boneheaded decisions.  There are some encouraging signs, however.  First, FSU has an excellent gun-run game, so the defense has now had an entire spring and fall camp to see this look.  Second, the defensive interior is bigger, which should help.  Third, FSU now has three legit linebackers, as compared to last season which saw FSU scramble and convert two safeties to the linebacker position to make up for some early entries to the NFL and some injuries.  

If there is one unit on offense or defense that FSU must contain to beat USF , which would it be?  What do you feel will FSU's biggest advantage will be on Saturday, biggest weakness?  What are your 3 keys to victory, for both teams?

I'll try to profile this in Friday's preview (it's worth the wait, trust me), but FSU obviously can't just allow any unit to run wild.  I'll say the contain game.  USF RsFr. QB B.J. Daniels has a big arm, but he can be erratic and lacks touch, so FSU has to make him sit in the pocket and not allow him to scramble around.

FSU's biggest advantage, outside of home field, should be their offensive line.  Staying in good down and distance will be key.  I also think FSU has an advantage with their 3rd and 4th wideout against USF's 3rd and 4th corner.  If USF is going to win this game, they must run the ball very well to get FSU into some more favorable coverages.  To that end, USF's offensive line has to play well.

I'll discuss this more in-depth Friday, but USF must establish the run, find play calling balance (not try to do too much or too little as to be predictable), and must sell-out against the run.  FSU just needs to run the ball, not try to do too much on offense, and not allow big special teams plays.  

How do you stop George Selvie?

Selvie is a good pass rusher.  FSU will block him with Sophomore Andrew Datko.  Datko was a freshman All-American a season ago and has picked up where he left off.  Over summer, I profiled the insane slate he'd face this season.  Selvie had a great Sophomore year, but was a disappointment last season, probably because he was injured.  Datko has excellent technique and I am not overly worried about this matchup because Selvie doesn't have much of a bull-rush move.  Datko can handle a guy who tries to get around the corner every time.  He's 6'6" 291, so occasionally he will struggle against an elite defensive end who has a strong bull-rush move to compliment the outside stuff.  I also expect FSU to run right at Selvie, because he does not like to play the run from what I have seen.

For more of our responses, to answer a few of their questions, and to see TheBullsPen's excellent answers, continue reading!

I can't think of a more baffling team in the country right now than yours. They've yo-yoed up and down the first three weeks, and I don't think anyone expected them to torch BYU the way they did after their near-death experience with Jacksonville State. Which game that you've played so far, if any, represents the true 2009 Seminoles?

I recently told Andy Staples of SI:  you can choose to judge their two games against ranked D1 competition, or you can choose to look at a game they played against Jax State under circumstances that many teams will face this season, just not as extreme as the Noles faced.  

After three games, FSU is 118th against the pass in I-A - only UAB and Washington State have given up more yards. Is that an illusion, or are there issues in the back seven that haven't been addressed?

The issues in my mind are along the defensive line, which has played poorly.  Considering what has been asked of them, I think the secondary has played okay.  FSU has asked its guys to play straight man coverage for 5 or 6 seconds, and nobody can do that (though Patrick Robinson has played very well and pretty much locked down his side, as the top corner in the nation should do.)   But you also have to consider who they played.  MIami's dynamic offense, BYU's very impressive attack (which by the way, FSU did hold to only 21 points before the Noles pulled their starters).  They also faced the top QB recruit in the country and the MVP of the SEC championship game in Ryan Perriloux for Jax State.  There's not another team that has faced similar competition to date.  There are issues, but that ranking isn't indicative of FSU's performance, because it doesn't adjust for competition level.     

- I'm not going to lie, if USF were ever to replace one of the "Big 3" in Florida, many Bulls fans think FSU would be the one getting replaced. With Mickey Andrews saying he wants to retire at the end of the season, and Bowden looking more like a coach emeritus every year, how concerned are you about the long-term health of the program? How much faith does the average FSU fan have in Jimbo Fisher when Bobby finally retires?

I was very concerned in 2004-2007, but FSU has a stadium,, tradition, and now has a plan.  They have to deal with one more year of this Bowden nonsense, but I don't think people realize all that goes in to making a program, particularly the booster base, stadium, recruiting, a conference, etc.  I think USF has a shot to be the .5 in the Fla 3.5  Everyone inside the program and most knowledgeable outsiders will tell you that losing Andrews and Bowden represents an immeasurable upgrade.  Jimbo Fisher saved Florida State at a time when most didn't realize how bad the program was internally, with a lot of behind the scenes stuff that I don't have enough space to describe.  The improvements he's made, particularly in recruiting and organization structure, and the improvements he will make in this and next off-season will lay the groundwork for sustained play at the highest level.  I understand that many don't think Miami would be replaced, but they don't have a stadium and rumor has it that their booster contributions are way, way down.  

