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Chalk Talk: Florida State's aggressive gameplan, playcalling at Clemson kept Noles in game

We've heard a lot of misinformed opinions this week about Florida State's playcalling and plan against Clemson. We already covered the execution aspect in the Florida State film review section. This is a more holistic look at the plan and playcalling, presented in an informal look from our editorial chat room.

Several of the following contributors played college football or coach. I think this level of analysis helps to set this site apart. Let us know if you like it.

Note: We are not wasting time on the Maguire v. Golson debate. We agree bringing in Golson at the time was smart, but he clearly did not pick up the offense and the experiment is over in our eyes, and apparently in the eyes of FSU as well given that Maguire continues to get the first team reps. Fans wanting Golson does not create a QB controversey.

What did you like the about the playcalling and gameplan?

alanmundy [2:33 PM]
How much Jimbo did with formations and motions out of 21 personnel to create favorable blocking angles.

juan [2:33 PM]
Before getting into detail: the amount of "this is six" or "this scores" or "this is a first" barring one single execution error from a young OL/other player

juan [2:33 PM]
They did a great job getting into the correct plays and getting favorable numbers and angles.

adam [2:34 PM]
Liked how Jimbo created leverage with formations and motion. Put guys in conflict

jared [2:34 PM]
Like how he opened up the playbook for Sean. Allowed him to take a bunch of deep shots. Sean just missed seeing open guys or didn't make a throw.

cjdnole [2:38 PM]
Liked the timing of when he took his shots. The run plays he called vs various looks to gain blocking angles. Liked his use of tempo at times to try and get Dalvin to the edge.

budelliott [2:38 PM]
And Clemson covered some of them quite well. Jimbo knew they had to throw on first down and threaten Clemson deep, and FSU's personnel just was not better than Clemson's defenders. That's the QB, it's the receivers not making a single special play, it's the line not being able to protect. People get really bent out of shape on this playcalling sutff when they don't know what they are looking at.

budelliott [2:39 PM]
Jimbo don't bang his head into the wall repeatedly, they did try to throw on first down when Clemson brought numbers into the box. FSU just couldn't hit them.

budelliott [2:40 PM]
I think it is important to give credit to Clemson, too. Clemson has better players and if they didn't make adjustments to counter FSU's plan, shame on them.

budelliott [2:41 PM]
And I think his plan reflected the knowledge that FSU probably could not consistently drive methodically against Clemson, so a lot of it was trying to design explosive plays.

budelliott [2:42 PM]
That, both before and after the game, seemed spot on.

cjdnole [2:44 PM]
Exactly. You call plays with an understanding of your personnel and the matchups. FSU outmatched at almost every position vs that Clemson D. Makes it very tough. Have to know when to take those shots and have to create favorable blocking angles and numbers in the run game vs their looks that you've scouted/seen throughout game. Can't ask your players to do things in which it is not likely they succeed. Thought Jimbo balanced this very well.

jared [2:45 PM]
Fact is, personnel is so limited that he had to manufacture advantages. He did that via motion, formations and breaks in tendency. His guys just didn't make the plays that were there.

jared [2:45 PM]
This was one of the best called games he's had since he took over IMO.

alanmundy [2:46 PM]
That's why I liked the focus on 21 personnel. It's counter-intuitive in college football these days to think that having a fullback and tight end on the field and only two receivers is your best personnel group, but looking at the match ups, it was.

cjdnole [2:46 PM]
WR situation is quite embarrassing. Those guys cant separate and cant make contested catches.

timscribble [2:46 PM]
He did a good job getting Kermit the ball in space on a few plays.

jared [2:47 PM]
The WR situation is why I laugh at the notion that Jimbo just isn't playing the young guys just because they are Freshmen.

alanmundy [2:47 PM]
Or fight through physical DB play. Was extremely disappointed with the WRs performance and how they responded to being challenged by Clemson's DBs.

jared [2:47 PM]
Your WR coach is failing you right now IMO.

