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Defensive observations from FSU’s loss to Georgia Tech

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A few shine in an otherwise underwhelming loss.

Florida State v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

I won’t lie to you. It wasn’t good.

Overall, I wasn’t a fan of defensive coordinator Adam Fuller’s defensive gameplan. With a ton of talent at his disposal, especially in the secondary and along the defensive line, for most of the first half Fuller was content with playing soft coverage, as though he was testing Georgia Tech and what they might do on offense.

The problem is that we figured out pretty quickly what Georgia Tech wanted to do on offense, and it was a brilliant but predictable double-whammy. It was to give true freshman quarterback and former FSU commit Jeff Sims incredibly easy reads and throws — a one-step quick game that would both neutralize FSU’s pass rush while simultaneously creating easy underneath reads and throws for the young and undeveloped QB against FSU’s suspect coverage from their linebackers. And yet for some reason FSU was content to let that slide. Aside from Asante Samuel Jr.’s two interceptions, both of which should have gone for touchdowns, not to mention Emmitt Rice’s easy dropped pick-six, Georgia Tech largely got everything it wanted. Despite the pressure and hits, FSU’s pass rush never truly threatened Sims’ composure while Sims largely kept the Yellow Jackets in manageable down and distance with his legs.

It feels like FSU could have taken that short game away but chose not to, opting to play soft zone coverage underneath throughout the game. That left Sims plenty of opportunities to dink and dunk his way down the field via easy reads and throws, contributing to the Yellow Jackets converting 50 percent of their 3rd down conversions. It’s fair to question why FSU’s coaching staff felt that they couldn’t trust their deep and talented secondary against what can’t possibly be an ACC top-8 receiving corp and a true freshman quarterback in an offense just one year removed from a flexbone scheme via man-to-man coverage. That is pretty depressing.

But the truth is that FSU still can’t trust the coverage by its linebackers. It simply is not good. They allowed many easy underneath throws and did not do enough to contest either the pass or the catch.

It wasn’t all bad. All-ACC and preseason All-American defensive tackle Marvin Wilson was great. So was cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr. But the rest of the defense underwhelmed against an offensive unit that finished 120th in offense last season per SP+.

It didn’t help that defensive end Joshua Kaindoh was taken out early on a questionable play by an illegal low block by Georgia Tech’s tight end, or that Tech would be flagged multiple times for that same illegal block. Old habits die hard, I suppose.

But that particular knife cuts both ways, as FSU fell into their old habits from recent seasons. The pass rush just wasn’t there, which was perhaps the most disappointing part.

It’s hard to describe how upsetting and poorly the defense played against what was a poor offense last season. It’s hard to tell you sitting here where they can go from here to improve. But it’s clear something has to change.