Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Florida State

Nov 27, 2019 | 0 comments


On paper, No. 11 Florida (9-2, 6-2 SEC) should easily defeat Florida State on Saturday. The Gators are playing at home, at night, on Senior Day and are fighting for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. They are ranked in the top-40 nationally in most offensive and defensive statistics. UF defeated the Seminoles 41-14 in Tallahassee to conclude the 2018 regular season.

However, the Seminoles are dangerous. They feature an explosive passing attack, one of the most talented running backs in America and a defense that has held three of its last four opponents to less than 355 total yards. Interim coach Odell Haggins has kept the team motivated despite their disappointing season, and they would love nothing more than to ruin the Gators’ season by winning in the Swamp for the fifth straight time.

Here are three positions of strength, three positions of weakness and three players to watch for from Florida State (6-5, 4-4 ACC).

Three Positions of Strength

Running Back


With all of the uncertainty surrounding FSU with the coaching change and the musical chairs at quarterback, this position is the one constant. Cam Akers has rushed for 1,042 yards and 13 touchdowns on 214 carries (4.9 yards-per-carry). He’s averaging 104 yards-per-game, which is just 20 yards less than UF’s entire team is averaging per game. He’s an explosive runner who can turn a tiny crease in the defense into a huge play. Khalan Laborn has added 63 carries for 297 yards and four scores. If there’s one thing this unit is lacking, it’s depth. Deonte Sheffield is the only other running back on the roster with a carry this season, and he’s carried just nine times. How UF defends this position will determine whether the Seminoles can make this a game.

Wide Receiver

Despite FSU rotating James Blackman and Alex Hornibrook at quarterback, they’ve still managed to rank 30th in the country in passing offense at 277.5 yards-per-game, a testament to their skilled receiving corps. The standout is Tamorrion Terry, who is their biggest deep threat and has caught 44 passes for 892 yards (20.3 yards-per-reception) and eight touchdowns. D.J. Matthews has added 33 receptions, 345 yards and three scores from the slot. Tre’Shaun Harrison has made 27 catches for 289 yards and a pair of scores, while Keyshawn Helton is averaging 14.1 yards-per-catch and has scored three times.

Linebacker

Quite frankly, this is the only position on the Seminoles’ defense that hasn’t been terrible. Emmett Rice mans the middle and is second on the team with 57 tackles and is tied for fourth with 4.5 tackles-for-loss. He’s also made a sack and recovered a fumble. Amari Gainer plays one of the outside linebacker spots and is used similar to the way the Gators use the ‘Buck’ position. He’s third on the team with six tackles-for-loss and tied for third with three sacks. He’s forced two fumbles. Florida State ranks 68th nationally in rushing defense, which might not seem good but is much better than their 114th ranking against the pass. The linebackers are a big reason why.

Three Positions of Weakness

Offensive Line

As pathetic as this might sound, UF should have the better offensive line in this game. Despite having an All-American-caliber running back, the Seminoles are averaging just 139.6 rushing yards-per-game, which is tied for 95th in the country. They’ve allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked 36 times, which is second worst in the ACC. By comparison, UF’s beleaguered offensive line has conceded just 24 sacks. They start a pair of true freshmen on the left side in tackle Darius Washington and guard Dontae Lucas. Those two will be tasked with keeping Jonathan Greenard out of their backfield. That doesn’t figure to end well for them.

Defensive Back

No position has disappointed more for FSU than the secondary. Three of the four starters were ranked as top-60 recruits in high school. The only one who wasn’t was ranked 109th by the 247Sports Composite. They’re allowing 273.8 passing yards-per-game, which is 114th. They’ve only intercepted eight passes, which ranks tied for 76th. They’ve given up 270 or more yards seven times this season, including two 300-yard performances and a 400-yard game to Boise State. Alabama State threw for 270 yards on them two weeks ago. Florida’s receivers are a lot better than Alabama State’s.

Defensive Line

This position has been a mixed bag. They’ve made 29 sacks, which ranks tied for 31st. However, Marvin Wilson is responsible for five of those sacks, and he’s out for the season with an injury. Without him, the Seminoles are lacking the dominant pass-rusher that fans have become accustomed to seeing from them. End Janarius Robinson leads them with nine tackles-for-loss and has recorded three sacks. Dennis Briggs Jr. has made 3.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack. Behind these two, the Seminoles have almost no depth at end. Cory Durden is a force to be reckoned with inside, as he’s recorded 4.5 sacks. Still, FSU ranks next to last in the ACC with 66 tackles-for-loss. They were an average defensive line with Wilson and are mediocre without him.

Three Players to Watch

Running Back Cam Akers

Pretty much the only way the Seminoles can win this game is if Akers runs wild and turns in a 150+-yard game. They’ll use him in a multitude of ways. The former No. 3 overall recruit has caught 28 passes for 223 yards and four scores, and they’ve increasingly used him in what they call the “WildCam” quarterback package in recent weeks. UF limited him to 37 yards on 13 carries in the 2018 meeting, although he did make an impressive one-handed touchdown catch. Don’t expect them to hold him to similar statistics in this game, but preventing him from completely taking over the game is a must.

Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen

He’s basically the Cam Akers of the defense. He leads the team and is sixth in the conference with 96 tackles, and he’s also tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He’s made two tackles-for-loss and a sack. The free safety appears to be FSU’s best possible matchup for Kyle Pitts, so that’ll be an interesting matchup to watch should it happen.

Wide Receiver Tamorrion Terry

They call him “Scary Terry” for good reason. He’s gone for more than 75 yards seven times this season, including a 156-yard outing three weeks ago against Boston College. Florida’s CJ Henderson has experienced some struggles on deep balls this season, and the Seminoles figure to test him with Terry throughout the game. He caught three passes for 78 yards in last year’s game. UF will take a similar result this time around.

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