FSU's Defense Will Improve in 2010, But Not for the Reason You Think

Marshall WhiteContributor IJune 28, 2010

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Little #8 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dives past Florida State Seminole defenders for a first quarter touchdown at Kenan Stadium on October 22, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The 2010 FSU defense will be completely different under new coordinator Mark Stoops. The switch from a predominantly man coverage team for the past quarter century under Mickey Andrews, to one that will play zone as its base will test all the defensive position segments. There's a need to learn both new terminology, as well as new techniques.

The new scheme, new terminology, and new techniques should all help FSU improve from a dismal 2009 season which saw the defense rank 96th nationally.  However, the biggest reason for improvement will be because the players in the front seven (defensive linemen and linebackers) are simply bigger.

Size in the front seven is a crucial component of a successful defense in today’s game.  Lack of size in the defensive front seven hinders a defense’s ability to control the point of attack, tackle, sack the QB, tackle for loss etc. 

The starting front seven from FSU’s 96th-ranked defense in 2009 weighed 1,734 lbs.  This was by design.  For years Mickey Andrews recruited speed first with a lesser regard for size.  That strategy worked throughout the '90s when teams primarily ran a pro-style offense. The evolution of the spread offense and the mobile quarterback served as a successful counter to Mickey’s undersized, attacking man to man defense. 

Now let’s look at the top 20 defenses from the 2009 season and the weights of their front seven:

Ninety percent of the best 20 defenses were over 1,780 lbs in the front seven (and 100 percent of the 10 best).  Seventy-five percent were over 1,790 lbs.  Fifty-five percent were over 1,800 lbs! Again, the 2009 Seminole starting front seven was only 1,734 lbs.

Obviously size in the front seven matters. FSU failed to account for the fact that modern offenses were adapting to take advantage of its speed-first strategy and that failure to adjust cost FSU dearly in the past few years.

Jimbo Fisher has recognized this problem and has begun taking the necessary steps to correct it.  By upgrading the nutrition, strength and conditioning program, as well as an increased focus on recruiting what Jimbo Fisher calls, “Grown Ass Men,” the problem will be fixed sooner than later.

The projected starting front seven for the 2010 FSU defense will check in at approximately 1,845 pounds.  This puts Mark Stoops' unit on par with the top defenses in the country.

The 270lb defensive tackles will be replaced by 300 pounders.  Any 240lb defensive ends will be replaced by 260-270 pounders.  Linebackers ranging from 220–240 lbs will be replaced by linebackers ranging from 240–255 lbs.

While increased size alone isn’t enough to make FSU a dominant defense again, it will go a long way towards the defensive improvements expected in 2010.

* Defensive Weights Taken From School Websites.  Number of starts was used to determine starter.  If players split time (two with five+ starts each, their weights were averaged). 

* Best 20 defenses determined by FootballOutsiders.com

* Some information in this article provided by Tomahawk Nation