Don’t be surprised if Steve Addazio and Boston College receive a “thank-you” card at some point from the Florida State defense.
Addazio’s Eagles rolled up 397 yards — including 200 on the ground — in Saturday’s 48-34 loss and, in the process, exposed cracks in a Florida State unit that entered the game ranked second nationally in total defense.
“It was a blessing,” senior safety Terrence Brooks said. “Definitely, those mistakes are definitely going to help you. I mean, it’s bad but it can also be good for you too, because you know those are the things you’ve got to key in on, and for the most part it’s just room for improvement.”
Florida State wasted no time getting to work with regard to the defensive issues that cost it 34 points and helped BC running back Andre Williams reach 149 yards — 99 in the first half — on 28 carries. This week, the Seminoles have practiced with an increased emphasis on physicality.
But tackling and physicality are not the only issues facing the defense — the phrase heard commonly around Florida State’s practice this week is “eye discipline.”
“You want to see guys make plays, but sometimes on defense you have to realize that you don’t make every play,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You have to have the discipline to do it and a couple of our situations came from eye discipline — trying to be overaggressive and not staying with what we had to do and within the scheme.
“[But] you’d rather say ‘whoa,’ than ‘giddyup.’”
With former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops now serving as the coach at Kentucky, former Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt has been hard at work installing a new defensive system in Tallahassee. After four games with their new system, the Seminoles have shown flashes of brilliance and causes for concern in equal measure, but many around the program believe the defense is about to turn the corner.
“To tell you the truth, I feel like the calls weren’t even that hard,” Brooks said. “I mean, I felt like it was just some little eye violations getting away from us. I don’t feel like it’s a big problem right now; people kind of focus on the negatives of everything. As of right now, we just need to really just key in more and be more focused.”
Said senior linebacker Telvin Smith: “Again, it goes back to playing your assignment. Do what you’ve got to do and that’s the big thing we’ve been keying in on at practice, is do your assignment, don’t feel like you’ve got to do too much or anything like that because as soon as you do, that’s when the big plays occur and that’s what we’re learning from.”
And thanks to Saturday, Florida State’s coaches have plenty of evidence of what happens when the defenders don’t maintain their responsibilities. FSU’s defense has reviewed every snap, analyzed every mistake and talked about every blown assignment at length.
Now the coaches just hope the message sinks in.
“You’ve just got to be assignment-perfect, and like I said, do your job,” Smith said. “If everybody does their job, there’s no way this defense can be stopped.”