FSU's secondary to be challenged even by run-based offense

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews admitted earlier this week that he “didn’t have the guts” to make changes to his starting lineup last Saturday against Boston College.

This week, he might not have a choice.

Freshman rover Jajuan Harley was expected to get his first career start in Chestnut Hill, but Andrews stuck with the experience of senior Korey Mangum. This week, as the Seminoles prepare to host No. 22 Georgia Tech, Mangum has been nursing a shoulder injury that has hindered his tackling ability and Harley is listed as No. 1 on this week’s depth chart.

And senior cornerback Patrick Robinson, who defended Georgia Tech star receiver Demaryius Thomas last year, sustained an ankle sprain in the first half against Boston College, and was in an immobilized boot earlier this week but practiced Wednesday.

“It will probably come down to how bad he wants to play, and how effective he can be if he plays,” Andrews said. “I think he’ll try. We’ll just have to see what he can do. A lot of healing is through the mind. If he thinks he’s hurt, he won’t play.”

Even though the Seminoles will be facing a run-based defense, they’ll need all the help they can get on Saturday.

Florida State’s secondary was a concern this summer and not much has changed in Tallahassee since two-a-days. While the future of Florida State’s football program was being discussed earlier this week by high-ranking university officials, there was no decision made that could immediately fix the problems with the Seminoles’ passing defense. Florida State ranks 112th nationally in pass efficiency defense, and 112th in pass defense.

“We can definitely be playing a lot better,” said cornerback Ochuko Jenije. “It’s the small errors that are killing us now. We’re focusing on being better at the small things. It’s basically just mental errors. We know what we’re doing during practice, but during the game we make errors on leverage, or different reads and people are getting behind us. That’s been our kryptonite right now.”

Part of the problem is that FSU hasn’t been putting enough pressure on the quarterback, but they’re also getting beat deep on occasion by the receivers, getting penalized for pass interference on third downs, and dropping potential interceptions.

“We’ve got to pressure better than that and we’ve got to cover better than that,” Andrews said. “Turnovers are caused by great pressure on the receiver and on the quarterback. You’ve got to whip people, you’ve got to whip blockers, you gotta whip the guys running the pass pattern, and of course eliminate the long plays, the long passes.”

Against Boston College, Florida State had 28 plays where they allowed a yard or less, but too many where they gave up big plays. Andrews said right now, he’s got an “average defense,” and that’s their choice.

When asked if he has the talent, Andrews declined to talk about it.

“We’ve got what we’ve got,” he said. “It’s our job to put them in position they can make plays.”

If Robinson doesn’t play, it will be up to Greg Reid to cover Thomas. Although Reid has had an impressive season for a freshman, he’ll be at a height disadvantage against Thomas. Reid is 5-foot-9 while Thomas is 6-foot-3.

“I don’t know if we’ve played anybody that’s as big as he is,” Andrews said. “I can tell you right now they’re going to throw the ball to him. … They’re going to get the ball to him, it’s just who’s on him, can they cover him, or will they cover him? He’ll be a big challenge, there’s no doubt about it. You can’t cover everybody and play the run like you need to and double cover him. You can, but they’ll penalize you. We’ve got it figured out if they’d just let us play with that extra guy. And they ought to, we need it right now.”