Rich at Chant Rant was kind enough to answer a few questions about Florida State and how they arrived at the same dismal place that Maryland has late in the football season. My answers to his questions should be posted on his blog by tomorrow.
Q: With quarterback Christian Ponder out due to injury E.J. Manuel got his first look at the position. How would you grade his performance against Wake Forest?
Rich: I'd give him an A-. Really. He only made one mistake -- throwing an interception caught by a Wake defender in the Deacs end zone (should've given it more air to get the ball over the defender to the receiver behind him). Otherwise he flawlessly executed Off. Coordinator (and Head-Coach-in-Waiting) Jimbo Fisher's game plan. Of course, it was a simplified plan designed to give E.J. confidence and reduce the chance of mistakes.
For example, except for the interception, Manuel didn't throw a single pass more than 9 yards over the line of scrimmage -- yet he was 15 for 20. He was also an excellent ball handler and did a good job of running the option several times. The thing that impressed me most was his knowledge of the playbook. His dedication to studying it and game film ensured that he was mistake-free and grew more confident with every series.
Now will he be able to continue that as Jimbo opens up the playbook and puts more on his young QB's shoulders?
Q: Ponder seemed to like to spread the ball around to many receivers, five FSU players have 27+ receptions, is Manuel also spreading the ball around?
A: He is. Manuel threw passes to 7 different receivers against Wake. Six of those were WRs, and one was running back Jermaine Thomas, who had a 7-yard catch along with his 149 yards on the ground.
Q: I've thought that if there was a hall of fame for assistants then Mickey Andrews would be an automatic inductee. This Florida State defense has not been a vintage Andrews' squad with awful rankings in almost every category. What is the major problem with this group?
A: Several things, two of which are: Though Andrews was a master at stopping offenses in the 80s and 90s, he hasn't adapted well to the new age of spread offenses. Second, other assistant coaches on defense are not pulling their weight as far as teaching skills and developing the raw talent from the top ten recruiting classes FSU has had most years. When Andrews leaves, FSU fans expect there will be a clean sweep of most or all assistants on the defensive side of the ball.
Q: We've all read stories about Bobby Bowden and his future but I'm curious who do you think will replace Andrews as the defensive coordinator?
A: I'm pretty sure only Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Bowden know that -- or at least who they'd like to be the new D.C. While Bobby says he'll make the final decision, most believe that Bowden will rubber stamp the man who Jimbo selects. After all, Fisher will have to live with him after 2010, which is almost certain to be Bowden's last season.
One of the names buzzing throughout the Seminole nation right now -- and a guy who'd be an impressive hire -- is Kirby Smart, the DC at Alabama. Why would the top defensive assistant in the SEC take a lateral step to FSU? The rationale is that he liked his experience in Tallahassee as a grad assistant, and because it's tough running the defense under a head coach who's known as a defensive genius. At FSU, Smart would definitely run his own show.