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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Florida State

October 4, 2020
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Things were looking bleak for Florida State at the start of their game against Jacksonville State. A week after getting blown out by Miami, they threw a pick six on the first series and were down 21-7 against an FCS opponent to start the game. It seemed like a perfect time for the players to quit.

That didn’t happen.

A change at quarterback ignited the team and they dominated the rest of the game. It was a much-needed boost of confidence for a team that was staring at an 0-3 start.

Mike Norvell was back on the sideline and got his first win for the Seminoles. It’s going to be a lot more difficult to get his second win against Notre Dame this weekend, but at least his team has something to build on going forward.

FSU is 46th in SP+ and has plenty of future pros on the roster. They are also extremely undisciplined (65th out of 73 teams in penalties per game) and have to play much cleaner if they want to pull off the upset.

Injuries and Opt Outs

FSU has only had a couple of depth players on the defensive line opt out. Neither of the two were expected to make a significant impact.

S Hamsah Nasrildeen was expected to be one of the top safeties in the ACC this season. He hasn’t played yet after recovering from an injury suffered at the end of last season.

UCLA transfer TE Jordan Wilson is out for the season.

FSU had a couple of offensive linemen out against Jacksonville State. It’s unclear whether or not they will be back against Notre Dame, but they need all the help they can get.

Offense

This offense was brutal in their first two games against ACC opponents. They were 70th out of 72 teams in yards per play (4.16). Norvell got them going and playing like he wants them to in the second half yesterday, but the defense they faced wasn’t exactly the caliber of the ones they’ll see in the ACC for the rest of the season.

Expected Strengths

It starts with the most dangerous player on their team. Wide receiver Tamorrion Terry is explosive. He’s a deep threat who has consistently made plays down the field during his career at FSU. He was banged up against Miami after being hurt in the Georgia Tech game. He looks like he’ll be 100% against Notre Dame and had a 48-yard reception against JSU.

Notre Dame will likely have someone over the top helping in coverage against him for most of the game.

Quarterback Jordan Travis was pretty much a Swiss Army knife against Miami. He was utilized in multiple ways and was the only player on the field that posed any threat to Miami’s defense. He ended that game with an injury and his status was uncertain against JSU.

He ended up taking over the quarterback job after true freshman Tate Rodemaker struggled. They averaged 7.6 YPP after he came into the game and he impressed as a runner and passer. He averaged 12.4 yards per attempt and did a nice job with the deep ball. He was 4 of 6 for 140 yards on passes 20 yards or longer.

Travis will definitely be the guy for FSU in this game.

In the first two games for FSU, the opening script kept GT’s and Miami’s defense on their heels. Notre Dame should expect them to be very diverse early while using the entire field.

Tight end Camren McDonald is a good player who can make plays down the seam.

They have three quick backs. No one is a game-breaker, but they all have some burst. Jashaun Corbin is a good receiver and Lawrance Toafili can do some damage in the open field.

Potential Weaknesses

They averaged 3.66 yards per carry in their first two games. While the running game exploded in the second half against JSU (6.8 YPC), they were doing it against a depleted FCS defense.

The offensive line is not good. They gave up 9.5 TFLs per game in the first two, which includes nine sacks.Left tackle Darius Washington has been bad and gives up a lot of pressures. Miami feasted against them and I would expect Notre Dame to have a similar advantage.

Before JSU, they had zero plays of 30 yards or more and were only converting touchdowns at a 33.3% rate in the red zone. They averaged only 4.6 YPA. They are going to be better with Travis instead of Rodemaker or James Blackman, but I don’t think they are magically going to turn into a big play offense against competent defenses.

Scheme

Notre Dame fans should be familiar with this scheme because a lot of what Chip Long did was influenced by his former boss, Norvell. Expect to see quite a bit of screen game, jet sweep motion, and misdirection built into the offense in order to try and create favorable matchups.

They will run plenty of influence blocks up front to try and confuse the reads of the linebackers and safeties. It won’t be easy to handle, especially for a group that hasn’t played in three weeks.

Travis changes them on offense. The quarterback run game and zone read are going to be a big part of what Notre Dame will have to prepare for. RPOs are going to be big as well. You can see the potential of the offense if they can get things organized up front.

They want to play at a fast tempo and run 80+ plays in a game. They have averaged 81 through three games this season.

They are only at 43.83% run play percentage on the season, but that should change quite a bit with Travis at quarterback. I’d expect it to be closer to a 55-45 run split for them against Notre Dame.

Key Players

WR Tamorrion Terry - Averaged over 20 yards per reception in his first two seasons. Travis opens things back up for him as a deep threat.

