Florida State Preview Part II: Seminoles' Offense at Virginia Cavaliers' Defense

Welcome to part two of our preview of the upcoming game featuring the Florida State Seminoles and the Virginia Cavaliers.  Please read part one first.

In contrast to UVA's offense, its defense is actually pretty good.  Departed coach Al Groh is a defensive mastermind and he recruited some very good defensive players.  New coach Mike London is also a very good defensive coach.  Virginia hangs its hat on its defense and really resembles one of those 2006 or 2007 ACC teams that are all defense and not much offense.  

Uva_at_usc_medium

The Cavs did hold USC to 4.8 Yards-Per-Play before trash time.

Sizes Of The Front Sevens Florida State Will Face
  Sam OU BYU WF UVA UM BC NCST UNC CLEM MD UF
DL 270 267 295 255 275 285 251 260 245 275 255 255
DL 285 301 307 240 270 293 295 289 275 310 295 307
DL 280 284 261 285 275 305 309 297 305 315 285 302
DL/LB 245 251 239 235 265 251 257 259 260 260 275 250
LB 212 240 232 215 215 227 238 239 230 215 230 226
LB 245 225 225 240 225 240 235 231 235 230 250 238
LB 220 232 225 225 230 220 215 224 230 220 235 223
 Total 1757 1800 1784 1695 1755 1821 1800 1799 1780 1825 1825 1801

It all starts up front for Virginia.  LE 92 Zane Parr 6-6 275 Jr. is a quality end and really holds up well against the run.  There's a solid rotation of three defensive tackles in DT 59 John-Kevin Dolce 6-2 250 Sr.,  94 Matt Conrath 6-7 270 Jr., and DT 96 Nick Jenkins 6-3 275 Jr.  These guys play with very solid leverage because they aren't all that big.  RE 56 Cam Johnson 6-4 265 Jr. is a freak who was a wide receiver in his earlier days.  Virginia moves its defensive line around a ton.  It's quite annoying to watch on tape.  This puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line to constantly re-assess who it must block.  This personnel reminds me a bit of Iowa in that they are basically the same size across the board.  That versatility and interchangeability lends itself to the above-discussed movements.  UVA will get into a lot of different fronts.  This is a good defensive front and it gave USC a lot of trouble, though I am not sure the Trojans took them seriously until it was too late.

While Virginia's line is good, its linebackers are unproven.  The group consists of SLB 9 LaRoy Reynolds 6-2 220 So., MLBs 52 Aaron Taliaferro 6-2 225 Jr., 53 Steve Greer 6-2 230 So., and WLB 26 Ausar Walcott 6-4 230 So. Greer was a standout in Groh's scheme but has since been demoted a bit sharing time with Taliaferro.  

Virginia's front seven isn't tiny, but it's also not hulking. Florida State's offensive line is far from healthy, however, and I do not expect FSU's line to dominate this UVA front like I once did.  Elite pass-protecting left tackle Andrew Datko is out for the 'Noles.  In his place will be either red-shirt freshman Henry Orelus or Garret Faircloth, or we might see FSU slide over right tackle Zebrie Sanders.  Additionally, All-America Guard Rodney Hudson battled illness this summer and didn't get the benefits of the off-season program that he should have.  Right guard David Spurlock missed almost all of Fall camp with concussion issues which he may still be battling through.

It will be very important for the interior to get movement against the interior of this UVA line.  The best way to beat this UVA team running the ball is to run right at them.  The strategy is similar to what teams used to do to Dungy's Bucs.  Unfortunately, running back Ty Jones is uncertain for this game, and he is FSU's best runner of the inside zone play.  Jermaine Thomas, the normal starter, must fill-in.  Thomas is capable of running the inside zone and did well with it against Clemson in 2008 and actually ran it well last week too.  

The battle between the defensive ends and offensive tackles will be key.  Coach Fisher admitted to testing the young tackles last week without help, during the scrimmage against Wake.    I do think FSU's tackles will be able to have some success in running against UVA's ends because they are very aggressive and FSU's linemen are typically good at using aggression against an opponent.    I don't see FSU running many of the slower-developing sweeps against UVA this week.  The outside stretch play will be a better option.  

UVA's secondary is pretty good, but I'm not quite sure who is healthy.  UVA lists this group:  

CB 19 Ras-I Dowling 6-2 205 Sr. OR 28 Devin Wallace 5-11 205 So.
FS 7 Corey Mosley 5-10 205 Jr.
SS 1 Trey Womack 5-11 190 Sr. OR 23 Dom Joseph 6-1 195 Jr. OR 4 Rodney McLeod 5-10 180 Jr.
CB 13 Chase Minnifield 6-0 185 Jr.

Dowling is an All-America candidate if he is healthy.  These guys were recruited by Groh and he knows DBs pretty well and all are talented and experienced (two seniors and two juniors!)  

Inside, I break down how FSU will attack UVA with the passing game

Here's a look at UVA's cover two.  This is their slack cover-2 look.  UVA will walk out its will backer to split the difference between the slot receiver and the offensive line.  

Uva_off_look_large

Against this look FSU should look to throw the bubble and make UVA tackle.  It's essentially a running play and FSU runs it well.  But UVA does come up quickly out of this of this look so FSU has to be careful not to get baited.  

Here's UVA in a press cover-2 look.  It quickly pedals out of this to get to the cover-2.  This is tremendous for run-stopping, however, with all 11 players within 7 yards of the ball.

Uva_press_look_large

Here's UVA in a cover-1 robber look.  Notice the deep safety is not in the picture.  

Cover-1_robber_large

 

Here's how to attack cover 2

Cover2_medium

FSU will attack this by going down the middle over top of the middle backer, and by attacking the strong-side with the smash route.

Smash_large

FSU runs the smash really well.  This puts a lot of stress on the secondary.  

It really puts pressure on the secondary if FSU can pass protect.  As I mentioned above, FSU intentionally did not help the tackles last week to test them.  In this game I expect FSU to help out the tackles with running backs in the pass protection game when it looks to go deeper.  

I hesitate to say this because I've been unimpressed with him so far in his career, but Beau Reliford might have a big game against UVA if the Cavs insist in staying in its cover-two look.  

I also think UVA is vulnerable to double-moves because its defense is extremely aggressive.  This UVA defense is much less read-and-react this year than it was last season.  FSU needs to take advantage of that aggressiveness with cut-back running.  

If FSU gets up early the 'Noles can roll the Cavs.  The run game can take Virginia out of its cover-2 shell it wants to play if FSU can do it well enough.  Christian Ponder is very good at taking what the defense gives and forcing the defense to adjust.  

This defense isn't likely to get rolled, however, in a game that means more to UVA than it does to FSU with Miami on deck for the 'Noles.  FSU will probably go with a conservative gameplan early with the goal being to win field position repeatedly and not give UVA a short field.  I see FSU running 37 times for 175 yards and throw 28 times for 225 yards.  That should be good enough to put up 27 points.  This will not be an easy game in a hostile environment in what could be bad weather with a banged-up FSU team.  But it will be a good test and is a game FSU should win.

Chance of winning:  80%  (27-17 Prediction)

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