It seems like the light bulb clicked on inside Christian Ponder's head this offseason. What improvements has he made from last year to this year that have made him so effective?

I'm going to brag a bit here.  Tomahawk Nation was probably the only site not to get on the "Ponder Sux11!!11!1" bangwagon a season ago.  Now, we do have some coaches (not FSU's coaches, haha) who write for us, so that helps.  We identified the problem of a year ago:  the youngest offensive line in America (3 true freshmen, two sophomores), which while good at run blocking, was poor in pass protection.  FSU had to scheme around their offensive line, and Fisher rightfully won the ACC offensive coordinator of the year award for delivering the top offense in the conference despite the line.  In the off-season, we broke it down and wondered whether the offensive line would take that next leap.  We said that they likely would.  So far so good, as FSU has the best offensive line in the ACC and one of the best in the nation.  Ponder looks like a completely new quarterback, the best FSU has had in a decade, and he'll be running the 2nd best offense USF has ever faced (the Oregon team in the Sun Bowl a few years ago was very special).    

Are you more or less confident in slowing down USF's offense with B.J. Daniels under center than you would have been if Grothe were playing? Why?

Tough question.  Over the summer, I wrote:  

Matt Grothe has led the Bulls in rushing in each of the past three seasons.  He's also a big risk taker who often struggles to read defenses, possibly because of his 5'11" stature.  He's tossed up 42 picks over three years, while throwing 47 TD's.  He's been consistent in his erratic nature, throwing 14 INT's each year.  More troubling, however, for Bulls fans was the way he ended the Big East season:  Against Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers, UConn, and WVU, Grothe threw 11 Interceptions and just three touchdowns, while being sacked 13 times.  

There's more:  

Matt Grothe Games QB Rating Yards/ Attempt TD INT
All Games 13 136 7.7 18 14
v. Conference 7 119 7.1 7 12
v. Non-Conference 6 156 8.4 11 2
v. Winning 6 109 6.5 4 10
v. Non-Winning 7 162 8.8 14 4

4 TD 10 INT against Bowl teams?  That's not impressive, and really, none of Grothe's passing numbers stand out.  He is a dangerous runner, of course.    And FSU has been ripped by teams utilizing the mobile quarterback over the past two seasons, particularly out of the shotgun, as USF does.  In fact, Grothe had 117 rushes for 828 yards, which is 7.1 yards per carry.  Simply put, Grothe is a playmaker with his legs.  He runs the zone read play quite well and making him one-dimensional is a primary goal for any team facing USF.  

If he stays healthy, Grothe will surpass Pat White for the conference record in Total Offense, but I have to wonder how much of that record is due solely to playing time?  Almost any 4-year starter with mobility would have a shot at the record.  

I didn't mean to jinx him, USF fans, honest.  I'll split on this.  If FSU shreds USF's defense like they did to Miami and BYU, then USF would be better off having Grothe, because I think he is less likely to have a completely embarrassing and career/program scaring meltdown than B.J. Daniels.  

But if USF starts to volley with FSU, then I think USF fans should prefer Daniels, a kid with better physical tools, probably just making plays, and gaining confidence as the game goes on. 

Many of us are also Bucs fans, and we'd like to thank you all for Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn, among others. Which current Noles do you think we'll all get to know on Sundays in the future?  Offensive Tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders will play in the league, as will Guard Rodney Hudson.  Wide receivers Richard Goodman and Jarmon Fortson will get paid.  On defense you'll see DT Jacobbi McDaniel, LB's Dekoda Watson and Nigel Bradham, and definitely CB Patrick Robinson (considered by many to be the top CB in the country). 


Finally, here's a few our fans can answer:  

- This may be the best-attended road game by USF fans that we've ever had - right up there with the time we took over FAU's little sandbox of a stadium. Any suggestions on what to do (and what not to do) in the parking lots and at the stadium? Maybe some things we wouldn't think of. We all know bad things would happen if someone tried to stop Renegade and Chief Osceola.  Does it bother you that Gene Deckerhoff went to UF?

What are your feelings on playing against USF for the first time?  What 5 places should USF fans make sure to visit while in Tally?



Now, Tomahawk Nation's questions to USF


In your honest opinion how much of a drop off or rise in play do you see with the redshirt freshman quarterback leading the offense? How much of the offense can he handle? How will this impact playcalling?

