Pitt is coming out of its bye week off the heels of a four-game losing streak. With Paris Ford having opted out and no idea when Kenny Pickett will suit up, the Panthers are in a state of uncertainty. However, their game against the 2-4 Florida State Seminoles is very winnable. With hopes of bowl games still on their minds, they must win this game to achieve that goal. What are the Panthers facing as they go to Tallahassee this Saturday?
Florida State’s Schemes
The Florida State offense is a dynamic one that has changed its shape from earlier in the season. Once an offense that heavily reflected the one Mike Norvell used in Memphis that was predicated on RPOs and a quick passing game, the Florida State offense has kept the core Norvell principals while evolving into something different. With quarterback changes afoot in the program, Norvell has been trying to fit his scheme to the specific quarterback. With freshman Jordan Travis emerging as the best option, it is clear that the offense now as its identity as one that looks to mess with the eyes of defenders and beat them with that misdirection.
This is a great representation of what this offense has become. It has kept the core concept of the offense. This is a pure shotgun and pistol offense. As seen here, the tight end is often aligned as an H-Back, which gives the offense lots of options to the flat and over the middle in the passing game. However, it is the running game where that tight end can be leveraged in creative ways. Still, play-action has become an increasingly important part of this offense over the weeks. Most of these RPOs are for show and this is going to be a pass the entire time. However, the puller messes with the linebackers and can freeze the safeties, too. With extra blockers being kept in for protection, Travis can take deep shots. The Seminoles have started to manifest more deep plays, especially Hi-Lo concepts that attack man coverage from heavy blitzing teams.
Motion in the Seminoles offense is diverse in how it utilizes its motion concepts. Some of these concepts are Yo-Yo motions to get a read on the coverage. Others are trying to set the line correctly for pass protection or a running play to the strong side of a play. Jet and Orbit motion are used heavily and lots of passes out to the flat are complete this way as well. However, a simple motion like this to help set the edge is another strong possibility. The running back in Florida State’s scheme is a chess piece that moves around the formation. With Travis’ mobility, speed option, rollouts, and read option are all distinct possibilities.
The rushing scheme of the Seminoles offense is unique. They do run a little bit of everything from zone to gap plays. However, it is how they use the gap plays that makes them so tough to defend and process for linebackers. While they have pullers to identify it as a gap, a lot of footwork is actually zone-blocking footwork. Norvell is unique for doing this, as it is pretty rare, but it makes it a tad harder to process everything that is going on. As such, run fits are different and everything can be thrown into flux as a result.
The Seminoles defense runs a 3-4 base scheme that can be broken down into a 4-2-5 scheme as well. Defensive Coordinator Adam Fuller has a key along the defensive line. Fuller calls this position the “Fox” position, where an outside linebacker stands up on the edge and can crash into the middle on stunts. At times, they will disguise the rush and drop back into coverage as well. The key to this scheme is what the secondary does in tandem with the chaos up front. Fuller likes to create chaos for receivers at the line of scrimmage and does run a good bit of press coverage. Even a cornerback blitz can come out of this defense. Fuller is creative and creates defensive mismatches.
Players to Watch
QB Jordan Travis
The new quarterback for the Seminoles is providing some stability after an uncertain start to the season. Travis’ mobility is his greatest asset. He is elusive and tough to bring down. For a Freshman, he has great poise and can extend the play and fire the ball downfield before using his legs. In terms of accuracy, Travis is hit or miss. Outside the numbers is where he can struggle, but thus far he has been money over the middle of the field. Now just getting healthy, Travis is looking to continue his strong start to his college career.
WR Tamorrion Terry
Terry is an absolute physical freak. Make no mistake about this, Terry is a 6-foot-4 mammoth wide receiver who runs a confirmed laser-timed 40-yard dash in the 4.3s. There is nothing that is not impressive about that fact. Terry is a deep threat and has pulled off some massive plays with Travis. Given the Panthers’ man coverage-based scheme, Terry will be a huge threat to slow down on Seminoles’ offense. Terry is a future NFL player, and it will be a tough task for anyone guarding him.
DT Marvin Wilson
Part of the chaos the Seminoles can create up front is thanks to the services of Marvin Wilson. One of the strongest linemen in the nation, Wilson came into the season as the top-rated defensive line prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft by some. While not juiced up athletically, Wilson has deadly strength and hammers for hands. For Steelers fans, Wilson has some qualities that look like Cam Heyward at times on the field. As the 3-technique in the Florida State defense, the interior of the offensive line must hold up.
S Hamsah Nasirildeen
Nasirildeen is another NFL prospect that has freakish athletic traits. Coming off a Torn ACL, Nasirildeen has picked right up where he left off. He can do almost anything on the field. Nasirildeen plays in the box as an extra linebacker, goes back to be a center field free safety, mans up players in the slot, and even plays off the edge at times. He is a hybrid that is asked to do a whole lot and comes up big for the Seminoles. Not just that, but he is a ballhawk as well who thrives in man coverage.
CB Asante Samuel Jr.
The son of former Patriots, Falcons, and Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, Asante Samuel Jr has a lot of the traits that made his dad such a great cornerback in the NFL. Notably, it is his fluidity, football IQ, and ball skills that net him such high praise on a national level. As is true for many players with deep football bloodlines, Samuel Jr sees things a different way and just plays at one hundred miles per hour. As a sticky man coverage cornerback on top of that, Samuel Jr is going to be a player to watch in the secondary.
Matchups to Watch
Carter Warren and Gabe Huoy vs Joshua Kaindoh and Janarius Robinson
Kaindoh and Robinson were not mentioned in the players to watch, but they are a dangerous duo of edge rushers that Pitt will have to contend with. Interestingly, these two could not be more polar opposites. Robinson is an average athlete but has an elite length that he uses incredibly well. Kaindoh is a twitched-up athlete that flies off the line of scrimmage but lacks the technical nuances that Robinson does. Regardless of that fact, they are both dangerous, and the Panthers’ tackles must step up in a big way.
Tamorrion Terry vs Jason Pinnock
This is the matchup to watch for the entire game. With Pat Narduzzi loving to run as much man coverage as he does, it seems to stand that Pinnock will be left on an island with a gargantuan task to slow down Terry. If so, it would not be a surprise to see the Panthers bring Pinnock up to slow down Terry and jam him at the line of scrimmage. Terry has struggled with press coverage in the past, and to slow him down out of these aggressive looks, they may have to get physical with their most physically gifted cornerback.