jared [2:49 PM]
The notion that this was a conservative game plan is way off.

budelliott [2:49 PM]
QUESTION: Are people criticizing the offensive line too much and the receivers too little?

jared [2:50 PM]
I think the OL is obviously an issue. But more an issue of youth and injuries forcing 6 different starting combinations in 8 games. That's not a recipe for success.

budelliott [2:50 PM]
QUESTION: what the hell are people who say this was conservative thinking?

jared [2:50 PM]
The WR group is putrid. And that falls on the WR coach. [The veterans] have stayed relatively healthy and there is talent there.

jared [2:51 PM]
People who do not know what they are watching.

ricobert1 [2:51 PM]
"13 points means you didn't call the touchdown plays"

jared [2:51 PM]
I'm serious. There were like 4 touchdowns left on that field is one guy doesn't screw up.

juan [2:52 PM]
People who called this game conservative equate touchdowns to aggressive play calling.

juan [2:52 PM]
Lot more of the "this scores" or "this goes for 6" type plays were caused by OL failures than WR failures, but both groups are not great

budelliott [2:53 PM]
QUESTION: Alright. Flip it. What are the criticisms? What play calls or aspects did you not like?

juan [2:53 PM]
Late game WR failures probably overshadow how many points the OL mistakes earlier left on the field.

jared [2:53 PM]
Example: That Kermit toss sweep is a TD but.....Ruble

juan [2:53 PM]
Example: The Kermit shovel in RZ is a TD but.... RoJo, and you expect your best lineman to make that block.

ricobert1 [2:54 PM]
Ruble got beat across his face causing Maguire to underthrow a clear TD into an INT

jared [2:54 PM]
Sean missed Ermon wide open deep. Threw it to BoBo who was blanketed.

jared [2:55 PM]
I think you could have run more boot action. Clemson was flowing HARD.

cjdnole [2:55 PM]
Loved 21 personnel but would have liked a little more play action out of it from under center, especially 2nd half. Clemson wasn't buying play action from Gun.

cjdnole [2:56 PM]
Yes, boot action

adam [4:17 PM] 
I'm going to disagree with you guys on PA from under center. Maguire did not look comfortable with his back to the defense.

adam [4:17 PM]
Thought showing the ball in the gut held the LBs a split second.

budelliott [2:56 PM]
I'd criticize the lack of help for ruble. He was beaten very often without help. Have to know that is a very low percentage play.

juan [2:57 PM]
I'd agree more boot action would have helped. Maguire isn't mobile but he's solid enough on run to make some good throws that may keep that threat honest.

adam [4:18 PM]
Jimbo needed to use Freddie more out of the backfield. Thought he could have caught 5 or 6 balls and gotten 3 or 4 carries to balance the offense out a bit.

adam [4:19 PM]
Also thought they needed to challenge Lawson a bit with OZ at him.

adam [4:20 PM]
My biggest disappointment was not running the split zone play they killed Florida with last year. Clemson was to free flow and did not have safety leverage backside, especially when there was motion.

adam [4:20 PM]
2nd biggest disappointment was not booting.

adam [4:21 PM]
It was there from the get go and I have no reasoning for why they didn't run it.

ricobert1 [2:57 PM]
Well, we know why Mavety went in at RT at the end.

alanmundy [2:57 PM]
I would have liked to see a few deep shots without play action. Think the play action added time that the OL had to protect that thy just couldn't. Or play action from gun rather than the 7 step drop stuff.

juan [2:58 PM]
Best adjustment FSU could have made on the OL was getting Wilkins ejected for the clear targeting on Pigg Harrison, but alas.

juan [2:59 PM]
Rob, Mavety in for Ruble and Andrews in for Brutus showed how poor both those players were that evening. Uncharacteristic for Brutus, but Ruble just isn't ready. Kelly's a much better player at this point.

cjdnole [2:59 PM]
You'd like to help Ruble more but you can't do it every time you drop back. He need it about every time.

