COLLEGE FOOTBALL Q&A - 9/8/04

FOX Sports Radio Football Analyst Chris Landry is back this week to wrap-up this past weekend's college football action, as well as give his in-depth analysis on the upcoming battle royale between Florida State and Miami. On to the questions!

Break down the big Florida State - Miami game this Friday.
Chris Landry: Miami has owned this series for years because of their ability to both rush and protect the passer as well as special teams. Florida State has closed the gap considerably on both sides of the line. Special teams is another story. I really like Florida State's offensive line and running backs Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. This will aid quarterback Chris Rix greatly as he will not have to force the ball as much vertically. This will cause defenses to cheat up and allow for more prudent shots downfield in the passing game. Look for Florida State to try and get Booker on the perimeter behind the physical blocking of LT Alex Barron. Both he and RT Ray Willis should have some success versus Miami's undersized defensive ends.

The Seminoles also want to get their tight ends along with their backs more involved in the passing game. With Miami losing all three starting linebackers from a year ago, Florida State can help the inconsistent Rix get into a rhythm by throwing to the backs and tight ends underneath.

After primarily playing a base cover-2 defense in 2002, Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon was far more aggressive last year. With the speed and talent at corner to hold up in man coverage again this year, Shannon will try and Rix off-balance by mixing his schemes up. Rix has been a poor decision-maker who has problems reading defenses and will throw into coverage. The key will be the play of the two new starters at safety. The Seminoles run a lot of play action so FS Brandon Merriweather and SS Greg Threat must be disciplined without losing their aggressiveness against the run.

One of the best match ups will be FSU receiver Craphonso Thorpe versus Miami corner Antrel Rolle. Thorpe has outstanding speed and tracks the ball well. Rolle, who has terrific size, strength and speed for the position, defended Larry Fitzgerald well last year. With Rolle blanketing Thorpe, Chauncey Stovall and Lorne Sam will need to step up for the Seminoles.

Miami also has a great offensive line. It is very quick and athletic. Running back Frank Gore also returns after sustaining two serious knee injuries. Florida State's linebacking corps is talented and deep despite losing Michael Boulware (Seattle Seahawks) to the draft. SLB Ernie Sims and WLB A.J. Nicholson are both very capable. With the inconsistent quarterback play of Brock Berlin and the lack of a playmaking receiver, Miami is sure to face plenty of eight-man fronts. SS Jerome Carter plays with a mean streak and does a good job of filling against the run. Unless rsFR Greg Olsen steps up quickly, the receiving threat at tight end that Miami had in Kellen Winslow last year will not be there and thus Carter won't be as worried about play action. LT Eric Winston's ability to handle DE Eric Moore will be critical to Miami's success in the passing game. If the Hurricanes don't have to help out Winston, who is an outstanding pass blocker, they can then send their back or tight end out as receivers. Receiver Ryan Moore has lots of ability but FSU CB Bryant McFadden has the size and speed to limit his production. FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews will run a lot of press coverage this year. Unless Moore and Rosco Parrish prove they can beat them over the top, the Florida State corners will be extremely aggressive and will try to muscle both out of their routes.

Florida State PK Xavier Beitia missed the potential game-winning field goal wide right in the Orange Bowl last year. It will be more nerve racking this year in the Orange Bowl. Miami has the weapons to make a big play in the return game. Parrish, Rolle and Devin Hester are all threats to go the distance every time they touch the ball. Although PK Jon Peattie can be somewhat inconsistent, he has a powerful leg and connected on five of his seven field-goal attempts from beyond 40 yards last year. The Hurricane's special teams have played a big role in their five-game win streak over the Seminoles and this unit will have to play exceptionally well for Miami to make it six straight wins.

The Hurricanes will keep this close with strong offensive line play. They will also force Rix into some critical mistakes. Home-field advantage will help, but Miami has too many questions at key positions. The Seminoles have more talent and depth at running back. Their offensive line should eventually wear down the Hurricane's front seven, which will lead to a dominating second half for the Florida State running game. FSU's cornerbacks will prevent the Hurricanes from producing enough big plays The Seminoles' kicking game would still be a major concern in a close game.

Anything stood out to you on the first full week of college action?
CL: As usual on opening weekend, there were a number of special teams miscues. From getting the right personnel grouping on the field to converting basic PAT's, the special teams play was awful.

