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Florida State football: Mailbag, notes and stats

I didn't ask for questions for the mailbag, just culled some general themes from the comment section.

Andy Lyons

FSU has a ton of players beat up right now, so let's open with the injury update for those who missed it from the press conference. The extra two days of rest from playing on a Thursday were sorely needed.

QB Jameis Winston should be back to practice this week. His ankle is tender. RB Mario Pender (who I believe is FSU's best back) may be back this week (ankle injury has cost him a month). LT Cam Erving injured his right arm in the Louisville game but should be fine and managed to play well in spite of the injury. Right guard Tre' Jackson (knee injury) was not mentioned but he did not miss gametime against Louisville. Right tackle Bobby Hart's injury is unknown, and he did not miss the game against Louisville, but he missed starters reps during two practices last week and clearly looked limited. FSU is still without starting center Austin Barron (broken arm).

Prognosis: No starters, other than those who were previously out, should be out.

On the defensive side of the ball, FSU was without SEVEN linebackers due to injury in the Louisville game. That's a ton. Terrance Smith could return this week from his pectoral strain. Matthew Thomas' knee is still an issue, but his shoulder injury suffered against Louisville is not serious according to Jimbo Fisher. That's good news as it certainly looked serious. Jacob Pugh and E.J. Levenberry are both likely to return from their concussions (it's not known whether they suffered these against Notre Dame or during the bye week). Ukeme Eligwe is still questionable with his foot and I am beginning to wonder if this is a lost season for the promising linebacker. Freshmen backers Kain Daub and Delvin Purifoy are still out and look to be redshirting anyhow.

Prognosis: About as good as it can get. If Jimbo Fisher's optimism is justified, it seems that the depleted group FSU had against Louisville was a one-game deal. The biggest injury issue on defense is one that isn't getting fixed: starting nose guard Nile Lawrence-Stample is done for the season with a torn pec, and that was a position at which FSU simply could not afford to lose a starter because the backups are not good (and I'm being kind with that assessment).

Now to some news, notes and observations ...

No great team

FSU isn't the 2013 Seminoles. But nobody else is so far, either.

Others are noticing the same thing.

The obvious takeaway from the national landscape through 10 weeks has been that no truly great team exists, like Florida State last year. Everyone is flawed, and thus a whole bunch of good teams are stacked together in the top 10 trying to push for four playoff spots. -- Matt Brown

It also doesn't hurt that this season features exactly zero dominant teams and a whole lot of pretty good ones. -- Andy Staples

26, 25, 17, 15, 14, -6

Those are the points for which Louisville's defense contributed to the winning (or losing) margins in Cards games against Power 5 competition this year, according to Brian Fremeau's component game score breakdowns. On Thursday night, FSU put up a -21, more than three times what anyone else had done to the Louisville defense.

Of course, Louisville's offense posted its second best game of the year against FSU.

This was not entirely unexpected, of course, at least not for readers, as we stated all week that Louisville's defense was not as good as it was rated, but that its offense was also a lot better.

Still, I thought the game would be played in the high 50s or the 60s. Not 73 combined points.

1, 35, 38, 40, 47, 68

The length of FSU's touchdown plays against Louisville. Louisville had allowed only 9 plays of 30+ yards on the year. FSU had six Thursday. I'm reminded that Clemson had two open deep shots that receivers could not reel in before Deshaun Watson injured his hand on his sixth pass.

4.50 percent of Florida State's plays against FBS competition have gone for 30+ yards. That's second only to Wisconsin (4.54).


The grade given by Pro Football Focus to nose guard Derrick Mitchell. We said that FSU could not lose either starting defensive tackle to injury, or it would be in big trouble. It happened, when Nile Lawrence-Stample went down for the year with a torn pectoral. I understand that Mitchell's knee is likely not 100 percent following his injury against N.C. State, but the reality is that it is going to be very tough to win a championship without Lawrence-Stample.

FSU has certainly had some recruiting busts to date on the defensive interior. This is to be expected, as it's a position of great variance. We knew FSU would be in big trouble if it lost a starter at DT and indeed it continues to be.


Karlos Williams had converted 3rd and 4th down short-yardage attempts at a fantastic clip on the year before failing to do so Thursday night. I don't agree that not going with the QB sneak was a bad move. Karlos Williams had a proven track record in short yardage entering the game. Fullback Freddie Stevenson, off of whom Williams is supposed to cut getting blown up, is not Williams' fault.

Karlos v. Dalvin

Speaking of which, I have seen a lot of calls for Dalvin Cook to be the starter over Karlos Williams. I cannot agree. I suspect this sentiment is from Cook's two huge runs, but coaches will judge the entire game. And that includes the first half, in which Karlos Williams was very good, and Dalvin Cook was not.

Williams' running kept FSU in good down and distance for much of the first half -- something that was squandered often by mistakes in the passing game. But those runs still count and will be graded. Cook, meanwhile, went nowhere in the first half and often put FSU in long down and distance.

I think Pender is the best back on this team, but he's not 100 percent healthy yet. Williams did show good vision in this ballgame, especially early, and Cook, while he has great speed, still has a tendency to try and hit home runs when they might not be there. That'll come with time. Cook is not the clear cut better runner right now.

Williams also has a major edge in blitz pickup, which is important when Jameis Winston is throwing for your team.

Young receivers

Jimbo Fisher explained in his press conference that the second interception by Jameis WInston was not Winston's fault, but rather that a true freshman receiver did not run his route completely. Instead, he slowed down, thinking the ball was not coming to him. Fisher agreed the throw was "perfect."

Young receivers do this at times. Ermon Lane did it in the Notre Dame game, costing FSU a completion. And it's tougher to learn to run your routes completely when you have a QB like WInston, who can make throws that other QBs don't see or cannot physically make.

Still, these guys are both coming along. Travis Rudolph caught a 68-yarder for a score later in the game. Lane had a 47-yarder for a score in traffic in which it could have been easy to quit on the route. There might not be a better pair of freshmen receivers in the country.


The number of the player without a nameplate lined up at linebacker. In fact, it was Terrell Lyons the redshirt freshman safety! Lyons normally wears 22, but with seven scholarship linebackers unavailable due to injury, Lyons was forced into duty on kickoff coverage team and on defense. But Jonathan Vickers, a running back, wears 22 and he is also on kickoff team. To avoid a penalty of having double numbers, FSU slapped the 32 jersey on him. He did well, all things considered.

I also heard a lot of griping about Tyler Hunter during the game. I continue to believe that most of this defense's issues are because of the nose position, the defensive end spot opposite of Mario Edwards, Jr., and at linebacker. Especially linebacker. I think there is hope there for FSU to get better down the stretch at the latter two spots.


I'll accept that the SEC is better than all other conferences at every position with one exception: quarterback. And that makes some of these SEC schools vulnerable. We've already seen pretty much every SEC QB turn in a really bad game.

Miami's defense looks improved

No doubt Miami's defense is the best it's been under Al Golden. But there is something to note when looking at what the Hurricanes did against UNC (credit for the box score): UNC had -55 "rushing yards" on two bad punt snaps. Those are, of course, credited to the defense.

Taking those away, Miami's defense allowed 4.6 yards/play, which is still excellent, just not quite as much.