January 3, 2014

Eye discipline once again a hot topic for FSU defense

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF - 'Eye Discipline' became something of a catchphrase for Florida State early in the season. After the Seminoles were gashed by Boston College on misdirection plays, staying home with their assignments took on a new significance.

The focus on that aspect paid off as FSU's defense quickly shored up its wandering eyes. But the catchphrase has come back into vogue with Florida State in the past month in preparing for Auburn.

There's good reason why: Auburn's running attack is very good, and it's predicated on misdirection. The Tigers have piled up more than 4,300 yards on the ground, most of it straight ahead, by baiting teams out of position with misdirection.

"What they're going to hit you with, they're going to hit you with," senior linebacker Telvin Smith said. "They're going to line up and do it. Now, sometimes they hit you with a little window dressing to try and get your eyes all messed up with the rocket motion and stuff. But when that comes as a player, you've got to be disciplined."

The problem is that Auburn's window dressing is very, very distracting. And early in the season Florida State was susceptible to that. With a new defense and a number of new starters, the Seminoles got burned at times by trying to make too many plays.

"Early in the season we were trying to figure it out," Christian Jones said. "The most important thing for our defense is guys doing their jobs. … I think guys didn't understand how important it is that they do their assignment; they were just trying to make a play, but for our scheme it's important that we do our assignment."

Jones took that message to heart - as an edge rusher for Florida State, he's the person who Auburn's triple option will often key off of with reads. Jones' speed gives him an edge in those situations, but against Auburn, he said he knows how important it will be to stay home.

"You don't know where they're going to end up with the ball," Jones said. "We have seen plays where they were supposed to go up the middle and they bounced out because the guy lost containment."

So far this season, Florida State has been remarkably stout against the run. Since FSU gave up 200 yards rushing at Boston College, the Seminoles are averaging 109.5 yards per game on the ground to close out the season. No team has scored a rushing touchdown against FSU's first-team defense. That speaks to Jones' and fellow edge rusher Mario Edwards's discipline along with the rest of FSU's defense. They have not given up many long runs of the type that Auburn routinely breaks against opponents. But the Tigers' combination of speed and blocking skill has given the best defenses in college football fits - just ask Alabama, which gave up a whopping 296 rushing yards to Auburn and 5.69 yards per carry.

"That's what they do," Senior safety Terrence Brooks said. "That's their thing and they've done very well at it. I mean you can't knock it. You can't take anything away from them. They do some great things over there. We respect that. We want to go against good offenses like that."

Brooks and the FSU defense will just have to make sure not to get distracted by the window dressing.

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