Weekly Mailbag: North Carolina, Chubba Purdy, and the defense

Florida State fell to 1-3 on the season after a loss to Notre Dame on the road. While the offense showed some signs of improvement, they continue to be clouded by a defense that is seriously underperforming. Unfortunately, things won’t get any easier tomorrow against North Carolina. In my opinion, the Tar Heels have the most explosive offense that the Seminoles have faced so far.

It also hasn’t been a great week on the recruiting trail as legacy linebacker Branden Jennings Jr backed off of his commitment to FSU. Three days later, he’s set to decide again and the ‘Noles aren’t among his finalists. Considering the current state of the roster at that position and the lack of available targets this late in the recruiting cycle, this is a huge disappointment for the coaching staff. This is one of the first real losses they’ve taken on the recruiting trail.

Thankfully, basketball season is just six weeks away so feel free to hit me with some hoops questions next week. I’m tired of being depressed.

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Let’s hop into the mailbag for this week’s set of questions.

Where is our defense? – Michael Vandiver

What’s going on with our “defense”? – Ramiro Arriaga

What can FSU do to improve the defense? – @MichaelLeB06

Do we think that the biggest issue with the defense is an effort issue or is it a lack of awareness/inability to assess play development – Richie Price

Why can’t we get the intensity back in our players? Our defensive line used to be feared. – @reelpassion9913

As you can see, Florida State’s defensive issues drew the ire of the fanbase this week. To me, the problems are becoming clearer and clearer each week. The Seminoles don’t have good linebacker play outside of Amari Gainer and the defensive line is simply not playing up to the level that it’s capable of. Marvin Wilson, Cory Durden, and Robert Cooper were talked about as potential NFL draft picks throughout the offseason. So far, none of them have sniffed that level of play in 2020.

I think it’s time for this team to make some personnel changes. The defensive ends have done even less than the interior defensive line to this point. Moving Gainer up to Fox could help provide some semblance of pass-rush. Once the safety depth is back, Jaiden Lars-Woodbey or Brendan Gant to STUD is something to look for.

All in all, this issue isn’t completely on the players or the staff. However, eventually, it comes down to the guys on the field making the play. We saw the defense in position against Notre Dame multiple times only to whiff on tackles that resulted in big gains.

I don’t know if FSU can improve its defense this year but one thing that would help is the unit playing all out all the time. They look like they think too much. Attack each play and live with the result.

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What’s wrong with the defensive tackles? – @flatbushfonz

They aren’t doing their jobs. While the interior defensive line is seeing some double teams, with the amount of talent, you’d expect them to be able to beat a double team or at least don’t get pushed back every now and then. Instead, you’ve got Durden getting drive blocked down the field by tight ends and Wilson hasn’t been much more than a disappearing act.

After all the hype, it’s just frustrating to watch them disappoint each week.

Are we at a point where we’re gonna concede the record amount of points this year for our program? – Michael Carpenter

I’d love to say no, but it’s definitely a possibility. Florida State surrendered a program-record 31.5 points per game through 12 games in 2018. In the first four this season, they are giving up 33.5 points per game and there are still plenty of solid offenses on the schedule.

No one could’ve predicted this kind of dismal performance coming into 2020.

What is the game plan to get Purdy in? We had an opportunity to work him in some when Travis got hurt but went back to Blackman – Chris King

After playing a good ND defense, it appears that Travis at QB is legit. Do you hold on playing Purdy UNLESS, God forbid, Travis gets hurt? – @NoleGifs

Will Chubba move to QB2 this week? – @1dayattatime1

Florida State has slowly been bringing Chubba Purdy along since his return from a collarbone injury. Based on what I’ve heard, I’m comfortable saying we could see him make his debut against North Carolina on Saturday depending on how the game is going.

He isn’t going to start but if the contest gets out of reach, I think Purdy will take the field for late-game reps rather than James Blackman. It would be nice to finally see him get some action and it’s something ‘Noles fans have been waiting for since he signed in February.

What do you think our chances of beating UNC are this Saturday at home? Will the D show up? – @anngunn65

Extremely low and I’m going to say no. This defense hasn’t given anyone a reason to have any belief in it. I’ve got UNC in this one by three scores.

After being questionable for many weeks in a row and not playing… do you think this is the week Hamsah is able to suit up? – @Alex_isme03

At this point, I’m not convinced we’ll see Hamsah Nasirildeen suit up this season. He doesn’t have anything to play for.

We know a lot about the starters (good, bad, indifferent). What about the depth, ie, the next set of starters? How are they developing? – Shawn Marler

We’ve seen some of the young guys on offense like Tate Rodemaker, Lawrance Toafili, Ja’Khi Douglas, Kentron Poitier, Darion Williamson, Robert Scott, and some others. On defense, guys like Josh Griffis, Fabien Lovett, Stephen Dix Jr, DJ Lundy, and Travis Jay are coming along nicely. I think as the season goes, we’ll just see more youth work its way into the lineup for Florida State.

There are some pieces to be excited about as this staff pushes them towards their potential.

Will the offense lead by JT hurt recruitment at WR for next season? – Jonas Burris

I don’t think so. Jordan Travis isn’t the future for Florida State at quarterback. He’s the bridge to keep this offense competitive while Chubba Purdy and Luke Altmyer develop. Heck, Altmyer is going to have every shot to win the starting job in 2021.

I’m not worried about WR recruiting, FSU got a couple good ones in 2020 and the Seminoles have Malik McClain and Joshua Burrell committed in the 2021 class. They are also currently the favorite for four-star wide receiver Destyn Hill (formerly Pazon).

Say you’re an NFL Scout, would you draft anyone on FSU’s defense besides Asante Samuel Jr? 

Wilson will be drafted based on his previous years of tape. He’ll be able to point out that he’s had three head coaches, three DCs, and COVID-19 threw him off in 2020. Regardless, I don’t see him going in the First-Round if he continues to play like this. If Hamsah Nasirildeen decides to declare, I can see him being selected.

Other than that, no one else on this defense is getting a sniff from me right now. Though, redshirt sophomore Amari Gainer is quickly catching some eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he declares following next season (2022 Draft).

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