Talking FSU With ChantRant
Rich blogs about the Seminoles at ChantRant.com, and he was nice enough to answer a few of my questions. Head over to his site to find my answers to his questions.
1.) Why is Florida State's ground game so much better this season?
Several things. First, Jimbo Fisher's philosophy that a team must have a strong run game and can't just pay lip service to it while throwing long jump balls and hoping some hit. Second, OL coach Rick Trickett, a Viet Nam era Marine who has whipped a kiddie korps of freshman and sophs into fighting shape like a D.I. at Parris Island. Third, there's a huge emphasis on toughness in the last few years. Then there's RB Antone Smith putting it all together for his Senior year. Smith was one of the two or three top backs coming out of high school, but never realized his potential. Too much dancing in the backfield and not enough hard-nosed tackle-breaking runs. He appears to have cured that. Here's more on Smith's best-ever season. Finally, there's the big surprise: the scrambling and genuine open field running ability of QB Christian Ponder. His scampers against Miami really shocked the Canes. He's pretty quick and tough, but needs to slide or he could be spending time on a stretcher.
2.) Jim Grobe turnover voodoo magic aside, what was Wake Forest able to do that the rest of FSU's opponents haven't?
It was partly what Wake did, and at least 50% what FSU didn't do. First, the Deacs smartly put lots of pressure on Ponder, starting his first D-1 game at QB. Second, Ponder didn't respond well, receivers ran too many ragged routes, the young OL was still trying to jell. The Colorado and Miami wins appear to have cured much of that -- especially since Ponder is using his mobility and has added a run threat.
3.) Against I-A opponents, FSU's quarterbacks have completed barely 40% of their passes and have averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt. What've been Christian Ponder's biggest issues so far? Any QB controversy?
After great success against two D-1AA teams, FSU's passing game regressed. So Coach-in-Waiting and OC Jimbo Fisher simplified things, going to a shorter, higher-percentage air game. It's worked pretty well and given Ponder more confidence. Let's see if emphasis on passing during the off-week, as well as more work with QB and WRs being on the same page, pays off in Raleigh.
Bottom line: there's no real QB controversy. D'Vontrey Richardson who had considerable playing time against 1-AA teams has slipped back to #3 signal caller due to illness and missing practice time. Senior Drew Weatherford, who started most games the past three years, is now #2. But the way Ponder played the last two games -- especially against Miami -- it would take an injury to unseat him.
4.) Which guys on the defensive side should we be looking out for?
First and foremost, Everette Brown, a big, fast junior DE from South Carolina. He's a beast and can terrorize QBs. Headliners at LB include Derek Nicholson from Winston-Salem, and Dakoda Watson (another South Carolinian). Most hearlded DB is Tony Carter, a senior who's one of the all-time FSU INT leaders, though Tony is occasionally victimized by his size and/or not being in the right place at the right time.
FSU IS worried about Wilson, though, and how he's improved since the South Carolina game. Here's a story about how they plan to defense him.
5.) How much pressure is Bobby Bowden getting from the fan base these days?
The Seminole nation is split on this -- probably three ways. First, there's a sizable group that believes Bobby is a college football legend who made the program and should be allowed to do what he wants and retire when he chooses. My sense is there's another category, not quite as large, who love Bobby for what he's built, but believe he should have retired already, and may be a drag on the program. Oh, and who think he's just hanging around to outlast Joe Paterno. But this group remains mostly quiet because they know FSU's President made a deal with Bowden to quit on his terms and nothing can change that, except the grim reaper. Finally, there's a small but vocal percentage who are still angry over Bobby's hiring of son Jeff as the OC, because it did major damage to the program. They want him gone now.