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‘Not good enough’: FSU DC Adam Fuller sees major room for growth

Marvin Wilson pressures Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims in the season opener.
Marvin Wilson pressures Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims in the season opener.(Atlantic Coast Conference)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 3:56 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (247Sports) - Florida State’s defense set some specific goals ahead of its season opener against Georgia Tech: Record 10 or fewer missed tackles, this is the standard for every game, is one. Another, keep the Yellow Jackets to less than 14 points.

In both cases, FSU failed. The Seminoles compiled at least a dozen missed tackles in Saturday’s 16-13 loss and let the Yellow Jackets drive more efficiently than the 16-point effort indicates. Then some of the more generalized, weekly goals -- like applying consistent pressure on the quarterback and winning one-on-one matchups at all levels -- were not met consistently.

FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller met with media members on Wednesday to recap the game. Normally transparent and a straight shooter, Fuller didn’t sugarcoat what he saw on Saturday. The coach put the onus on himself in having to get players coached up better in different aspects, but was also blunt in his assessment of various aspects of the defense.

“We weren’t playing good enough,” Fuller said when asked about his defense’s performance before allowing its first score in the third quarter.

“Not good enough,” he said regarding the play of defensive ends after Joshua Kaindoh was injured.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he noted when discussing open-field tackling from his safeties.

In general, Fuller felt the performance from the defense was lacking. The Seminoles surrendered just 16 points, yes, but they allowed 438 yards and 5.84 yards per play to a Georgia Tech team that averaged 286.3 yards per game and 4.79 yards per play last season.

If it wasn’t for strong individual play by Asante Samuel Jr. picking off two poor passes from rookie QB Jeff Sims and two blocked field goals, the Yellow Jackets would’ve exceeded FSU’s goal of 14 points allowed by more than a full touchdown.

“I don’t think we played fast enough,” Fuller said. "There were certain plays you looked out and you felt really good about the end result, and there were plays that you didn’t feel good enough.

“I think the plan, there is some first-game situations that probably affected us a little bit that we have to do a better job in coaching that can’t happen, but it all comes to preparation and practice. Has practice been super-clean all the time? No. Our job is to continue to connect how that is happening in practice and making sure there is carry-over on Saturday. We are in the midst of working through that now. No, we didn’t play as fast as we wanted to play.”

There were some strong individual efforts to build on. Amari Gainer had 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, and he flew around to make plays from the Stud linebacker spot. Samuel Jr. had two picks and two more PBU. And newcomers like linebacker Stephen Dix Jr. and defensive end Josh Griffis held their own in their respective debuts.

But missed opportunities and mistakes at every level of the defense ultimately proved to be costly. The most concerning development from Saturday was that Kaindoh left the game with a leg injury and FSU managed just one sack.

Sims had far too much time to throw on the evening and never seemed to feel uncomfortable outside of a few plays. Georgia Tech, according to Stats Inc., was 127th nationally in pressure rate allowed (41.2) last year. Against FSU, Georgia Tech was only pressured on 11.9 percent of drop-backs.

“There were some plays that got extended on Saturday that fell on the rush. There were some losses on the line of scrimmage, whether it’s in press or zone that created some quicker throws and didn’t allow the rush to get there. So it was a little bit of both,” Fuller said. “Listen, we’ve got to generate more pressure. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure there’s enough pressure in each situation regardless of the situation.”

And then there were the missed tackles in space. Georgia Tech had 17 plays of 10+ yards -- which is fairly average -- but bad angles and technique from safeties played a huge role in letting short gains turn into chunk plays.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Fuller said. “We’ve got to be better, especially in tackling in the open field at safety. We’re working through that right now.”

With a week off, Fuller will have extra time to coach up tackling techniques and re-evaluate personnel.

“We are far from the end-result,” Fuller said. “We have to keep digging and keep working and every day is going to be like that, but especially after game one, pieces are getting moved around, yes sir.”

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