jared [3:09 PM]
I really don't think it's a stretch to say this was one of his best games as a play caller since becoming the HC


dylankidd [3:10 PM]
And just overall one of the best coached by the whole staff, IMO. The defensive plan was awesome.

jared [3:11 PM]
Yeah. Can't complain at all about the defensive game plan

jared [3:12 PM]
But I will say, let's stop rushing 3 until Sweat is fully grown and Zo is healthy.

evenflow58 [3:12 PM]
Rushing 3 worked well a few times against other teams

juan [3:13 PM]
To be fair, Watson hit some amazing holes against 8 men in coverage

evenflow58 [3:13 PM]
I think they ended up with a sack or 2 against UM

juan [3:13 PM]
their 2 minute drive going into half, the kid did a fantastic job of it

cjdnole [3:15 PM]
Not a fan of the 3 man rush either

cjdnole [3:16 PM]
8 v 7 in coverage is not a big difference, especially when #8 is Pugh. The 8 man coverage is a spot drop coverage, not a match. So there are still holes to be found in the coverage.

cjdnole [3:18 PM]
Especially vs a good qb like Watson.

cjdnole [3:18 PM]
Its nit picking but I'm not a fan

budelliott [3:18 PM] 
On the three man rush, at least on the one big throw, you're depending on nate to get deep in two Tampa and he didn't. He usually does.

budelliott [3:18 PM] 
And in the other throw a backer left his responsibility to chase a QB when the ball was on Clemson 18.

cjdnole [3:19 PM] 
Yeah, I understand where you're coming from @budelliott . I think if you rush 4 you have a higher chancer for pressure and make the throw tougher on DW, while giving him fewer lanes to take off running. Can still run virtually the same coverage behind with 7 (Tampa 2).

juan [3:19 PM]
I agree, Watson and that skill have too much of an advantage. you're better off rushing 4 and playing c2 zone if you want deep safetiescjdnole [3:21 PM]

But I loved the Defensive plan. Can't be overstated how the coaches have these kids playing with discipline and good technique as well. Thought they tackled really well too.

juan [3:23 PM]
Chris Fowler calling touch passes "pop passes" remains the most annoying thing ever

Clemson had good plan, too. Well coached team

cjdnole [3:28 PM]
Would be interested to hear yall's thoughts on that 2x2 stack look from Clemson where they got the TD. Thought we should have checked out of the blitz there

cjdnole [3:37 PM]
Nit picking tho

juan [3:38 PM]
yeah that stack forces safeties to split and gives free inside release with that blitz look

juan [3:38 PM]
if i'm not mistaken on that play didn't smith blitz and walker drop?

ricobert1 [3:38 PM]
They've got the boundary in outside position and basically throw a tunnel to trailer. No backer/$ there to help out. Rock meets paper.

cjdnole [3:39 PM]
Smith blitzed but no one dropped. Walker did peel off to the back once he released

budelliott [3:40 PM]
Caleb I agree. Was clear Clemson had them in a bad look.

juan [3:40 PM]
they did that a few times before that, too

juan [3:41 PM]
were setting it up... those dudes called a good game

juan [3:41 PM]
caleb pointed out how often #3 was getting vertical untouched, same thing there. there was one other thing they worked and got plays out of that i recall

juan [3:41 PM]
that staff called a better game against this defense than i've seen Chad Morris ever do

juan [3:42 PM]
oh yes they called a QB draw from that trips look once Northrup finally showed enough depth to cover that vertical lol

cjdnole [3:42 PM]
That formation is so tough to defend. Especially when you mix in the ZR/bubble package play concepts with a runner like Watson and their skill

cjdnole [3:44 PM]
Lol yeah, second half Reggie was all over #3 vertical. And you're right, Clemson immediately came with the draw

juan [3:46 PM]
They also used it on the scoring drive at the end

juan [3:46 PM]
Jimbo worked some fools with some 11 trips work in the past, so can't complain too much about it

juan [3:48 PM]
and then they used that 2x2 stack on that same drive... sort of summed up how well they coached the game in one drive. well called game by them

cjdnole [3:48 PM]
Yeah, another critical moment of the game they went back to it. The 3rd and 7 where Peake caught the screen and should have been marked short

drew.greminger [4:30 PM]
What's the best way to defend that stack formation? Rico pointed out that Ramsey has outside leverage but I don't think you can play inside there. It might work on the boundary but not on the field side. Inside leverage and Clemson can run bubble instead of tunnel and Cain is 1v1 on the safety in open field. That's at least a big gain if not the same result. Also i think Leggett out there is what can really make that formation so tough.

