As Florida State prepares to square off with Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in their Labor Day season opener, here are five things to watch for:
1.) How does Jameis Winston Settle in After the First Quarter
I think somewhere between the end of the first drive and the end of the first quarter the whole swell of emotion from the start of a season will subside a bit, the adrenaline rush will taper off to a steady flow and Seminoles fans will get their first real glimpse of Jameis Winston. FSU will likely have their first drive or two heavily rehearsed, once things open up and both teams start to make adjustments it will be interesting to see how Winston settles in.
2.) Can Someone Take the Lid Off the Panther Defense Early?
Fact is, Pitt would be a little crazy not to load the box and force Florida State's redshirt freshman quarterback to beat them. That's going to make it even more important for the Seminoles to take a deep shot or two early to try and take the top off of the Pitt D and give the backs and blockers some room to breath. Kelvin Benjamin could have a huge season doing just that this year for the Seminoles. Either way, someone will need to do it early on, on Monday.
3.) How Does the Defense Morph Over the Course of the Game?
The Panther offensive line average 315 per player and it's likely with unproven receivers (outside of Devin Street) that Pittsburgh will try to attack FSU with a power run game. To counter FSU will start one of the heaviest configurations it is likely to employ all year. Eddie Goldman, normally a DT, is starting as the strongside end. Dan Hicks, usually a DE, is standing up and starting at strongside linebacker. If Pitt plans to run strong-side behind their right tackle, they are essentially attempting to do it on a 5-2 front. If FSU can go up a few scores and put some distance between themselves and the Panthers though, watch how the personnel changes and the Seminoles begin to attack differently.
4.) What Does Gio Newberry Do?
Giorgio Newberry switched from Defensive End to Tight End this year. This transition is the brainchild of Jimbo Fisher, who believes big blocking Tight Ends are the wave of the future in light of the increasing size of the defensive fronts in college football. While Newberry possesses deceptive receiving skills, his primary function will be to set edges and block defensive ends or linebackers trying to do the same (set the edge) for the defense. If Newberry is successful in this capacity, Fisher may have a legitimate wrinkle to his run game. If not, Newberry will just serve as a 6-6 280-pound advertisement for FSU's intention to run.
5.) Any Hiccups on Special Teams?
For the first time in years Dustin Hopkins will not be booming balls through the uprights for Florida State, Roberto Aguayo will be making his debut on Monday as Hopkin's replacement. Aside from that, the Seminoles also dealt with breakdowns in punt protection and muffed punt return attempts last season. All of those issues garnered plenty of offseason attention from Fisher and his team. Monday will be the first chance to see how that phases of the game looks for the Seminoles.
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