RB Jashaun Corbin - 11 catches to start the year. Linebackers have to be on alert for him to leak out of the backfield.

QB Jordan Travis - Averaging 6 yards per carry as a runner and was very efficient as a passer last week.

RB Lawrence Toafili - Looks like he is ready to explode as the star of the offense. Averaging 8.1 yards per carry.

Key Matchup for Notre Dame

The Trenches - If Notre Dame’s defensive line dominates this game with pressure on Travis and disrupts the running game with penetration, then FSU is going to look like the offense they were in the first two weeks. The Irish should have a significant advantage up front.

Defense

FSU is ranked 44th in SP+ on defense, which seems almost generous considering how they have played this season. They gave up 6.01 YPP in the first two games and 4.69 YPC.

The talent on this team should equal them being much better than they are, but they make too many mistakes each week. That didn’t change against JSU where numerous breakdowns allowed JSU to throw for 7.9 YPA.

Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller was able to fix Memphis’ defense in only one season, but this group is still a work in progress.

Expected Strengths

They haven't given up the big play in the running game (only two carries of 20 yards or more against them). A big part of that is that they have a good group inside against the run. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson is a beast when his motor is going and Robert Cooper is a massive man to move on early downs. Corey Durden is another quality player.

Asante Samuel Jr. is one of the top corners in the ACC. He’s undersized, but his compete-level is off the charts and he can thrive in man or zone. He’s the best player on their defense and likely won’t see many targets his way.

Potential Weaknesses

They gave up a 59.38% conversion rate on 3rd down in the first two games of the season and had only one sack. The pass rush has been anemic so far in the season and that wasn’t expected to be the case.

DE Janarius Robinson has been disappointing. DE Josh Kaindoh has been hurt, but hasn’t exactly dominated when he has been on the field (he returned last week). Unless they get much better pressure without blitzing, 3rd down is going to be a problem for them.

The quarterback run game has hurt them. Miami’s D’Eriq King ran 8 times for 65 yards and Georgia Tech’s Jeff Sims ran 12 times for 69 yards. This may be a game where we see Ian Book used more in that capacity.

Cornerback Akeem Dent was an elite recruit, but he’s been beat quite a bit early this season in press. He’s someone Notre Dame should test deep.

Overall they’ve had far too many coverage busts with guys running wide open. The numbers would look worse for them if teams didn’t miss some wide open shots.

Teams are completing 69.9% of passes against them. It’s a combination of that lack of pass rush and too many breakdowns with the back seven. They have allowed offenses to be far too efficient against them without generating enough negative plays (15.1% Havoc Rate).

Scheme

They played a lot of three down against Miami to combat how spread out they were, but their base is four down linemen. That’s what they showed against Georgia Tech and JSU. It’s a 4-3 very similar to ND’s defense that Fuller has run for awhile.

Fuller likes to attack on early downs with run blitzes and stunts with their version of a Vyper looping inside. Look for safeties and their Rover to add in a lot with blitzes. This could be a game where we see more RPOs, early down screens, and play-action from Tommy Rees.

Fuller’s defense at Memphis finished tied for 21st in tackles for loss. When he was at Marshall in 2018 his defense finished 18th in Havoc Rate. He wants to attack on early downs and force long yardage situations, but they haven’t forced enough of them at FSU so far.

Key Players

CB Asante Samuel Jr. - He has three picks on the season and puts himself in a position to make plays.

DT Marvin Wilson - Can blow up plays with penetration and when he’s on, can be extremely disruptive. Missed half of the Miami game and the first half of JSU after a targeting call.

S Renardo Green - An excellent run defender who plays well near the line of scrimmage.

LB Amari Gainer - Plays Rover and is very good when blitzing. He leads their team in tackles and tackles for loss. He’s not as good in coverage.

Key Matchup for Notre Dame

WR Braden Lenzy vs Dent - Dent plays field corner, which means he should be lined up across from Lenzy on several plays. There should be opportunities for Lenzy to make a big play or two on deep routes versus Dent.

Special Teams

Florida State has had some early kicking issues. They are only 3 of 5 on field goal attempts this season with two separate kickers both missing a kick each. Ryan Fitzgerald has missed an extra point as well.

Freshman punter Alex Mastrommano has not been a problem so far (43.6 yards per punt).

I haven’t seen anything dynamic from them in the return game or any major breakdowns in kick coverage, but the big thing to make note of are the three field goals they have blocked. Janarius Robinson has one and Marvin Wilson has two. The kicks were low, but those two got good penetration when they blocked them.

 
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