Column: Lethal Simplicity? Little seems simple
TALLAHASSEE – The Lethal Simplicity tag has taken a good-sized hit. Simple isn’t working.
While there were glimpses of coordinated offensive play at the end of the third-quarter win over Samford last Saturday, it was just that. Brief. The good news is those brief minutes produced points that won the game.
Glaring issues will remain with an offensive line that has not come together even under the senior leadership of Alec Eberle. It is likely that is a one- to two-cycle recruiting class is required before noticeable differences appear.
Florida State has two exceptional runners in Cam Akers and Jacque Patrick. Both have had trouble getting out of the backfield. Given two steps, Akers is a breakaway expert and Patrick is a bull, pulling two or three defenders along for extra yardage.
Except there’s a need to at least get to the line of scrimmage before being tackled.
The answer, in the short run, depends heavily on quarterback Deondre Francois. Francois earned a starting job against Alabama last season and in the same game, he was lost for the season. He came out of camp impressing new coach Willie Taggart as the one of three options to lead the offense. Tall and slender James Blackman took over in the Alabama game and played the rest of the 2017 campaign.
FSU also had a highly touted quarterback, Bailey Hochman, in the mix until he came into fall believing he was headed for zero playing time. He honestly, as an editorial comment, may have been the best quarterback of the three.
Point being, Francois had the talent but has not had much playing time until the disastrous start against Virginia Tech. Even against Samford, which is a very good non-Division I team, he looked confused.
So maybe “simplicity” isn’t as simple as it is made out to be. Or perhaps Francois hadn’t had that much training in read-option offensives. Making the wrong read leads to dangerous passes or running back/quarterback minus yardage. A good athlete, Francois was not called on to be a primary runner in high school, as this scheme requires.
He is passing well, completing over 65 percent. Francois has had several key (long yardage or red zone) passes dropped.
Back to those glimpses, the option means keep it, hand it off to a running back, or even run down the line and toss/pass it to a receiver. The play was crisp, at least twice.
None of this is the end of the season. However, the schedule gets worse with big dogs waiting. This week is a game at Syracuse. The next week is Northern Illinois, a team already with two losses. But the Huskies played FSU tough in the 2013 Orange Bowl and were the first MAC team to earn a BCS place at the table.
This is a pivotal game. Regardless of the opponent. It is time for FSU to play. It’s Francois’ team to direct. It’s Eberle’s line to bully into blocking.
Simple is as simple does.
Kerry Dunning covers Florida State for the Palatka Daily News.