The second quarter of the season is done for FSU. The team is still not playing good football, but is much improved. FSU very well could have gone 3-0 this stretch, losing a tough one on the road to Miami in which they held a 20 point lead.
I had high expectations for this team and will still hold this team to those expectations. I’m keeping my grading based on an eight to nine win season, which won’t happen now, but 3-3 is still better than the 2-4 they were at this point last season.
Offensive Grade: C
FSU’s offense has made strides in the last three games. When it’s all connecting, you can see how tough this offense is to stop. Lack of consistency continues plaguing this unit, but you cannot say you don’t see marked improvements. Improvement was especially noticeable in the first half of the Miami game.
Offensive Line: C+
Most pundits will say I’m crazy for giving this high of a grade, but FSU has recorded a zero sack game, a two sack game, and then seemingly imploded against UM giving up six sacks. I went back and watched that game and can only assign two of those sacks on the line.
I’m also grading the line on a bit of a curve because it’s still a patchwork of players being made to look worse by poor decisions from Deondre Francois. Between Francois holding the ball too long, questionable protection calls, and forcing inside runs out of shotgun, which just isn’t working, the offensive line hasn’t received help from teammates or coaches.
Wide Receiver/TE: B
FSU now has players you can count on to make plays. Tamorrion Terry has one of the best per-catch averages in the nation. Nyqwan Murray continues to be one of Francois favorite targets. DJ Matthews is growing in his role.
Most encouraging is that you see guys running wide open. When Francois starts seeing the entire field, FSU could catch a team off-guard and put points up.
Running Back: D
Until FSU shifts to a pistol formation, consistently uses a two tight end set, or simply holds the QB accountable on the zone read, this will not improve.
The entire Gulf Coast Offense accelerates or decelerates based upon quarterback play. Frankly, it’s the QB play that has not allowed this offense to be as high powered as possible.
When the pressure was on against NIU and Louisville, Francois rose to the occasion. Against Miami, he showed very little poise in the second half.
The same problems from the first quarter of the season are plaguing him. When he had time, he has not consistently taken advantage of what’s there. You can slow up a defense by making them pay when you have the opportunities.
The more glaring issues are his lack of awareness in reading coverage and understanding slide protection. Against UM, he literally stared down a blitz that he could’ve shifted to protect him. I don’t want to hear about how tough he is, he’s bringing the hits on himself.
Defensive Grade: C+
I don’t understand some of what’s going on with the defense. They consistently buck up for a half. Coverage matchups in the redzone don’t make sense. Placing 5-foot-9 corners on 6-foot-5 WRs is not a recipe for success if you can’t get to the QB.
The inability to get off the field on 3rd-and-Kelly (3rd and long) still haunts this unit. That being said, they’ve performed flawlessly at times and the offense hasn’t stepped up to help them with momentum.
Defensive Line: B+
This unit has improved tremendously over the last three games. The defensive line is one of the highest-ranked in terms of QB hurries and has 19 sacks. They are doing a better job of pressuring the QB as well. Brian Burns is performing at the level we all expected and Marvin Wilson is providing pressure up the middle.
Both still need to be better in rushing situations and third and long; when you know a slow developing pass play is coming, you’d like them to get the sack.
This unit remains a weakness, but is improving. DeCalon Brooks was ACC LB of the week against Louisville. FSU doesn’t have that thumper yet.
Dontavious Jackson is starting to become more consistent.
I’m hoping the linebackers are just a year away with these guys becoming more familiar with the system and more recruits being added.
We’ve seen too many blown coverages and misalignment start games. Fortunately, corrections have been made in the second half of games.
Mismatches occur too often with smaller corners being left on an island against bigger receivers and teams have been exploiting that. Teams went right after Levonta Taylor this season. I don’t understand how opposition receivers get so wide open, and I also don’t understand why it seems like FSU is funneling receivers to the middle of the field where the defense is weakest.
It seems like everyone is playing out of position. It might be time to move Taylor to covering the slot and put Stanford Samuels back at corner. With all this talent available, it just seems like something is off.
Special Teams: C
DJ Matthews saved this unit from receiving another bad grade. His punt returns have provided a spark; punt coverage and field goal protection is still lacking. FSU literally cannot get anybody down on punt coverage and how easily the Noles are fooled by returners makes no sense.
FSU also can’t make a field goal in a clutch situation that matters.
All in all, FSU has made strides and would’ve received a better grade had it beaten Miami. Not being able to close a game out due to a lack of converting opportunities prevented the grades from being higher.
The culture is slowly changing, but the standard I’m grading this team on is eight or nine wins. Anything short is unacceptable, even though I do like some of the changes I see from Willie Taggart’s club.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/seminoles-second-quarter-grades-better-still-not-good