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Will Alabama still throw so many passes behind the line of scrimmage v. FSU?

FSU should make Alabama prove it can go deep.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Florida State Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

If you watched Alabama in 2016, you saw the Tide throw a lot of passes behind the line of scrimmage. It made sense. The Tide had a true freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts at the helm. Teams had to worry about the deep ball not due to Hurts’ success in throwing it, but because of receivers like Calvin Ridley and Ardarius Stewart, the latter of the two now departed for the NFL. And they had to worry about the run.

So short passes made a lot of sense, and Alabama’s roster being by far the most talented roster in college football means that pretty much anyone who caught those passes made good plays with them. Lane Kiffin was also obsessed with throwing them, and long has been.

But Hurts was not a great downfield passer, and as the season wore on, teams started to hone in on that fact, and started to take more chances against the Tide, while focusing more on the shorter passes.

For good reason. Alabama threw more passes behind the line of scrimmage than any team.

By a ton. Have a look, via David Hale of ESPN.

43 percent is a full standard deviation ahead of any other team. And most other teams on the leaderboard are not loaded with good receivers like the Tide.

In fact, Alabama threw more passes behind the line of scrimmage than any team in the last six seasons. That’s astounding.

Like, really, really astounding. The highest percentage only.

Teams who played Alabama better seemed to take away these easy throws, not only in 2016, but also in 2015, which was also coached by Kiffin.

Clemson did this particularly well, and Hurts did not have a good day throwing down the field.

David Hale thinks this is worth noting for FSU, but it is also worth noting that Lane Kiffin is no longer the OC. We don’t yet know what new OC Brian Daboll will run.

Some teams got burned, but LSU and Clemson, two of the more talented defenses Hurts faced did a strong job of limiting him through the air.

It’s also not known whether Hurts will improve as a passer, or by how much.

But still, it makes sense to make Hurts prove it, and then adjust.

One of the ways Florida State could do this is to put its best defensive weapon, Derwin James, closer to the line of scrimmage in the star (nickel back) position. FSU has shown this look before, and it also makes sense to have James that close to deal with Hurts’ running, since the QB is a fantastic runner, and isn’t actually asked to throw all that much. He did, after all, rush for what would have been the winning touchdown against Clemson had the Tigers not gone down the field and scored with no time remaining.