Scouting FSU Defense and Special Teams

Florida State will have as much athleticism on the defensive side of the ball as anyone the Gators have played this season. They have struggled at times with teams that had used misdirection and/or option plays. You may have noticed that Florida does a little bit of that on occasion.

Georgia Tech ran its option to perfection against the Seminoles, gaining 288 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Boston College played more of a straight power game on the ground and gained 176. No other FSU opponent has rushed for more than 160 yards.

The pass defense has been solid, helped by an excellent pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just more than 50 percent for 163 yards a game. FSU has allowed 11 touchdown passes and intercepted nine opposing tosses.

The defense had been having problems, giving up 85 points while losing two of three to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Boston College. However they regrouped for their best performance in a long time, holding Maryland to 252 yards and three points.

The D-Line is pretty good, but it does not wow me… with the notable exception of Everett Brown. Brown is a tremendous player with 12.5 quarterback sacks and another eight tackles for loss. Neefy Moffett has 4.5 sacks to provide some support on the pass rush. Markus White can be very disruptive with his speed. Their biggest problem is that only one of their linemen is as big as 280 pounds and that's a major match up advantage for UF.

Middle linebacker Derek Nicholson is their top tackler with 70 and loves to attack the seams in the running game. He really struggled, however with Georgia Tech's option game and Florida's misdirection does many of the same things. Look for him to make some big plays but also run himself out of quite a few. Toddrick Verdell is solid on the weak side while his backup Nigel Bradham has the look of a future star.

The secondary is led by Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle who is a good safety, but not a great one. He's tied for second on the team in tackles, but he and free safeties Jamie Robinson and Darius McClure have been victimized over the top. The corners Tony Carter and Patrick Robinson are both good players but not difference makers. Carter has two interceptions and no one else has more than one. Clemson threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns against this secondary and Colorado threw three touchdown passes.

Overall FSU has plenty of team speed and the Seminoles have to be the most confident they've been all season after the performance against Maryland. Whether that confidence grows Saturday will depend largely on Florida's first few possessions.

Seminoles Special Teams ----- For years Bobby Bowden has had tremendous special teams and this year's Florida State team is strong in most areas. Place kicker Graham Gano is one of the best in the country. He's made 21-of-23 FG with both misses from over 50 yards where he is 5-for-7. Gano and Shawn Powell have handled the punting chores and both are okay, neither is great.

They return kicks very well with Michael Ray Garvin (32.2/1 TD) on kickoffs and Tony Carter (14.1/1 TD) on punts. Their coverage has also been good, not allowing any KOR over 60 yards or PR over 20.

Special teams could be a big factor in this one since the Gators have been so good. However keep in mind Florida is coming off a pretty mediocre day on kick coverage, though that's not really cause for alarm. Florida does need to break even in the return yardage competition to take away an advantage FSU has enjoyed in almost ever game this season.

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