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Boost The Climb: 2 ways to improve FSU’s offense

Optimizing offensive personnel use is part of growing into a top team

NCAA Football: Florida State at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

After three seasons, Florida State football has a signature win under Mike Norvell.

The Seminoles managed to eke out a big team win over Brian Kelly’s first LSU squad, avoiding overtime with a huge blocked kick.

FSU grabbed a nice win in the Big Easy, and now they can take the bye week to reflect on their opportunities to improve. Using offensive personnel to their best is part of the road to growing into a top team, and this game showed a few key items the ‘Noles can switch up to help their rise.

Putting Johnny Wilson Inside

Johnny Wilson had an excellent debut for FSU. Three catches for 60 yards, with a couple key misses in the red zone.

How does FSU fix this? Put Johnny Wilson inside.

Wilson showed plenty of talent, and clearly has the size to make himself a matchup nightmare on the field. But he seemed to find himself constrained in the limited horizontal space as the number one receiver outside. Wilson ran an arrow route from the outside, but didn’t seem to find space he needed to separate from the defenders.

To use his size effectively, Wilson needs to be able to run routes that fits his skill set. While he’s certainly an excellent athlete, the ninety degree cut of an arrow route forced him to slow down too much and let LSU defensive backs close space as he made his cut.

This is easily fixable. Put Wilson in the slot spots. Whether it’s as a number two or three, the less sharp cuts of a corner route in smash concept or a space-finding dig, corner, or post route will suit him well while making for cuts that don’t force his larger body to compress and slow down.

Playing Multiple Running Backs Together

Florida State has a tremendous running back stable. The three headed monster of Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson, and Lawrence Toafili is one of the better running back trios in the conference and likely college football. Only one issue - there is usually only one on the field.

FSU fans may recall the 2012 Seminoles with Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor. This duo stuck together in the backfield with QB EJ Manuel in the much vaunted “Pony” two back shotgun formation, each back flanking Manuel. This, I believe, was one of Jimbo Fisher’s best offensive coaching jobs. Manuel was a very good but somewhat limited college QB, being substantially more effective in shotgun - and Jimbo had just spent the last half decade at FSU running primarily out of under center formations.

Jimbo built a full running game portfolio out of the two back Pony formation. And while Pryor was a unique talent in his ability to play both as a fullback and very capable runner, Norvell can find ways to get two of his backs onto the field.

Lawrence Toafili has the size to put effective blocks in, particularly if he’s allowed to focus on sealing edges. Benson and Ward are smaller players, likely less suited to this role, but capable pass catchers who can be used in decoy roles with a basic route tree of flares, arrows, outs and more.

While FSU now has a capable group of receivers, they can take advantage of their receivers’ size and relative deficiency at the tight end position to get more backs on the field. Build in cross blocks, seal blocks and other TE/H back friendly responsibilities as the roles of the second back. They can even run 21 personnel and pull in a defense’s third linebacker to potentially exploit mismatches. Teams are built to defend the spread these days - go heavier and force them out of their comfort zones.