Changing of the Guard

Florida State’s 31-7 throttling of the Florida Gators this past weekend was much more than a win–it marks a new beginning for the Seminoles and a sign of things to come.  All three of the state’s major programs (Florida, Miami and FSU) have made runs, but with blow out victories over Miami earlier this season and over the hated Gators and Urban Meyer last weekend should have FSU fans very excited about the direction of their program.

College FootBlog takes a look at four major evolutions that were apparent with FSU’s coveted “State Championship”–something the ‘Noles had not done since the 1999 season.

1.  Talent discrepancy:  Over the last decade (Miami in the first part of the decade and Florida over the last six years), FSU was outmatched on at least one side of the ball.  FSU had no answer for Sean Taylor and the dominant Miami defenses in the early part of the decade, and they were absolutely no match for Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.

My, how times have changed.  While Florida has plummeted to #78 nationally in total offense, the FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher has the ‘Noles have continued to develop into a more balanced offense, but the biggest difference has been the FSU defense.  After ranking in the 100’s in every major statistical category last season, new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has revamped the D in the top 40 defenses in the nation this year.   While the Gators and Hurricanes have dropped to worse records this year, Florida State already has nine wins with two more games left in the season.

FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher beat rivals Miami and Florida in his first season (google images)

2.  Recruiting:  Florida State was already off to a great start in recruiting (Rivals currently has FSU ranked 4th overall), and the huge wins over the ‘Canes and Gators will only solidify a top five finish in recruiting.  There were over 100 recruits at the Florida game, and many of those athletes are considering the Big 3 schools in the state of Florida. 

Those recruits saw a completely one-sided game on Saturday, one in which the Florida Gators displayed an unimaginative, ineffective offensive game plan that generated a whopping 64 yards passing.  Meanwhile, the Hurricanes lost an overtime game to the South Florida Bulls, which resulted in a 7-5 regular season and the firing of head coach Randy Shannon.

3.  Preparation for the NFL:  Tebow’s lack of development as a passer was well-documented last spring before the NFL combine.  Tebow had to spend his spring retraining himself how to throw a football.  Urban Meyer was openly criticized by scouts and media for not making those corrections in the four years he had Tebow on campus.  In contrast, current Florida QB John Brantley, who is more of a pro-style quarterback has struggled mightily in Meyer’s spread attack, posting anemic numbers this season.  Despite having all the speed and talent at wide receiver, Brantley is averaging just over 168 yards passing per game.

In Miami, quarterback Jacory Harris entered the season on the Heisman radar, but he has noticeably regressed in 2010.  Both Harris and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder have been down statistically versus last season, and injuries to each have been a major culprit.  However, there is no question on which QB is more NFL-ready. 

4.  Size of Players:  Since Fisher’s arrival as the offensive coordinator four years ago, he immediately began recruiting bigger, more physical players, and that trend has continued on defense since he took over as head coach this past January.  On the defensive line, FSU is beginning to look more like an SEC team, with defensive tackles going from the 270 lb range to 285-300 lbs.  Defensive ends, linebackers and safeties are getting much bigger and faster as well (FSU’s starting safeties are Nick Moody at 6’2″, 228 lbs. and Terrance Parks at 6’2″ , 218 lbs.).

The past few years, FSU has lost games in the trenches to bigger, stronger teams.  That discrepancy was not as apparent this season, and as Fisher and his staff continue to recruit bigger players, along with an enhanced strength and conditioning program that Fisher instituted immediately after taking the reigns, expect this trend to continue.

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