Renegade All-Stars Break It Down

The Seminoles are off to a 3-0 record which includes two wins over ACC opponents in Miami and Boston College. The Renegade All-Stars, Brandon Mellor, Brett Malone and Chris Milton, examine where the Noles are now and where they will be at the end of the season.

What are your thoughts on the first three games of the season so far?

Brandon Mellor-I have to admit that I never thought Drew Weatherford would play so well on the road. After watching him pick apart the Eagles' blitz packages and speaking to several of the players about him, I now have complete faith in his abilities. It's crazy to think that he is only going to get better and better as the season progresses. I am also extremely pleased with the offensive play-calling thus far. Many may disagree with that but if you look at each game, key offensive aspects stick out. Against Miami, Jeff Bowden called a very conservative game allowing the pressure to be placed on Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. Against Citadel, Bowden let the young quarterbacks take to the air to gain much needed confidence and against Boston College – a team that completely stuffed our running game – the offense quickly switched to an aerial emphasis that was all about getting the ball into the hands of the players that can do the most damage at that specific part of the field (Greg Carr in the redzone, Chris Davis and De'Cody Fagg near midfield and then the tailbacks out of the backfield). And then what can you say about Mickey Andrews' defense. The collective heart of that unit is unmatched.

Brett Malone-With the exception of Greg Carr's and Tony Carter's emergence, I think things are playing out the way that most people would've expected. We saw a young quarterback struggle against a stout Miami defense, rip at Division I-AA team, and start to find his rhythm when it counted on the road. Defense carried the team when it needed to and will continue to be the backbone of this team. Some of the question marks that shadowed the start of this season are starting to be answered. The young D-Line is better than advertised thanks to Brodrick Bunkley and Kamerion Wimbley. Carter has made a believer out of me despite what I thought would be a disadvantage because of his small build. I'm not entirely disappointed with the lack of a running game. The Seminoles have played against two of the toughest front-sevens in college football. And both times, those defenses came in with the goal of stopping the run. Leon Washington does look like he's lost a step, but he still plays with a lot of determination and whatever drop off there is has been compensated by Lorenzo Booker, who is running stronger and with more precision than past seasons. Wait before you pass judgment on the offensive line. They're trying to learn a new scheme against some tough competition. There'd be a lot more dead people in the world if medical students were expected to perform open heart surgery on their first day of class. That's kind of like what's going on here…I think. If that didn't make sense, then I'll leave it at this – give them time to learn. Above all else, the most important thing here is that this team made it through what is probably the most difficult three-game stretch on the schedule undefeated. You can't downplay the fact that they're 3-0. Coming into this year, I don't think I'm alone when I say that I thought it was very possible that they could be 1-2.

Chris Milton-Mickey Andrews and Odell Haggins both deserve a raise. Facing uncertainties in the secondary and up front, the FSU defense has been as dominating as ever. They've given Drew Weatherford just enough margin for error to continue his learning process. The offense always gets more press but this year's defense will be something to write about by the time the season is over. The way that Andre Fluellen, Tony Carter and Neefy Moffett have stepped in with little or no previous experience has been impressive to me.

Where do you see FSU's season playing out?

Brandon Mellor-I can honestly see this team continuing to pick up steam as the season goes. While playing Virginia at home may seem a bit daunting, the Cavaliers aren't that good of a team. The only games that I worry about are Clemson (because it's in Death Valley) and Florida because the Gators are playing some inspired ball and they too should continue to improve.

Brett Malone-Sometimes at home. Occasionally on the road. (Cue obligatory drum fill)…The biggest test this team will have to overcome through the next few weeks will be at Virginia and at Clemson. Letdowns have killed the past two seasons, and just like the six-game drought against Miami, it's tough to think the same thing won't happen until Florida State finds a way to maintain focus when facing these dangerous middle-weight opponents.

Chris Milton-I'm hesitant to say because there are several question marks that are still playing themselves out. I will say this - if opponents finally respect the passing game, back off and let FSU run the ball, we could be looking at one pretty tough offense to stop. It feels strange to say that...

Can this team win the ACC?

Brandon Mellor-This team will make it to Jacksonville and will - in all likelihood - be taking on Virginia Tech. FSU has been able to bottle up mobile quarterbacks in recent years and that shouldn't change in a championship tilt with the Hokies and Marcus Vick. They sure have an excellent shot to win it as long as they stay focused and don't overlook any of their lesser opponents.

Brett Malone-Could we make this question – Can this team win the Atlantic Division? There's no doubt in my mind now that Florida State will be in Jacksonville for the ACC Championship. If Virginia Tech meets the Seminoles there, then it gets iffy. The Hokies have the top scoring offense and scoring defense in the ACC. In fact, they are ranked in the top three in the conference in 10 major statistical categories. Add in the ACC's most efficient passer, the man with the speed pedigree, Marcus Vick and there's a volatile mix of talent.

Chris Milton-Can they beat Virginia Tech? Or Miami....again? The BC win almost locks up a bid to the Championship game in my book. Sure one-loss Clemson (also an Atlantic division foe) is lurking out there but the Tigers always seem to find a way to lose a ball game or two that they really shouldn't lose. BC-Clemson at Death Valley this weekend ought to be a good one.

FSU has winnable games against Maryland, Wake and N.C. State at home and Duke on the road. Traps are waiting at Virginia and Clemson but the performance I saw against a tough BC team proved this team can handle tough conference games on the road.

