In 2016, Florida State’s defense allowed four quarterbacks to post a rating of 140 or higher. Three more were 125 or higher.
There were issues of coaching, effort, and, in some cases, inexperience.
But so often we look only at what the team we cover is doing. And that would be a mistake in analyzing Florida State’s 2016 pass defense.
Fans know that the defense got better as the season wore on, and that part of the reason it improved, statistically, was that the quality of QBs faced was much less later in the year.
But now with the benefit of time, we can take a look and see just how good the opposing QBs were. It’s not enough for a defense to make a mistake. At times, to use a baseball analogy, it seemed that every hanging curveball thrown by FSU’s defense was hit out of the park by the opposing QB.
With the announcement of Mitch Trubisky Monday that he will leave North Carolina to turn pro, the official total of quarterbacks on FSU’s schedule who were good enough to leave college early to turn pro increased to three (Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya, as well). That does not include the Heisman Trophy winning QB Lamar Jackson, or Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, who was having a monster year before tearing his ACL.
We wrote this offseason that 2016 might be the hardest slate of QBs ever faced by FSU. If there’s an argument against, I am all ears.
But what isn’t up for debate is that the ACC’s quarterback play, and this the opposing QBs faced by FSU’s defense, is going to plummet in 2017.
The top-5 rated passers in the ACC are all gone. No more Watson, Trubisky, or Kaaya. There’s no chance that the majority of those teams make upgrades in replacing them.
And given that Chad Kelly comes off the schedule, as does Quentin Flowers, to be replaced by Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, the non-conference QB opponents will also likely be a downgrade, unless Florida finally takes a big step.
What FSU might have, with a defense returning almost every impact player outside of Demarcus Walker and Marquez White, is a schedule of quarterbacks resembling what it faced in 2013: liabilities at the QB position.
While the 2013 defense was great (it allowed just 14 passing touchdowns in 14 games, and just seven on the ground), it also benefited greatly from an absolutely horrible slate of quarterbacks. Only two were drafted: Pitt’s Tom Savage, in the fourth round, and Clemson’s Tahj Boyd, in the sixth. Savage is still around as a backup, while Boyd washed out of the league with a quickness.
It’s possible that Florida State’s 2016 schedule may have featured five opposing quarterbacks better than the best one faced by the 2013 defense.
The ACC had an amazing year of QBs in 2016, it’s something not likely to be repeated again. And that’s good for FSU’s defense.
Just something to think about. You can’t get the whole picture of an offense or defense without the proper context of its opponents.