As the Seminoles move toward a more challenging part of their schedule, it's time to take a look at the opponent of the week and what it is that may challenge Florida State schematically. Some weeks the opponents' offense will be this breakdown's focal point. Other times it will be the defense. If the game is big enough (see Clemson next week), we'll break down both sides.
For this week, given that Wake Forest defense has not been a problem for FSU's offense in past seasons, let's take a look at what challenges the Demon Deacon offense will provide to coordinator Mark Stoops.
Wake Forest offense
Wake will force a defense to stay at home, pure and simple. The Deacons provide a few comparable challenges athletically to Florida State, but starter for starter, this game is a simple on-paper mismatch.
So what does Wake Forest do so well? Let's begin with the concept of misdirection.
When the Deacons know they are facing a talent deficit, their schemes rely on the opponent to over-pursue or feign discipline. A principle way this is accomplished is with pre-snap motion. Wake Forest relies heavily on running out of the shotgun or pistol formation - it will be used even in goal-to-go situations - in order to create the opportunity to get the defense leaning one way or another.
Whether it's an outside receiver, tight end or H-Back, Wake will routinely shift a player pre-snap to diagnose the coverage. The offense is also counting on its opponent to follow the moving skill player pre-snap and often that will be countered with a run or throw against that skill player's pre-snap movement.
For a good example, take a look at the formation below. In this instance, receiver Michael Campanaro is moving from his space at outside receiver toward the ball before snap. This movement will be supplemented by fullback Tommy Bohanon (who is essentially an H-Back) swinging from the strong side to the weak side in order to seal off the weakside defensive end. What does all of this movement do for the play? Nothing but to serve as a distraction - Wake ends up running the ball right up the middle. This is the type of "show-me" chess game Wake Forest plays week in, week out. Sometimes perimeter action is designed for an interior run, sometimes interior action is deigned for a perimeter pass.
The solution, for those of you in the stands or even a second-level defender, is to follow the action of the offensive line. Except for the rare cutback run, Wake Forest in most cases against North Carolina would follow its offensive line's blocking scheme to completion of the play. For example, if the five in front slid toward the quarterback's left after snap, the offense would usually feature a running play to the left or a passing play with a rollout to the left side.
Simply put, the offensive line scheme is usually a straight-up indicator for the linebackers and safeties to draw their cues.
Remember the rule just stated about following the offensive line just stated? Well, Wake will abandon that trend a few times a game. After lulling the defense to sleep with jet sweep or end around options - options that are feigned in favor of a straightforward play - the Deacons will run an end-around, double reverse or toss pass. Just ask Greg Reid and Terrance Parks in 2011. Wake is good for one of these a game against more talented opponents.
The keys for FSU are this: First, if the play is right in front of a linebacker or corner, shoot the gap, ignore the motion man and follow the offensive line. Second, if a linebacker, corner or safety is a backside defender, stay at home or stay in the correct lane.
Wide receiver Michael Campanaro is Wake Forest's most potent skill position player. The redshirt junior stands at a diminutive 5-feet-11, 195 pounds, but he is a target worthy of serious attention. Campanaro is primarily a slot receiver but can line up on the outside to feature different looks. His strength is in his first move - the wiggle or stutter-step he can put on a defender followed by a plus-burst. The Seminole defense will likely see Campanaro on the perimeter for some quick bubble screen looks, but he'll mostly operate between the hashmarks against a nickel corner or linebacker.
How Florida State will counter personnel-wise will be of serious interest. Does coach Stoops put an extra set of eyes on the junior? Do the 'Noles follow him around with top corner Xavier Rhodes? Those answers will be hidden until Saturday, but either way, Campanaro is a legitimate threat as both a route runner and after the ball ends up in his hands.
Deacon quarterback Tanner Price is the lifeblood of Wake's offensive chances. After two weeks and averaging under 2.5 yards per carry, Price is called upon to make the Deacon offense tick. He's more than adequate at moving the ball too.
A lefty out of Austin, Texas, Price has a couple of quirks to his game. He typically takes his time in the huddle, but after plodding along to the line of scrimmage, there is action all over the place. Price will roll out, fake a handoff or quick throw, or put a combination of those elements into a three to five second process before making a decision with the ball.
Price is mobile but not overly fast, and his decision-making is spotty. The junior is not afraid to try to fit a pass into a tight window, especially around the seams of the field. This will not apply to the Seminole safeties (unless one is sent up in a robber coverage), but the slot corner or linebacker may have a chance to make a play or two against the aggressive Price. As you might imagine, Wake likes to roll Price to his left to favor his strong side, but they will also feature quick throws to the right to keep spacing honest.
In all, Price has a decent arm but is not afraid to take some hefty risks after looking down a receiver.
Wake will operate out of the gun and pistol, giving Price the extra time to get rid of the ball as well as see defensive formations in front of him. Wake Forest's offensive line, although it averages over 300 pounds, is more useful in slide protections than with a straight ahead rushing attack. The Deacons could very well be relegated to a one-dimensional offense this weekend, spelling doom for their chances.
Should FSU remain disciplined on the back side of plays, ignore the pre-snap "show-me" looks and keep two sets of eyes fixed on Michael Campanaro, this weekend's game figures to be fairly successful. Wake likely will hit on a splash play or two - it's hard to account for every single instance of misdirection - but not enough to cause serious concerns ahead of Clemson next week.
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