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Film Review: Dissecting FSU’s off-tackle run-defense issues

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Plenty of examples from which to choose.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back with another film review installment, this time turning our attention to the Seminole defense and an area of real concern.

Following the Clemson game, our own Courteney Korosec asked head coach Willie Taggart about FSU’s off-tackle run defense following an embarrassing effort against Clemson. Taggart’s response to Korosec was that things have been better and improved as the Clemson game went on.

This week’s film review is going to focus on that off-tackle run action and why it has not gotten better. There were instances when things looked improved, but when teams target Gainer and Warner, they have massive success. The fact that Taggart has made statements about the improved run game is concerning, as it is not factual. Let’s take a look.

FSU does a poor job of setting the edge. Gainer has to squeeze that block by 25 and limit the gaping hole that opens up. By getting up the field, he only makes the alley bigger for the back. Some of this is physical limitation, and some of it is on-the-fly recognition. Gainer is on a blitz, so he is likely aiming a yard outside of the near back, but when he gets a set technique by the HB, he has to squeeze. Clemson does a great job with their zone double team on Durden and picks off Warner. Here’s another example.

This play shows much better execution by Gainer. He submarines the guard, which creates a pile and makes the hole slightly smaller. But Warner cannot get rag-dolled inside by the TE here. Credit Fagan for taking on the puller and making the tackle on Etienne; Clemson’s gap blocking is perfect. But you would like to see better fight by Durden to get across the face of the left tackle. Here’s a different look.

Setting an edge has been a theme these past few weeks. Look at the natural alley created by the wing/motion. Now you are putting Gainer in a position to arm tackle. There are two guys on the jet and nobody in C gap. We’ve seen three weeks in a row that teams have utilized jet action to set up the run game against FSU. Gainer widens, as does Fagan, with the jet motion. Clemson runs inside zone to the right and they just wash everything, allowing a nice cut back lane. Gainer does a good job getting back in to make a play, but you can’t be stuck that wide. Consistent efficiency for opposing offenses, even though Taggart has said they’ve been doing a good job of taking the off-tackle run game away. Again:

More off-tackle run game? You don’t say. Look how outgapped FSU is on this play when Clemson pulls two defenders. We saw this earlier in the game with the TE attached to the trips look. I believe FSU is misaligned. This horse isn’t quite dead yet:

This is just not good enough from Gainer, who is your edge defender. You already have a pulling guard coming at you, and you just give your chest up. Earlier, we showed him submarining a puller, and I’m not sure why he didn’t do the same here. It appears the jet motion freezes him. Dent shows some discipline issues on the back end, as he’s chasing the back instead of fitting in the run game. We see Warner again get tossed inside by the TE, which allows Lawrence to get through. Alright, how about some positivity?

Adonis Thomas makes a play on the edge. See the difference when teams run away from 33? That is how you physically take on pullers by 22 and 5. Major kudos to Dontavious Jackson, who was a popular name to complain about through the first two weeks. He fits his gap tightly, takes on a puller, and makes the play.