Jamie:  I hate to say "I don't know" but... I don't know. We can go off of what we've seen in the two games Daniels has played in extensively so far (which were both against I-AA schools) and what everyone within the program says about him. He's faster than Grothe, he has a stronger arm, and everyone says he has the same competitive streak in him - which makes sense, since he played basketball last year in the toughest conference in America. But until you really throw him in the water and see if he can swim or not, you never know for sure. Even if the Bulls lose the game, it will be very encouraging if Daniels still plays well. Grothe won his first-ever road game at UCF, and nearly won his second one at Kansas (the year before they really took off - I was at that game and can still see the winning touchdown pass skimming off Ean Randolph's hands... what a bummer). It only took that long for us to figure out that he had something.

Mike Canales (our offensive coordinator) says they're not going to limit Daniels. I think we're interested in knowing whether Canales has limited himself in the first three games because he didn't want to give FSU a roadmap to stopping the offense. It seems like the offense has been opening up a bit since the Wofford game, but we have no idea how much of the playbook is available at this point.

Jim:  While the style hasn't changed much, the offense was new this year even for Grothe. Daniels probably had more reps in the spring and camp cycles to protect Grothe from injuries. (Grothe hurt his hip pointer in Aug 08, so there was some concern). Coach Canales also said that preparation this week would not change.

Daniels is a taller, faster, stronger version of Matt Grothe. He doesn't have Matt's experience, and has not shown the same personality (back up QB's don't usually show the "moxie" when they are in the game for mop-up duty).

The real issue will be how quickly Daniels can adjust to the FSU speed. Sure, he sees a fast defense every day in practice - but practice speed isn't game speed. If he can adjust quickly, we'll be fine.

Data:  Really, I don't know. In terms of pure physical talent, Daniels is better. He seems to be very calm and confident in the pocket. Overall, I'd say our big play ability is a little higher. Daniels can just make throws that Grothe wouldn't be able to. We'll have to see whether Daniels is nervous, or just makes mistakes seeing the field against the speed of FSU. I have a feeling the overall dropoff won't be much, but we won't know until Saturday.

Dan:  I can't say I truly expect an actual rise yet, because we just don't know, and it's a hell of a game to have your first start in, but I don't expect alot of dropoff. I think BJ Daniels' skillset will help make up for a little bit of the dropoff, if there is any. And the team will be rallying around him and playing their hearts out for Grothe. I think he can handle the whole offense. Playcalling won't be much different, but I still think there are things that both QBs practiced that will be new to everyone, including us.


If you had to point to a place on the timeline of FSU football, where would USF be today?

Jamie:  We're probably you guys around 1982. We've come a long way and there are a few skins on the wall, but people are wondering if we're legit or not. You guys won at Ohio State two straight years - we beat West Virginia two straight years when they were in the top 10. We're hoping that we're in a bit of a leveling off period while we wait for the next step up to true elite status.

Jim:  It's a bit different. USF is in a conference, and a BCS conference at that. FSU for most of the rise to power was independent - which means USF can't follow the same path. However, I would put USF at about the 1980 FSU timeline.

Data:  You'd have to help me out with the years. I would say we are somewhere around the Casey Weldon early years, or maybe a year or two before Weldon took over. The team is at the point where ending the season in the Top 25 should be a reasonable goal. 


Does USF have the confidence/talent to play tight man coverage against our secondary, thus taking away the bubble screen? Also, do you think Daniels will be able to stretch our D by consistently hitting the intermediate routes? What kind of designed runs do you anticipate against FSU?

Jim:  Joe Tresey is a good DC, and will likely mix up the coverage -- switching from man to zone. USF played mostly a soft zone (like a cover-2 or cover-3) during the first three games. However, the CBs have the speed to keep up with the WR's... and safety Nate Allen is a ball hawk (and potential 2nd-rounder).

Daniels has an accurate and strong arm. If Bogan, Love, Mitchell, and the rest of our WRs can get behind the FSU secondary - then Daniels can hit them.

USF runs a modified spread-option, where the QB decides at the last minute to hand off or run based on the crashing DE (this is the zone-read). USF also has specific plays with a QB run (not just QB draws). Those are probably the most unique running plays. USF has more traditional counter, off-tackle, sweep and up-the-gut runs. I would also expect an end-around or even a reverse.

Data:  I'm confused by the first question. If the question is - Do we have the confidence to man against your WRs? Probably. But we have new Defensive D-Coordinators. In past years we definitely would have left our DBacks on an island and put lots of pressure on the backs. We have one NFL quality CB in Jerome Murphy, and some young guys on the other side that seem to be very good but haven't proven it on the field (Q Washington, George Baker, Kayvon Webster). Currently, when we go with a nickel package we'll see two of the three young corners instead of another safety.

Daniels has shown the ability to hit guys in stride 40 yards down the field. From a passing perspective, I expect you'll see us run the same kind of deep passing game that Miami had success with. But we'll also run a lot more 4 and 5 wides, and try spread the field to hit the 10-15 yard pass. We'll run at least 8 different receivers through the game, probably more like 10. The running game hasn't settled on a running back. I think you'll see steady but solid Mo Plancher run your basic off tackle stuff, powerful and speedy Mike Ford pound it up the middle, and lightning quick Lindsey Lamar try to run outside and catch some screen passes. Most of our running is out of the spread, but in short yardage we'll bring in two or three TEs.