How do you guys see the quarterback job playing out?

Brandon Mellor-Well, as mentioned before, Weatherford is playing very well and he is most definitely in the driver's seat. I just don't see Xavier Lee earning any significant minutes unless Weatherford begins to struggle on a regular basis. It seems now that if Drew does struggle, Bobby Bowden is going to let him work through it before yanking him for Lee.

Brett Malone-It's Weatherford's and it will stay Weatherford's until he gets hurt or loses a game by making a major mistake. The guy has done nothing but get better since the season opener. He showed his leadership in the final quarters against Boston College, and coaches have said that Weatherford is doing all the right things to continue to improve.

Chris Milton-The job belongs to Drew Weatherford. He has earned the starter's role with his play in the preseason and with promising stretches late against The Citadel and BC. Hopefully Xavier Lee is readying himself in the event of an injury. It was a tough run of luck for Lee, who had three scrimmages in the preseason to take the job. He floundered in one and was injured during the other two. I know that it's a tough thought for some people to think about the bottled lightning that could be riding the bench, but this is the way things have played out. I don't care how many yards the guy threw for in high school, you can't take the keys away from a guy that has done everything you've asked of him and is improving each time out.

As I said before, I was happy either way. Both are class acts and are great to work with. I'm just calling this one like I see it.

Who are your surprise players so far?

Brandon Mellor-Obviously Weatherford and I would love to say that Greg Carr is a surprise player but we have all known that he could be a serious threat in the redzone. I think it's safer to say that I am more surprised that Jeff Bowden has actually called those plays to get him the ball that we all hoped he would. Tony Carter continues to impress after a great game against Miami and Kyler Hall has as well. Hall is a guy that despite his experience seemed to be counted out before the season even started. He has played as well as anyone on that defense thus far. I've got to give a shout-out to Marcello Church as well. This guy could easily be unhappy about his role as a reserve because he has the talent to be a starter at most Division I programs. But still, he always has a smile on his face and is playing lights out in his final season donning the garnet and gold.

Brett Malone-I saw Brodrick Bunkley puke when I was waiting for practice to finish one day. That kind of surprised me. Besides that…Greg "Rental" Carr (Still working on that nickname) has been pretty darn impressive. I hope they keep finding ways to get him involved. You need "Pogostilts" (Stilts with pogo stick ends) to cover someone that tall. His first three receptions came despite pass interference penalties. He's averaging 23 yards per receptions. And he has shown that he can be effective outside of the jump ball and fade route. Only three of the remaining eight teams have at least one starting cornerback listed above six feet.

Chris Milton-I mentioned a few defensive guys that have been lights out. On offense I'm going to go with John Frady and the quartet of freshman receivers. Frady has filled in for David Castillo several times over the past two seasons and the guy can flat out play. Watch a replay of a game on Sun Sports and you'll see what I'm talking about. He doles out a lot of abuse for a center. Thanks to Carr, Owens, Goodman and Rouse, offensive coaches are gaining more and more confidence in going three and four wide behind Chris Davis and DeCody Fagg. I'm looking for the passing game to continue to soar.

Who are a few players that have disappointed so far?

Brandon Mellor-While I don't want to say that a young player has disappointed, I do want to say that I wish, rather, that Richard Goodman and Kenny O'Neal would become a larger part of the offense. We get to see the perfect play-call for Carr in the endzone but we don't get to see O'Neal take that fly route that Davis keeps getting? Is it because he hasn't performed well enough to get out on the field more or is it Jeff Bowden's fault? I would have to guess the latter on that one but who knows. Goodman was perhaps the second-most consistent player during preseason camp behind Willie Reid but has been nowhere to be found thus far. I just worry about him wasting a redshirt.

Brett Malone-I plead the fifth on this question. Until this team loses a game, or until a player causes them to lose, I'm not going to find any individual fault.

Can this team beat Florida?

Brandon Mellor-If the annual Florida State-Florida match-up was for some reason moved to mid-season this year and the 'Noles had to play Florida in early October I think it would result in a loss for the Garnet and Gold. It bodes well that the Tallahassee squad gets them late in the year because it just means more kinks worked out and more experience for Drew. Matt Meinrod told me that the offensive line is still working through the growing pains of their new coach. They have performed decent, however, and the fact that the big bodies up front and the rest of the Seminoles are going to continue to get better is a good thing. Having said all of that, I think that FSU can pull if off but the offensive attack is going to have to be balanced.

Brett Malone-Nobody on this site knows where I live, right? You probably already have a hunch where I'm heading with this. It's such an even match-up that's it hard to go against the home team. So far this season, Florida's defense has been playing well above what anyone expected. The loss of DE Ray McDonald and WR Andre Caldwell will hurt, though McDonald is expected back in four to six weeks. Chris Leak, Urban Meyer, and an over performing defense in "The Swamp." I think this one will go to the Gators.

Chris Milton-Too early to tell. As evidenced by their dogfight against Tennessee, the Gators still have issues to work out on the offensive side of the ball. Also, is their defense for real? Or are their eye-popping stats a product of playing Wyoming, La Tech and a UT team that couldn't move that against UAB...

I'll withhold judgment on this one until I see UF in a few more SEC games and we get a better feel of where the FSU offense is headed. One thing is certain - it'll take a heck of an effort to knock them of at Ben Hill.

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