October 14, 2009
This is the longest week of Florida State's increasingly miserable season, a bye that gives the 'Noles five extra days to mull over their three consecutive losses before their next attempt to stop the bleeding Thursday at North Carolina. There, another loss would drop FSU to 2-5, 0-4 in the ACC and practically ensure the 'Noles' first losing season in 30 years with four more losable conference games and Florida still to come. Assistant may not be coming to blows (yet) at the low point of most of their careers, but clearly the walls are beginning to close in.
For Exhibit A, see not embattled figurehead Bobby Bowden, who's already looking forward to a bright future, but his longtime defensive coordinator, Mickey Andrews, who seethed Tuesday when an Orlando Sentinel reporter suggested there may be a schematic answer to FSU's defensive woes that Andrews hasn't considered:
Andrew Carter: (OS) Are there are any adjustments in scheme you can make that would help you guys through these issues?
â¨Mickey Andrews: Do you not think I would make an adjustment if I could do it? Now that’s a crazy--- question. And I hope that answer was as crazy as the question.
AC: Well the same things keep on happening over and over.
â¨MA: Well you want to come do my job?
AC: I can't.
â¨MA: It’s our job and it’s our job to get it done.
Andrews later apologized later, but it's easy to see the root of his frustration: After being shredded by Georgia Tech in almost every possible fashion Saturday night (in addition to rushing for an incredible 401 yards, the Jackets also averaged more than 30 yards on four completions, including a 73-yard touchdown pass from Josh Nesbitt to Demaryius Thomas), FSU -- take a deep breath, nostalgists -- currently ranks 108th in total defense dead last in the ACC, and is also last in the conference by many miles in pass efficiency defense; the 'Noles are next-to-last in the league against the run and in points allowed. That's a very far cry from anything Andrews has had to deal with on his watch even since the beginning of FSUs' long decline at the start of the decade:
Most of those numbers would be worse without the inclusion of the win over Jacksonville State; the only other time the defense has shown up, holding South Florida and first-time starter B.J. Daniels to 17 points, the offense failed to show. (And Daniels, despite a very mediocre day overall as a passer, hit two 70-plus-yard completions that sparked the Bulls' upset.) The 'Noles have only put together one somewhat complete game, at BYU, and the cheeky "fourth place in the state" digs might start to look quaint next to the looming reality that Florida State, perennial conference kingpin, is possibly the worst team in the ACC at midseason by any meaningful metric.
The one place that's not true, of course, is in terms of raw talent; FSU has remained the league's dominant recruiter along with Miami. But where the 'Canes' star-studded classes finally seem to be paying some dividends on the field, FSU is notable at the moment for its complete lack of star power: The defense had a single player on the preseason All-ACC team, linebacker Dekoda Watson, the same number it put on the postseason all-conference team last year; defensive end Everette Brown was the only draftee in April, from a school that had 26 defenders picked from 2001-08.
Andrews produced 26 full-fledged All-Americans (excluding honorable mentions, all-freshman teams, etc.) in 25 years, the vast majority in the nineties, when he specialized in converting linebacker recruits into a line of unstoppable edge rushers -- Derrick Alexander, Boulware, Wilson, Andre Wadsworth and Jamal Reynolds -- who themselves specialized in knocking opposing quarterbacks out of the lineup. Brown may be the only player who really fit that mold since FSU's last national championship appearance in 2000, a team that featured top-10 pick Jamal Reynolds off the edge and five other future draft picks behind him in the back seven. Either those players are no longer coming in -- and the recruiting rankings suggest they are -- or they're no longer being develiped: Next spring, again, they'll be lucky to have two off the board, as many (or fewer) than Wake Forest, Clemson, N.C. State, Boston College, et al, which -- in the context of the slow, steady decline of the last five years, says all you need to know about how one of the most formidable powerhouses in the country is bringing up the rear of its most chaotic, least imposing division.