Florida State vs. Miami - Keys to the Game

Posted Aug 31, 2006

John Harris breaks down and analyzes the biggest games of the weekend.

By John Harris

a.  Florida State RB Lorenzo Booker vs. Miami safeties Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Phillips – Typically, a running back won’t be matched up against safeties, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see both Meriweather and Phillips play near the line of scrimmage as a fourth linebacker to completely eliminate the FSU run game.  Booker’s quickness can only be of use if he can get a seam up front, but when he does, he’ll be swapping paint with these two.  The FSU offensive staff won’t be able to account for them in the run game blocking scheme, but if Booker can have some early success and draws this pair, or even just one of them to the LOS, FSU QB Drew Weatherford can throw it behind them for a big play.  But, Booker has to get in a groove early and stay in it to force Miami DC Randy Shannon to use his two best players to help stop him.

b.  Miami TE Greg Olsen vs. FSU strong safeties Anthony Houllis and/or Myron Rolle – Let’s be clear about this one fact – FSU can’t cover Olsen with an outside linebacker.  That was proven after about the first five catches or so in last year’s game, then Olsen still had three more against either Pat Watkins or Kyler Hall, the Noles two safeties.  Either Houllis or Rolle will be starting for the first time and that’s not good news for FSU DC Mickey Andrews when it comes to covering the All-American tight end.  Another wrench in the plan for the Seminoles is not knowing exactly how new Miami offensive coordinator Rich Olson will use Olsen – whether he uses him as an in-line threat or more of an H-back.  The FSU defensive brain trust will have to adapt on the fly and that puts even more pressure on these two untested strong safeties.

c. Florida State OT Shannon Boatman vs. Miami DE Baraka Atkins – Atkins is probably the closest thing that this Miami defense has to a dominating pass rusher and the Noles have to account for his ability to get heat on FSU QB Drew Weatherford.  The juco transfer Boatman is starting for the first time and will have his hands full with the Miami DE.  Atkins size is probably of the most concern.  At 275 pounds, it limits what the FSU offensive staff can do from a protection standpoint against him.  With a guy who has good quicks off the edge, a team can stagger their protection schemes, first a tackle, then a TE/H back and then a running back chipping off of him.  But, Atkins has the size to run through Boatman or rip back inside and not get ‘washed’, avoiding any help that a TE/RB could provide on the outside.

d.  Florida State WR Greg Carr and Chris Davis vs. Miami corners Glenn Sharpe and Randy Phillips – Carr doesn’t catch a ton of balls in a game, but you can be guaranteed that he’ll catch a big one for a key first down and/or a gamebreaking touchdown.  He’s 6’6” and physical.  Virginia Tech corners Jimmy Williams and Roland Minor found out that Carr will use that size and physical ability to push off to get open.  Against Virginia Tech’s aggressive pair of corners in the ACC championship game, FSU went to a quick passing game and Carr got his separation by pushing off the Hokies in man coverage – of course, it was subtle.  Sharpe and Phillips can’t get into a shoving match with Carr.  If put in man coverage against him, they’ve got to get an initial jam and then run with him, leaving some space to not allow Carr to be able to push off and use that leverage to get free.  Carr won’t burn them with his speed, but he uses that inability to go deep against the corners by pushing off and working back to the ball, whether on a short out cut, curl route or deep out cut downfield.  The key for Sharpe and Phillips is feet – be quick with the feet, be in position to play angles and don’t get tied up with the big fella downfield.

e.  Miami Interior OG Andrew Bain and Derrick Morse and Center Anthony Wollschlager vs. FSU DT Paul Griffin and Andre Fluellen – Throughout the second half of last year, no one could block FSU DT Brodrick Bunkley and he ate up anything in his path.  Double or triple him, it didn’t matter – he destroyed it all.  But, that’s not the case with Griffin, the rookie.  This being his first start, he faces a quality center Wollschlager who has seen some good ones.  If Wollschlager can win that battle, he frees up one of his guards to get up to the second level, the linebackers.  But, Griffin is a beast at the point of attack and his strength could be a major concern for the Canes center.  One of the reasons that the Nole linebackers played so well last year was Bunkley’s ability to penetrate and draw guard help throughout the game.  FSU LB Buster Davis is explosive to the ball, but he’ll get eaten up inside as guards are getting free shots at him throughout the game.  To adjust, he might try to slip blocks and get caught, which could produce a big run by Miami RB Charlie Jones.  The DTs, in particular the juco transfer Griffin, will have to play exceptionally well and win that G-C-G/DT battle for FSU to have a chance to win.