Alright, hold your horses. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: "Why even talk about this now? How can we even predict or pretend to know what goes on inside Jimbo’s head? While the answer to the second question is an unequivocal "of course not", I would still like to give it a try. This is mostly predicated on the answer to the first question, which is: "baseball season is over, and I have a very low-demand job." So without further adieu, lets dive right in.
My first notion, after watching Jameis’ high school footage and observing his role in the spring game (albeit a very limited glimpse of FSU’s offensive strategy, but a glimpse nonetheless), is that it makes most sense to assume the obvious: Fisher will use Winston in much the same way as he did EJ Manuel. For starters, both quarterbacks have very similar measurables: about 6’5, and once Winston grows into his frame—remember he’s only 18—he will weigh approximately 240 lbs. This means he’ll have the same unobstructed view of the defense as EJ did thanks to his height. Therefore, look for similar blocking schemes as we’ve seen in years’ past. For a shorter or undersized QB (pre-transfer Clint Trickett, Drew Brees), an offensive line coach will do well to implement schemes that create gaps in blockers to allow for a height-challenged QB to actually locate his receivers downfield. This won’t be necessary for a very tall Jameis Winston.
Therefore, be looking for a lot of similar sets as we saw last season. 11, 12, 20, and 21 personnel packages will most likely be the norm. We’ll see a lot of pistol, split-back option, and especially zone read sets, as we have all come to know and love (term used loosely). In short, nothing will be drastically different form a playbook perspective. I don’t think we’ll be watching the Pitt game thinking to ourselves "wow, this offense looks totally different."
What’s more interesting to me is how aggressive Jimbo will be with his newfound all-star QB. He has proven himself to be a more accurate passer and a more effective runner of the football throughout high school. Furthermore, he seems perfectly content being a dual threat quarterback, whereas it was rumored that EJ showed significant resistance to the idea during his time at FSU. Basically, Fisher will be given "EJ 2.0" and awarded free reign with him. How will he choose to implement this in the youngin’s first-ever collegiate start?
To answer this we have to get really speculative. A million things could take place between now and September 2 that we just can’t account for. I don’t typically like to do this—my job is research based and I thrive on concrete data, but like I sad before: baseball season is over, folks. Here’s the way I see it unfolding up at Heinz Field:
First and foremost, an early-week cold bump throughout the area will drive temperatures down into the 40s. Jimbo compensates by making last-minute adjustments to the game plan by eliminating all passing plays from the second half strategy. Looking solid. At game time, Jameis appears clam and collected. Really handling the nerves well. The stadium is packed with fair-weather Pitt fans, who have managed to drag themselves out from under the shadow of Consol Energy Center. The grandeur of this new and intriguing sport have not been felt since the likes of Jock Sutherland and Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner graced the sidelines.
Throughout the first quarter, Jameis has a solid display of athletic prowess, but can’t seem to translate it into points. Kicker Roberto Aguayo knocks it between the sticks from 32 yards at some point early in the quarter. Jimbo relies heavily on running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., who are both very strong backs and bale to drag the undersized Pitt lineman for a couple yards each time they touch the ball. A few 3rd-and-mediums later, Winston finally breaks outside the front seven on a naked bootleg and scampers into the end zone to make the first quarter lead 10-0.
At some point during the second quarter, Jimbo decides that the now 16-3 lead is comfortable enough to let his young gun sling the rock a few times on some quick slants, and perhaps even a skinny post or two. I could also see Jimbo implementing a pro spacing concept, as illustrated below in Diagram A (for explanation, see LINK A below). Once Winston connects with his full back on this play, his confidence is visibly rising and he begins to settle into the game as his team’s unchallenged leader.
LINK A: this diagram makes my article look more legitimate, and provides the reader with a sense that my football IQ id higher than it really is. A lengthy caption below it also gives the impression that it is a highly complex play that requires a lot of in-depth explanation to understand. In actuality it is very simple to execute.
It is about this time in the game that a ridiculously horrible call by the ACC zebras sends the FSU sideline into a frenzy. It could be the second such call, or perhaps the third. Probably the third. At any rate, the team is thoroughly rattled by such an egregious display of ineptitude on behalf of the referees. This takes the wind out of their sails, somewhat. They begin to lose focus, and Jimbo becomes distraught.
When Jimbo becomes distraught, as we all know, he tends to revert to a hyper conservative strategy I like to call the "Run-The-Ball-Like-You-Have-Alabama’s-Personnel". The RTBLYHAP strategy would work spectacularly if you were, say, the head coach of Alabama’s football team. However, this is Florida State, and while we do have high quality talent in the backfield, they are no Ingram/Richardson or Yeldon/Henry. The RTBLYHAP strategy tends to result in losses for anyone but Alabama (see: FSU vs. NCSU 2012). This is because FSU’s offensive line, while very good, has not proven itself to be among the elite in the nation. Now, you would think that FSU’s superior talent, size, and speed in the trenches should be enough to allow Jimbo to make good use out of the ground game, but if you need further persuasion, refer to FSU @ NCSU 2012. This will be FSU’s season opener, remember. A lot of cohesive forces have yet to be ironed out. Also, it will be Pitt’s first game in the ACC and their first game against a national powerhouse in…god knows how long. Additionally, if you don’t think that every person in that stadium will still be salty from that time in 1980 when No. 11 FSU hammered No. 3 Pitt by a very hefty margin, you’re sadly mistaken.
We must also not forget the fact that Pitt’s defense is nothing to scoff at. They finished in the top 30 in three major defensive categories last season (pass efficiency defense, interceptions, and yds. per game), and their newly appointed DC Matt House has experience working in Pitt’s system. Because of Jimbo’s dedication to the RTBLYHAP strategy and House’s opportunistic defense, Pitt will mount as much of a comeback as they can muster, perhaps even bringing the game to within three points at some point in the fourth quarter.
The comeback will be fueled by summoning the spirit of Dan Marino, which as we all know is accomplished by sacrificing five delicious and nutritious NutriSystem meals, two pairs of women’s Isotoner gloves, and a pair of teal and orange Zubaz pants over an open flame. The resulting mixture is then dumped into an upside down 49ers helmet (Ghostrino has a sense of irony) and sprinkled on the jock strap of Pitt’s quarterback, whoever that winds up being.
As we all know, Dan the Man’s spirit is strong, but never strong enough. The comeback falls short, and the Seminoles escape with yet another "the-score-makes-it-seem-like-it-was-closer-than-it-really-was" win. Sure…the score. Jimbo leaves feeling more accomplished than he should, and Seminole Nation can finally let out an exasperated sigh of relief. It was not pretty, and there will be plenty to think about before next Saturday’s game, but hey—it’s a win. FSU 30 PITT 23
LINK B: "Mr. Marino…Mr. Marino…Please meet Mr. Simmons at midfield."