adam [4:33 PM]
You cannot play inside leverage to that for,the reason you pointed out above. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't against it, some will say blitz, some will say cover. There's no right or wrong answer.

alanmundy [4:35 PM]
The right answer is beat the fucking block.

alanmundy [4:36 PM]
Terrence Smith getting blocked and running around the block of WRs should never happen.

adam [4:37 PM]
I agree with that.

budelliott [4:40 PM]
Also Fisher was aggravated at the safety both times not triggering against that screen to the 2x2 stack, per his TV show.

adam [4:42 PM]
Must mean they knew it was coming out,if it.

budelliott [4:43 PM]

drew.greminger [4:43 PM]
Wonder if Clemson has run it before

drew.greminger [4:44 PM]
And how long ago

adam [4:44 PM]
Either way, if Jimbo is making that statement they had prepped for it and didn't execute.

adam [4:45 PM]
Honestly, even if the safety triggers though, that plays going for 6

adam [4:46 PM]
They are so outnumbered over there once the OL get into play.

adam [4:46 PM]
Clemson did a nice job of taking advantage of Sweat aggresiveness. Freshman.

drew.greminger [4:51 PM]
So you're basically stuck hoping your LB can make the play inside?

adam [4:51 PM]
And that your end will peel. Running this at a freshman end is smart.

adam [4:51 PM]
Jalen played it right, nobody else did.

drew.greminger [4:52 PM]
What triggers the end to peel though? Cause this is packaged to run out of too if you get the right look

adam [4:52 PM]
He's got to read his tackle, thats what makes it so hard.

adam [4:53 PM]
When that tackle frees you up, you have to split second decide whether its a trap or not.

drew.greminger [4:54 PM]
I'm just looking at the photo in here. Was the screen called all the way or was it checked to? Assuming it wasn't a read made in play

adam [4:55 PM]
I'm pretty sure it was called the whole way. They have the option to screen right or left. I don't think there's a run action here.

adam [4:55 PM]
If numbers were balanced to the quads side then you ran it weak.

drew.greminger [4:56 PM]
But there's got to be a check if you have the right numbers to run

adam [4:57 PM]
There doesn't have to be. If they over commit to the boundary that gives you a serious advantage to the screen to the quad. I don't see the need for a run check.

drew.greminger [4:59 PM]
I was thinking if you tried to stop by having a LB further outside on the boundary. Then the numbers are there to run

drew.greminger [5:01 PM]
Also did they check on whether to run it field or boundary? Seems like they'd want to run it to whatever side Leggett is on

adam [5:01 PM]
Nah, not particularly. IT helped that he was to the left.

adam [5:01 PM]
You probably have flare/tunnel to the right and tunnel to the left.

drew.greminger [5:02 PM]
Right but they probably knew they'd get numbers to the boundary side since Elliott would be in the slot on the field

adam [5:13 PM]
Lets be very honest about the Clemson game. It was not about the second half

adam [5:14 PM]
This game was lost in the second half of the first quarter and the second quarter.

joshuadpick [5:14 PM]
Yeah. For FSU to have a real shot, they needed to extend that lead early.

joshuadpick [5:14 PM]
And there were plenty of opportunities.

