As we prepare for this Saturday's matchup against Florida State, we got the opportunity to speak with the boys over at Tomahawk Nation. In today's Q&A we talk Jameis Winston, Florida State expectations and get a prediction for Saturday's ACC matchup.
BC Interruption: Florida State have steamrolled their first three opponents by a combined score of 157-26. What positives have you seen out of the Seminoles so far? Anything of concern?
Tomahawk Nation: It's been a very nice start to the 2013 season for the Seminoles. The positives start with Jameis Winston, who was tapped for the starting job after showing out in the Spring Game but struggling through fall camp relative to RS sophomore Jacob Coker. His game against Pitt was arguably one of the all-time great college quarterback debuts, and one of the best performances in FSU history regardless of age. The running backs have been very good as well, though James Wilder, Jr. has been banged up with a shoulder injury. The ‘Noles actually moved physical specimen safety Karlos Williams to running back, and he ran for a 60 yard touchdown on his first offensive touch. The receivers have been great, and the offensive line has been solid. Not many complaints for us on offense.
On defense, Florida State has been implementing a new system under former Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt. It's significantly different from what Mark Stoops had his unit doing over the last few years, so there have been growing pains. The base set thus far has been a 5-2 that's really a 3-4, and the lesser competition that FSU has faced has had some success on the ground, particularly early in games. The Seminoles are playing more press coverages and man defenses, and are blitzing a lot more. Some fans have been a bit disconcerted by the difficulties (though minor) that we have seen in the first three games, but these were generally expected. There's a lot of talent on the defense, and we hope it improves as it becomes more comfortable in the scheme.
BCI: I have to admit, I was skeptical of Jameis Winston before the season started, but after watching him play so far he has looked even better than advertised. What does he bring to the table as a QB, and what are his similarities and differences to last year's QB E.J. Manuel?
TN: Jameis has all the physical tools that you want at 6'4" 220, and great athleticism. He's got excellent arm strength and has been remarkably accurate in his young career. Probably the most impressive thing I've seen from Winston is his ability to throw with anticipation and get through his reads effectively. I will say that the offense he's led thus far has been extremely vanilla, but that's most likely due to the competition faced and the desire to keep wrinkles under wraps rather than an indictment of his command of the offense. I think the last part is the biggest deviation from EJ. He, too, had all the physical tools and was probably a better runner than Jameis. His accuracy was problematic at times, but he always had an extremely high completion percentage. Manuel did struggle to read the middle of the field and frankly was not good at throwing with anticipation. EJ seemed to wait until he saw a guy open rather than throwing him open, something Jameis has done very well to date. I believe that Jameis has a much higher ceiling than EJ, and that probably sounds strange when comparing him to a first round draft pick. Winston does have a tendency to get too aggressive and force plays that aren't there, and he will certainly make some freshman mistakes this year. However, I think he can and will become a great quarterback.
BCI: What are expectations like for FSU fans this year? Are expectations another Orange Bowl or are Noles fans looking for more in 2013?
TN: At the beginning of the season, most of us at Tomahawk Nation pegged this team as a 9-3 or10-2 squad with Clemson as the favorite in the division and conference. Immediately after the Pitt game, those projections were revised upwards, at least for FSU. The Clemson game will decide the division, as usual, and I still favor Clemson in that game at home. But, FSU should be favored in every other game it plays. Most Florida State fans were looking to 2014 as the season for high aspirations, but Winston's play has left open the possibility that this could be a special season. We'll see how he plays against the meat of the schedule and we'll see how the defense progresses in the new system, but hopes are definitely riding high at the current moment.
BCI: FSU has had great success the past few years under Jimbo Fisher recruiting blue chip defensive players which will be important for FSU to stop the BC running game. What players in particular should Eagles fans be looking out for?
TN: In terms of defensive players, the defensive line is stocked with talent but many players are still learning their role in Pruitt's scheme. Timmy Jernigan is the star player at nose tackle. Mario Edwards Jr. is a former number one recruit but has been dealing with a hand injury. Newcomers Chris Casher and Demarcus Walker are talented edge players. The linebackers are led by Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. Florida State's secondary is probably its deepest position group, and corner Lamarcus Joyner is a veteran leader while safety Terrance Brooks is probably playing the best football of anyone on defense. Safety Tyler Hunter is dealing with an injury that we hope to be less serious than we think it might be and will almost certainly not play on Saturday. FSU fans really want to see the ‘Noles stop the BC run with its front seven, something it hasn't done spectacularly in the early parts of its first three games.
BCI: Prediction time: FSU is a 22 point favorite against the Eagles. Think BC can make a game of it, or do you expect the Noles to win easily?
TN: I'm usually a little gun-shy on FSU teams playing on the road against teams over which they're comfortably favored, but I'm not feeling that this week. Maybe that's a bad sign. I do think Addazio has and will continue to improve the Boston College program. I'm concerned about Don Brown's exotic pressures, as he's an excellent coordinator that we remember from his time under Ralph Friedgen. FSU will need to keep Winston out of harm's way for the sake of Saturday's game and the long haul. I do think the pressures he'll dial up will expose the Eagles to one-on-one situations with Florida State's great athletes, which will be problematic. I hope to see the FSU defense stop the run early and force Rettig to throw against big blitzes and a talented secondary. I'll say BC moves the ball early, but FSU pulls away late and covers at 37-13.
Thanks again for speaking with us today. Make sure to check out Tomahawk Nation for all your FSU news and opinion.