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Does less preparation actually benefit the FSU football defense?

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Seminole players speak about short-week prep.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

On numerous occasions during the 2016 football season, Florida State has been on short rest entering games. Of course, most fans’ minds will immediately flash to quick turnarounds dictated by the schedule, and for good reason. Although Charleston Southern posed no real threat, following a Monday night game with a Saturday nooner, after traveling, is brutal. And FSU just came off another quick week, as losing a full day following a night game at NC State saw the ‘Noles hosting Boston College on Friday— another span further depleted by travel.

But practically speaking, the Seminoles have experienced more abbreviated weeks than just those two. When Hurricane Hermine made landfall on the Florida panhandle in the week preceding the Labor Day evening opener against Ole Miss, some players were supplanted and wound up sleeping on couches within the FSU facilities when much of Tallahassee was without electricity. Weeks later, the Seminoles’ would again amend their schedule prior to the Miami game when Hurricane Matthew effected change while making its way up Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has been quite outspoken about his disdain for these breaks — controllable or not — in FSU’s routine. They’re anathema to a coach who is well known for lamenting “clutter” within “the process.” And that’s understandable, as athletes tend to be creatures of habit. However, when those habits have fostered an apathy that prompts coaches to require players to sign a pledge promising their utmost effort, the question deserves asking: is a shakeup necessarily a bad thing? According to some Florida State defenders — and history — perhaps not.

First, to the numbers, specifically regarding the points conceded by the defense following those, shall we say, “interrupted” weeks. The ‘Noles were carved up for 28 points in the first half against Ole Miss before the defense took over and allowed just six in the second half, en route to a 45-34 win.

Against Charleston Southern? Eight points all day.

Versus a Miami team that, despite suffering its typical slide following a loss to the Seminoles, still averages 34.8 points per game? 19.

And then, most recently, the first-team FSU defense pitched a shutout against BC before the reserves allowed a garbage-time TD to make the final score 45-7. Yes, the Eagles’ offense is bad. But it still averages 18.2 PPG.

So how do Florida State players account for this trend? Following the defense’s dominating performance against Boston College on Friday, I had a chance to catch up with ‘Nole DT Derrick Nnadi, who wasn’t sure he could recall a time that FSU had dominated in the trenches the way it did against BC. Nnadi, who once again stood out for his performance up front, offered some rather intriguing insight about how a tighter timeframe may actually work to FSU’s benefit: “Our coaches had us really prepared for this week, especially with the quick turnaround with it being a Friday game. We really had to stay focused this week.”

For a team that hasn’t always seemed entirely ready to play, the idea of a short week increasing urgency makes sense. Nnadi seems to concur— when I asked him if less preparation time could actually be a blessing in disguise, with regard to a ramped-up intensity, he responded: “I would have to say yes.”

Defensive end DeMarcus Walker echoed Nnadi’s sentiments about a heightened focus: “We were very prepared and we had a great week of practice. Everybody was locked in from special teams to walk through to everything so we came in with our mind right and we executed.”

And there was certainly no early lull, a fact underscored by linebacker Ro’Derrick Hoskins: “We came out lights out. We followed our keys to the game, reacting to plays and doing everything we saw in practice and we just came out and played full speed.”

Early in the year, when the Seminoles routinely struggled to get stops, similar explanations seemed ubiquitous: that they were overthinking it, and not just reacting and playing football. Of course, a baseline of preparation — the kind that prevents blown assignments and coverages — will always exist.

But when one team is almost always the more talented, athletic side, as is the case with Florida State, doesn’t it make sense that there’s also such thing as having too much time for both coaches, as well as players, to overthink it a bit? Yes, it was just one game, and it was against BC, but an unusual Friday night game in November may have provided a possible answer: sometimes, less is more.