Dan:  Unsure about the man coverage. Our receivers are pretty big and athletic, and they play as well as they can. Daniels has smarts and I noticed he knows how to take some heat off the ball to fit the ball in the short routes, and still knows how to bomb it with surprisingly great accuracy. Not sure what Canales has up his sleeve for runs, but we are getting more and more stable at RB so I'm sure there will be some interesting things to see.


This weekend, how will your fanbase adapt to a stadium that does not serve alcohol?

Jamie  Have you ever been to a game in Tampa and seen the beer prices? Our stadium basically doesn't serve alcohol either.  The hardest part for the drinkers is going to be the noon kickoff. The default kickoff time at our home games is 7:00pm, and there's always a lot of kvetching when a game is moved to 12:00pm for the Big East Game of the Week slot because there's just not enough time to get a good buzz on in the parking lot.

Jim:  The same way yours does. Drinking in the lot and sneaking some in.

Dan:  I could be mistaken but I don't think UCF's stadium served alcohol either (even though it's a wet campus). It'll be just fine, just means people will remember more of the game, and your city will make alot more money off booze sales on Fri night and Sat morning.


Is it possible for the Bulls to have a moral victory? If USF is able to compete with Florida State and keep the game close, can it be considered a step forward for the program?

Jamie:  No. Moral victories are for UCF.

Jim:  Moral victories are for UCiF. (Named because "if this" or "if that" they would win...)  If USF keeps it close and loses, that is a loss. Many fans not only think we can win, but almost expect it. Much like FSU fans thought about Miami on opening weekend.

Data:  I don't think there would be terrible disappointment with a close loss. But only a victory would be considered a step forward. This team has already won bigger road games in the recent past against (at Auburn, at West Virginia when they were considered a NC contender). From a recruiting perspective a win over FSU would be huge. From a "We have arrived" perspective, I don't think a win at FSU would top Auburn unless FSU was undeafeated late in the year.

Dan:  A moral victory would be winning on a FG or by less than 6 points. A real 'we-have-arrived' victory will be a double digit 'in-your-face' beating.


From a fan's perspective and the program's perspective, which game is more important to the Bulls, FSU or UM?

Jamie:  For the fans, I think we're happy if we win one out of the two games this year, just to have that first "Big 3" win under our belt. But for the program, I think this one is more important. This goes back to the question I suggested about how many Bulls fans think FSU is most vulnerable to falling out of the "Big 3" in Florida. Miami is always going to get talent from their own back yard. Florida has national recruiting cachet and can get almost anyone they want. And USF is doing an increasingly good job retaining the talent in Tampa Bay. If the state can't support four BCS conference teams at a high level (note: we don't know this for sure yet) and one school has to take another's place, then FSU seems like the one USF would replace if they could get there. Part of that replacement process includes beating them on the field.

Jim:  FSU is more important because we have four more games against UM and only one against FSU. And this is our only scheduled visit to Doak.

Data:  About the same. If we go 1-1, I think we'll be happy. The two teams seem very close in talent, and we get UM at home. So I guess that would make the Miami game slightly more important. But a win over FSU would mean the Miami game is less important. If that makes sense.

Dan:  They're about 50/50. UM is more important to win, because they beat us last time, and we should win at home. It's too early to know if FSU will be great this year with the rest of their schedule, and we'll know when we face UM how good they truly are. Winning at either will surely help in some way or another.


Vegas is giving USF about a 13% chance of winning this contest. What percent chance do you give yourselves winning this game?

Jamie:  Before Grothe got hurt I would have said around 40%. Now I'm down around 25%. But that's about the chance I gave USF to win at Auburn, and we know how that worked out.

Jim:  50-50. Honestly.

Data:  My head is telling me about 25% after the Grothe injury. But Daniels is sending out really good vibes. I know BYU is supposed to be good, but they turned the ball over a lot and our speed on defense is a lot better than theirs. My gut is telling me this team is better than the last two years, and has a greater sense of purpose. I'll go 60%.

Dan:  With Grothe, I think we had a 50/50 shot at winning. With BJ, I think it may be 40-45%. Know this. This team is ready. We still have a great defense and we have a solid O-line, and our QB isn't a scrub. And we seem to have a legit kicker (you guys know ALL about that wide-right stuff ) Expect everything from us, it's only Wednesday and I bet the team is already on fire tired of hearing all the weak arguments and cheap shots being taken at them because they lost one guy.

A big thanks to

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