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FSU football opponent Q&A: Jacksonville State Gamecocks

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Will FSU stumble against a very winnable opponent?

Jacksonville State v Florida State

We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. Unfortunately, there is no team site for this week’s opponent, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, who hail from the Ohio Valley Conference. So instead we will be talking with CoachAB, who has spent time looking at JSU’s film and familiarized himself with them. We discuss what’s ailing FSU, the Gamecocks’ dynamic quarterback, and where FSU goes from here.

TN: Let’s start with JSU’s quarterback Zerrick Cooper, who was highly rated and recruited out of high school. He committed and enrolled at Clemson for a season before leaving for JSU, where he’s started for the last two seasons and earned all-conference awards. He’s obviously a talented kid. What is his skill-set, and in what ways can he use that skill-set to hurt FSU’s struggling defense?

CoachAB: Cooper is a big armed QB who can flat out spin it. He possesses a quick release which helps with their run-pass option (RPO) game. Cooper can also use his feet to beat teams but is more of a physical runner than speedster.

I would anticipate see him throw it, potentially, 35 to 40 times against FSU. They are going to attack the areas of weakness in FSUs defense, the boundary side. Cooper should have no trouble executing short, rhythm throws against the underneath coverage that FSU has struggled to stop.

TN: If you’re a reader of Tomahawk Nation you’re probably familiar by now with FSU’s defensive struggles on the boundary. Is there anything you’re looking for FSU to do differently in this game, perhaps personnel or scheme wise, to fix that or do you think FSU still has such a talent advantage that it won’t need to do anything differently to shut down the Jacksonville State offense?

CoachAB: I think the talent advantage for FSU wins out in the end but I anticipate JSU finding success against the FSU defense. I don’t believe this is as much about scheme as it is an inability to trigger and finish. The FSU defense needs to build a little confidence and finish plays. Finishing is what I’m looking for out of this defense. When a tackle is there to be made, do you make it? A pass is there to be broken up, can they get a hand in?

TN: Are the problems currently plaguing the Seminoles’ defense fixable? If talent is the real problem, how much more could this staff coach them up?

CoachAB: I believe there is still worlds for them to coach up. The coaching might just have to go to younger guys who have not developed so many bad habits. They’ve got to get the linebackers better with zone drops. Press technique for the corners has to improve. Eye discipline overall is a major concern early on as well. These are big and little details that have to get fixed for them to grow as a defense.

TN: On the other side of the ball, Florida State’s offense has struggled against Georgia Tech and Miami, scoring just 13 and 10 points respectively. They aren’t getting good quarterback play and other positions on offense aren’t helping much. In fact, outside of scripted drives they look like one of the worst offenses in the country. What do you see in the Jacksonville State defense, and do you think this ’Noles offense will finally be able to move the ball and score points? Will FSU need a change at quarterback to accomplish those goals?

CoachAB: Jacksonville St has talent all over their defense but especially in their front-7. DJ is a player they have to block at DE or he will be in the QB all day. Jax St wants to pressure with their one-gapping defensive line and play a lot of man coverage behind it. They will blitz from their 4-2-5 structure but not a lot.

I do expect FSU to be able to find success moving the ball and scoring points. A change at QB may not be needed for this game but it is needed to move the program forward. Starting one of the freshman is the right move now and a chance to get them some experience.

TN: Let’s go with a hypothetical. Let’s say FSU plays either or both of the freshmen quarterbacks Tate Rodemaker and Chubba Purdy in this game. If one of them plays well, do you start them against Notre Dame next week, a game FSU is sure to lose? Now, what if they both struggle against Jacksonville State and Florida State puts James Blackman back in late in the game, who secures the victory. Who do you start against the Irish?

CoachAB: This answer is short and sweet for me. If you start a freshman this week you are committing to starting them moving forward as long as they uphold “the standards” necessary in practices and away from game. I don’t think you can start a freshman and then go back to James at this stage. You have to develop them through the games and just live with their mistakes.

TN: Give me one player on offense and one player on defense who would be your unit MVPs at this point in the season.

CoachAB:

Offensive MVP: Maurice Smith? He has come in and solidified the center position. We saw the offense fall apart when he went down against Georgia Tech.

Defensive MVP: Amari Gainer. Gainer has been the best player on this defense from a consistent effort and production standpoint. You could make a strong case for Asante Samuel Jr also.

TN: FSU appears to be favored, at least per SP+, by about 29 points. In a weird season like this, it also happens to be Jacksonville State’s season opener. What do you think happens? Will FSU put together a complete game against an inferior opponent, will they struggle a bit but still win easily, or will it be a replay of 2009 when FSU was in serious danger of losing? Give us a score prediction.

CoachAB: I believe Jax St will struggle early in this game with tackling. They will have a lot of the first game execution issues we see plague teams and I wonder how physically ready they are for a game coming off a Covid offseason. I do think at some point they will find their footing and move the ball, Cooper is too talented not to.

In the end though I expect FSU to win this game in East fashion. The true freshman QB lead the way as FSU offense leaps forward and finds some confidence. Defensively, they play fast and furious picking on a weaker opponent.

FSU 42-17


A big thank you again to Coach for taking the time. Also check out the latest episode of the Seminole Wrap podcast here.