Back to offense

ricobert1 [5:59 PM]
Smag could end up a nice McElroy for us next yer

jared [6:03 PM]
But SMAG isn't that type of player

ricobert1 [6:03 PM]
fair enough

juan [6:04 PM]
He's improved in the simple stuff but he's too inconsistent mechanically to be that guy

ricobert1 [6:05 PM]
?: How mad can we really be at Dawsey regarding development? That we had to roll two sub 5'8 guys at WR can't really be his fault. heck, we got Pigg in there pre-concussion. Lane might have been overrated. Tate got hurt for a while.

ricobert1 [6:05 PM]
George probably does in practice what he did 2 weeks ago (screws up, looks like he's not ready)

juan [6:07 PM]
Look those dudes are open long because of speed that only Campbell can match

juan [6:07 PM]
And I'm sorry but I'm tired of hearing how you can't win with short receivers

juan [6:08 PM]
freaking geno smith made a living throwing fades to 4'8 legal midgets in the red zone

ricobert1 [6:08 PM]
But Clemson pwned our WRs physically

ricobert1 [6:10 PM]
Clemson gave us a dose of our own 2012 secondary

adam [6:29 PM]
I think there's a bigger issue with throwing guys with anticipation and guys having the ability to separate. Separation is not all about physicality.

adam [6:31 PM]
Also think teams are just daring certain things (deep) and squatting on shorter routes which screws up ability to separate. Go back watch that game when you have end zone angles. I remember about 4 times Ermon was wide open but the ball couldn't get thrown.

adam [6:33 PM]
I think there needs to be more pass action run game to help some open some of the run game up. Opposite way to get the dig/post open.

juan [6:58 PM]
So: is it reasonable to say Maguire has played at a higher level than we expected? Has played with more confidence, has had pretty good decision making with some higher level Fisher concepts, and only has done this in 3 starts?

adam [7:03 PM]
Sure, would say that's more fair than not.

juan [7:03 PM]
he remains inaccurate, though his better balls have had better placement than i'd have expected

adam [7:04 PM]
He's Ponderish without the ability to run.

juan [7:05 PM]
and less accurate. bigger arm than late career ponder too

adam [7:06 PM]

adam [7:06 PM]
Thought That was closest in Jimbo era.

juan [7:08 PM]
i was most surprised with his general confidence. if this OL wasn't crippling drives i think they'd be much more efficient

juan [7:08 PM]
they can win a lot of games with him next year

curtweiler [7:09 PM]
Jimbo confirmed at call in show that Patrick barely practiced in week leading up to Clemson. He had an ankle injury, just like we heard.

adam [7:23 PM]
Hope he's healthy to go this week. Need to ride these two horses to the finish line.

adam [7:23 PM]
Makes sense why he couldn't cut on the TD run and was done after that.

budelliott [7:24 PM]
glad our guys are spot on with the injury news. FSU's injury reports are, um, ...

juan [7:25 PM]
with one of the top 3 backs 100%, do we pick up some of those key short yardage/red zone plays that helped lose the game?

adam [7:26 PM]
I am on the no side of this conversation.

adam [7:26 PM]
Actually, check that. I'm on the yes side for the first down carry that should have been a TD. Other then that, no.

juan [7:32 PM]
how about this: what about with a 100% Kelly

adam [7:33 PM]
No, don't think there's that much of a difference between he and Ruble. It's not so significant that Kelly makes the difference in the game.

adam [7:33 PM]
Also think Ruble might be a better run blocker at this stage.

juan [7:34 PM]
i disagree there. ruble makes way too many mistakes. i don't think kelly is great, but i think kelly holds not insignificant value over him

adam [7:36 PM]
Ruble makes way too many mistakes in which facet of the game? To me, it's pass game, but I think he's more physical in the run game.

juan [7:36 PM]
(call-in-show Caller asks about the possibility of incorporating the tight ends in passing game more.)

Fisher leads off by saying that they only have one tight end (Izzo) who is actually ready for the full-time tight end duties but that they are developing and working with them on these things.

by Curt Weiler on Nov 11, 2015 | 7:17 PM

juan [7:36 PM]
interesting to see jimbo say it out and out like that

curtweiler [7:37 PM]
I was a bit surprised as well