FSU vs UL: Five Things We Learned on Defense

Florida State gave up 63 points to Louisville.

That’s among the most ever in school history. This was a complete defensive meltdown at every level, by every player. Yes, Derwin James was out and Josh Sweat was hobbled with a knee injury, but this was much more than the loss of a couple of players. Florida State failed to execute simply assignments on defense, they missed tackles and were out of position. Louisville knew what their weaknesses were and they exploited them.

So while the film on this game is ugly, there are still several things we can learn by re-watching the game.

1. DeMarcus Walker is still playing at a very high level.

Despite the chaos happening around him, DeMarcus Walker is still playing at an elite level. He made several big plays in this game, including a couple of stops on Lamar Jackson that other defensive teammates failed to execute on. But one player can only do so much. If his teammates around him do not step up, Walker’s efforts will be in vain. If there is a positive to take from this, it is that NFL scouts are most definitely noticing his high level of play.

2. Replacing Derwin James is easier said than done.

While Florida State missed Derwin James’ playmaking ability in the secondary, what they missed most was his consistency and fundamentals. James rarely misses tackles and hardly ever blows his assignment. On the first snap of the Louisville game, AJ Westbrook, James’ backup at free safety, misses a routine tackle on the Louisville running back in the backfield, who scampers for a 30-yard gain. If Westbrook, Nate Andrews and whoever Florida State trots out there while James is out keep missing simple plays like this, Florida State will have a tough time while the All-American safety recovers from his knee injury.

3. Florida State needs a freshman linebacker to step up.

The Seminoles have two proven starters at linebacker in Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins. But they need one of their highly-touted true freshman linebacker to step up. So far, walk-on Nick Patti has been the first man off the bench when either Thomas or Hoskins go down. Ole Miss exploited him in coverage for a score and Louisville did the same. While Patti may know the defensive playbook a bit better, he is simply not athletic enough to play major snaps. Florida State needs one of Dontavious Jackson, Emmett Rice or Josh Brown to step up and be that third linebacker off the bench moving forward.

4. Marcus Lewis had a rough game.

For a player that received a lot of offseason hype, Marcus Lewis has had a rough start to his sophomore year. He made an athletic play to grab an interception against Ole Miss, but besides that he has struggled at the STAR position. The STAR position is perhaps the most important position on FSU’s defense and, when played correctly, it can be a huge asset to their overall defensive scheme. We saw this in 2013 with Lamarcus Joyner and 2014 with Jalen Ramsey. But poor play at the STAR can also hurt their defense. Lewis whiffed on a couple of tackles versus Louisville and had some busts in coverage as well. With no other proven players at the position, the Seminoles really need Lewis to play mentally sound football at the STAR position from here on out and limit the busted coverages.

5. Florida State needs to play tougher.

From the first snap, it was obvious that Louisville was the tougher team. They hit harder, pushed Florida State in the trenches and had their way with FSU’s defense. Their offensive line, which is not comprised of many blue-chip players, completely neutralized Florida State’s defensive line, which is filled with four and five-star recruits. They simply wanted this win more. The Seminoles did not look like the “Unconquered” team on Saturday. They were conquered on defense, and this is an aspect that needs to get fixed if they want to salvage their season.

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