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Film review: How can Florida State’s offense improve?

Taking a deeper look at the offense and skill positions.

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Don Juan Moore

Alright, so after multiple Seminole Wrap podcasts and our Four Verticals scheme and film review, we have a pretty good idea of what went wrong for Florida State Seminoles football vs. Georgia Tech.

We went over the poor angles and bad tackling of the defense (of which I counted 7 egregious whiffs, including 5 in the first half), the lackluster pass rush, etc., but for the purposes of this piece we’re going to focus on the offense.

We have the offensive line, which did surprisingly well for the first quarter-and-a-half until four of the five starters started dropping like flies one by one.

They all returned to the game, but the constant shuffling was enough to disrupt the offense for an extended period of time. FSU only has seven or eight OL it can count on and didn’t have some of that key depth on hand for the game due to injuries.

We also have James Blackman, who didn’t play well, especially in the second half. He took too many shot plays — either he took them when he arguably shouldn’t have, bypassing shorter and easier throws he didn’t see, or he took them when he should have but execution still resulted in a failed play.

In 4Verts we noted the offense didn’t look like a whole lot like the Mike Norvell Memphis offenses we watched all summer. Part of that could be due to not having enough time in spring and summer to fully install the offense. An additional reason was highlighted in an article from The Athletic published last December, where offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham had this to say:

“Our philosophy is create one-on-ones,” Dillingham said last week. “That’s going to tailor around who our quarterback is. If our quarterback’s a guy who can make a safety miss, we’re going to create a one-on-one in the running game with our quarterback vs. that safety. If our quarterback’s a guy who can locate the ball on the back shoulder vs. a one-on-one corner, then we’re going to seven-man pro and isolate somebody and find the best one-on-one for him.

“We’re completely going to adapt our position and our offensive style around that position because that’s the most important position on our offense.”

Many fans are clamoring for someone else to take over as signal-caller. It’s worth keeping in mind that if the staff were to replace Blackman going forward with Tate Rodemaker or a healthy Chubba Purdy, both true freshmen, the offense would likely look completely different due to having completely different skill sets from Blackman. The same goes for sophomore Jordan Travis, who threw a simple pass into the dirt against the Yellow Jackets.

A switch like that is not an insignificant thing, as it could make life more difficult for the skill positions.

We aren’t saying that Blackman is the definite answer at quarterback. After nearly 30 starts, Blackman is who he is as a player, even if he’s tightened up his throwing mechanics. However, there’s a good chance he might remain FSU’s starter this season for some of the reasons we’ve mentioned. So we felt it would be beneficial to take a deeper dive to point out all the things the skill positions could be doing better to help out Blackman and the offense. After rewatching the Tech game three and four times (what can we say, we’re addicted to pain) we came away with the impression that if you changed nothing about Blackman’s game FSU could have — and arguably should have — put up far more than just 13 points. They could have gotten closer to 30, or at least enough to win the game.

Running backs

Our first play came early in the first quarter. Jashaun Corbin takes the toss and instead of sprinting into the lane made by the blocks of La’Damien Webb and Warren Thompson or even bouncing it around Webb’s block on the edge, Corbin cuts it back and essentially initiates contact with a defender.

This is a bad read by Corbin, and hurts because Thompson does a great job sealing his guy off to the inside while Webb gets underneath his man and pushes him out to create the lane. Behind them is nothing by green grass.

This play is the ’Noles’ first play out of halftime. Blackman hands off to Webb with Corbin acting as a lead blocker. This is split-back outside zone and it’s blocked up really well. Webb is supposed to follow Corbin outside. Instead, Webb looks hesitant as he’s trying to pick a lane to cutback when he should be sprinting to the hashmarks.

The receivers also block it up well and there’s room on the outside, but Webb causes it to take too long to develop.

The next play is another split-back zone run just a few seconds later. Blackman again hands off to Webb with Corbin acting as a lead blocker. Webb makes the same mistake by cutting it upfield again.

You can see Thompson does a great job of again turning his man and sealing him off from the edge while several Georgia Tech defenders are caught flat-footed. FSU undoubtedly has an edge in speed against Tech’s defense, but the skill players didn’t take advantage of it like they should have.

At times it looks like the running backs just aren’t sure of what they’re seeing or what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s possible with the cancellation of most of the spring practices they just haven’t had enough reps.

CoachAB believes the running backs left something like 60-70 yards on the ground in this game just off of bad reads. These three clips account for just a portion of that, and it doesn’t even address the consistently poor pass protection that was covered in Four Verticals.

Corbin is a new transfer and Webb and Lawrance Toafili and Ja’Khi Douglas are young and there’s no reason to think they won’t get it right.

But right now there’s plenty of room to get better.

Wide Receivers

We also discussed the extremely poor play by Florida State’s wide receivers in this game.

The next three plays all come from the first half and could have either flipped the field position, scored, or put the ’Noles in position to score. This requires no change in the quality of Blackman’s performance.

The first play is a third-and-8 in the first quarter. Blackman’s throw isn’t great as it’s behind Thompson, but Thompson gets more than two hands on this ball — he has to catch it.

The drop turned what would have been a first and goal into a field goal. FSU lost by just three points.

This next play Blackman does a good job of extending the play after the pocket collapses and throwing off-platform accurately to Thompson, who again drops a first down.

A reception would have at minimum flipped field position.

You know you’re going to get up-and-down inconsistent play from Blackman.

You simply can’t afford to waste plays where he does everything right.

Our final play came right before halftime, with more of the same. We covered in Four Verticals a different shot play where Tamorrion Terry just couldn’t locate the football.

In this play Blackman places the ball perfectly and Terry just doesn’t make the catch. If he does, he walks in for a score.

For perhaps as disappointing as the running backs looked, the receivers were worse. They left anywhere from 100-150 yards and a ton of points on the field.

Stacking mistakes

This brings us to our last point. I want to bring you back to the second reception play above where Thompson drops a 1st and 15 pass.

That pass followed Asante Samuel’s second interception of Tech QB Jeff Sims. That series sequence went: false start, Thompson’s drop, swing pass for four yards, false start, and then on 3rd and 16 Blackman threw his interception.

Florida State faced nine total 3rd downs of seven yards or more. Blackman didn’t play his best game. He’s not in the upper echelon of college quarterbacks. But no football team wins or loses on the back of one player, and FSU’s poor offensive performance against Georgia Tech wasn’t all his fault. If the other players on offense step up, Blackman won’t have to be that good.

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