A large part of being a good coach is identifying the best possible combination of personnel for success and then fitting the scheme to that personnel. After a third of the regular season, it might be time to shift FSU's approach a bit in order to maximize the personnel.
Should Florida State run more sets featuring three or more receivers for the rest of the season? Dr. Ken's study of the offense through the first four games suggests that FSU might be better off running more multi-receiver sets. The 'Noles have been significantly more explosive and successful operating with at least three receivers on the field.
You want specifics? We've got specifics:
45 of 93 (48%) passing plays from 3WR+ sets have been successful. Compare that to 10 of 23 (44%) from non-3WR+ sets.
You might expect that, but what about running?
15 of 35 (43%) run plays from these sets (including Wildcat) have been successful. Compare that to a success of 7 of 23 (30%) on run plays from non-3WR+ sets. As an aside on the Wildcat, it should be here to stay, as 4 of 6 WC runs have been successful.
And that's not even mentioning that an overwhelming majority of FSU's explosive plays have come from 3WR+ sets.
Now admittedly, this is a limited sample set of just 174 plays in non-garbage time.
This is really interesting when you consider that FSU's top three receivers (Rodney Smith, Willie Haulstead and Bert Reed) have combined to play only 22 of a possible 48 quarters!
The emergence of the young receives has been key. FSU's receivers have caught 72 total passes this season. First/Second-year players have accounted for 49 of those! And it's not just catches; the young guys are producing yards as well, with 749 of the 1102 receiving yards coming from first and second-year players (68%).
We need to give credit to coach Dawsey here. I called out the inconsistent play of Dawsey's receivers in the off-season, and they are playing much better this season. And that's pretty shocking considering two of the top three targets have missed the majority of the season and all of the important games to date.
What else is responsible for the better success from the 3WR+ sets? How about terrible play from the veteran tight ends. Beau Reliford and Jabaris Little have both had four years in the program and both are terrible. Constant mental mistakes from seniors are not acceptable. You can bet this staff has learned a lesson about the need for the tight end to, ahem "grasp the responsibilities" of the position at the major BCS level. FSU fans have to hope they see reduced roles going forward. Yes, freshman Nick O'Leary has and will continue to make mental errors, but he is a freshman and is already improving as a player. Side note: Christo Kourtzidis has all the physical tools you want in an in-line tight end, but also has some intelligence.
We've not been too hard on the offensive staff for the use of the tight ends because it's likely they didn't realize what they had in the young receivers, but if 88 and 85 continue to play and continue to make the same mistakes while better options exist on the bench in the form of receivers, we're going to write about this a lot. I understand 88 will be on the field, but 85 should play sparingly, if at all.
The move to more 3WR+ sets could help the run game as well. FSU wouldn't exactly miss the blocking from 85 and probably not from 88. Additionally, spreading the field does create more run lanes, and an offense with a tremendous running quarterback like EJ Manuel can be quite effective on the ground because the defense must respect the threat of Manuel's running, which takes away a defender. Manuel's running is one of the reasons we've stressed that FSU must make sure Manuel is 100% recovered from his shoulder sprain before he plays again.
Speaking of the run game from multi-WR sets, one player who might be very comfortable there is Devonta Freeman. The talented 4* freshman back from Miami Central has flashed at times, but isn't completely down with the pass protections at this point. There are fewer pass protections for him to master out of these sets, simply because there are fewer defenders in a realistic position to blitz. Also, Freeman played in the spread in high school and seems comfortable running from multi-WR sets.