Recognizing the Blitz

Jameis Winston's impressive performance in the Spring Game has had Florida State fans—and the national media buzzing all offseason. But the quarterback competition has remained undecided. In this article, we'll discuss why.

There is no doubting that redshirt freshman Jameis Winston had the best performance of the quarterbacks in the spring game. His numbers were staggering for a true freshman: 12 of 15 for 205 yards and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard bomb to walk-on receiver David Tyrell (beating star corner Lamarcus Joyner) on his first pass of the day.

But to those who were watching closely, there were still a few hiccups that both demonstrated Winston's inexperience and explain (in part) why the quarterback competition has remained open.

Recognizing the Blitz

When the defense stayed vanilla, Winston made quick decisions and had tremendous success. But there were a few instances where Winston struggled to recognize the blitz, leading to a few negative plays. This was, as might be expected, true for both Winston and Coker, but Winston had a bit more trouble with it. Below are a couple examples of the blitz getting the better of Winston in the spring game that caught my eye:

This is why the ‘Noles last scrimmage was essentially a blitzkrieg, with the defense showing nearly every look possible to the young quarterbacks both to give them more experience against the blitz and to assess how well they're progressing in this area.

Again, this is not unusual for young quarterbacks, but Coker has been just a little ahead of Winston in this area so far even in the fall, which is one reason I'm told there is very little separation between the two quarterbacks at this point.

There is no doubt that it is in Fisher's best interest to wait to announce a starter both in terms of motivation and to minimize the chances of Coker transferring before the season should he not win the job, but this matter of properly recognizing and attacking the blitz remains another reason the competition remains open.

Winston is still the likely starter against Pitt, but I would not be surprised to see Coker get some time in that first game, much like when Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson were competing for the job in 2008.

One thing I do expect is for Jimbo Fisher to use a good bit of read-option and the threat of quarterback runs (again, much like 2008) to keep defenses from blitzing quite as much early in the year as the young quarterback gains experience. A few solid runs against the blitz just might reduce the number of looks and coverage the offense sees, which could ultimately minimize the potential difficulties caused by youth in this area.

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