What are you thoughts on how some of the top teams performed in week one?
CL: After seeing USC struggle in their opener with a young offensive line and receivers, a number of other top teams struggled as well. Oklahoma's defense was less than dominating versus Bowling Green, Georgia struggled for a half versus Georgia Southern's wishbone and LSU's offense and special teams were virtually non-existent. Of the three, LSU has the most work to do as their problems are the most severe versus the toughest schedule. They have to develop a passing game around two quarterbacks who struggled or else they will see a lot more 8-man front looks like they did against Oregon State.

What teams impressed you this past weekend?
CL: Michigan's defense is outstanding. They have great overall defensive speed and have the playmakers in the secondary to load up versus the run up front. With solid quarterback play, they have a chance to go far. Purdue was well prepared versus a unorganized Syracuse team and Kyle Orton is an outstanding quarterback. They still need to show they can win a big game on the road in the Big 10. California played well offensively and if J.J. Arrington can run the ball as well all season, they will have a fine year. I like Virginia's defense, particularly their linebackers and Iowa, Minnesota and South Carolina were all very prepared.

How surprised were you in Utah's victory over Texas A&M?
CL: Not at all. Utah is very multi-dimensional. They give you so many looks offensively and are very difficult to prepare for. They can run or pass out of multiple formations and are underrated athletically. Texas A&M, by contrast, is very one-dimensional on offense. They have a quarterback in Reggie McNeal who has not progressed as a passer so if you can defend the rollout, waggles and the running game, you have a great chance to win. If they played this game over ten times, Utah would win eight.

What was the biggest surprise this past weekend?
CL:Troy State over Marshall.

How impressed were you in Oklahoma State's victory over UCLA?
CL: OSU's team speed may be as good as any in the conference outside of Oklahoma and Texas. UCLA, however, was simply awful versus the run and has a long way to go.

Were you surprised in how many freshman quarterbacks started and played this weekend?
CL: Without question. Michigan's Chad Henne played well and has a chance to hold off Matt Guitterez if he continues to develop. Tennessee rotated Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge well. Ainge brings a more complete package but Schaeffer's athleticism will continue to be used throughout the season. Louisville's Brian Brohm did not start but showed flashes and will play some but Stefan LeFors gives them more options for now. Air Force's Shaun Carney had his moments while Syracuse's Joe Fields struggled but the ability is there. Running backs Danny Ware of Georgia and Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma also showed they will be a factor this season.

What match-ups this weekend most intrigue you?
CL: I'm curious to see South Carolina against Georgia. Lou Holtz's baby, the veer option attack was effective versus Vanderbilt last week. It will get a serious test against the Bulldogs. I want to see how Texas comes out versus Arkansas, a team they should beat soundly. Fresno State will give Kansas State all they want and I am curious to see how Galen Hall's offense at Penn State does against Boston College.

How bad are the problems at Notre Dame?
CL: They just do not have the team speed and overall talent that you usually associate with Notre Dame's teams of the past and Ty Willingham's teams have not played with the discipline and organization of those he had at Stanford.

Any players stood out individually this past weekend?
CL: Quite a few, but most notably West Virginia running back Kay-Jay Harris. He is very versatile, equally adept as a runner-receiver and is very effective with blitz pickup. Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton is an outstanding route-runner and dangerous after the catch and Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson was outstanding versus an out-manned North Texas team.

In your experience, can two-QB systems work?
CL: It's very difficult. When you have two, it usually means that neither one allows to incorporate all of your offense for whatever reason. What you hope to do as a coach is try to get one of them ready to go but if neither one takes off, you have to do your best to make it work and utilize each quarterback's talents to optimum effectiveness. In the case of a school like Washington, Casey Paus has the most potential as a passer while Isaiah Stanback has the athleticism to work the option and roll out looks. I would work hard to get Paus as comfortable as I could and use Stanback for two series per half to give opposing defenses something to prepare for.

Is Keith Gilbertson on the hot seat?
CL: No question. He must show serious improvement and direction for the program. With a new athletic director and niversity President only makes it more difficult as they would like their own guy. New President Mark Emmert is the type that wants to put his imprint on the athletic program (particularly football). He did just that when he spearheaded the hiring of Nick Saban at LSU, making him the highest paid coach in the country.


Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout, having served with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and formerly ran the Indianapolis Scouting Combine. He now runs his own Scouting Consulting business where he scouts NFL and College personnel for NFL teams and help Universities and NFL teams in their Coaching evaluations and Searches. He can be heard nationally on FOX Sports Radio as their college football and NFL analyst.

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