Facts are facts, and acknowledging that C.J. Brown back in 2011 was absolutely nothing compared to 2013 C.J. Brown is something we have to make known. Brown is so completely and totally reformed from his start at Florida State two years ago, that looking back may even be considered useless at this point. But I’m going to do it anyway, because I am positive that Brown has as well.
Brown’s 2011 game at Florida State lasted about one half before he was leveled worse than Avicii by Nigel Bradham when he tried to scramble early in the third quarter and taken off the field. His six drives before that hit went for 146 yards, five punts, and one field goal at the end of the half. Brown was also sacked three times in the first half, and was forced to abandon a heavy run-based scheme in favor of airing it out because of the deficit Florida State had accrued to that point.
But as you watch those drives again, which you can here in rapid pace, it’s very clear there are pointers Brown can take from this game. For a team like Florida State, where the personnel may change but the talent level rarely does, what held true in 2011 will likely not ring hollow at present. And for a quarterback who predominantly uses his legs to accomplish great things and will be running a very similar offense to the one he did against FSU in 2011, Brown would be wise to have rewatched this game to see how they stopped him up so fully.
1.) Take advantage of short routes
One area where Brown actually had success against Florida State was on short and intermediate routes, which shouldn’t surprise you much. Quick hits are one way to negate the inherent athletic advantage that Florida State teams typically have against your own. The sooner you get the ball out of your hands, the harder it is for a defender to close the gap and get into coverage.
Against Florida State, Brown dropped back 22 times, three of which resulted in a sack. Of his 11 completions that game, seven were accomplished by Brown getting rid of the ball in about 1.5 seconds and dumping it off to a receiver slanting across the middle, a bubble screen, or a tight end releasing up the field. He used his legs to buy him more time twice for a short gain, and completed two more passes on dump offs that resulted in menial gains.
On his incompletions? The three drop backs where he held onto the ball for even a half second longer he was sacked for tons of yardage (that’s Florida State’s athletic advantage), he had two balls dropped, and over/under threw three receivers.
Brown needs to use Stefon Diggs and Deon Long on quick hitting routes early to open up the run game, because regardless of what Andre Williams did against the Seminoles, yards on the ground won’t come easy. If he can get his tight end involved and open up the middle of the field, all the better for the Terps. He has a few more weapons than in 2011, and using all of them to spread the field out for him to run should help.
2.) Don’t be afraid to pitch the ball
Against this Florida State defense, altering the play after the snap is going to be critical because these guys are less than disciplined, to say the least. Any amount of misdirection will force these defenders to think a bit more, and open up running lanes for the Terps to scream through.
Back in 2011, Brown rushed for a net total of zero yards (factoring in sacks, of course). If we take away the sacks, he gained a total of 25 yards on six carries, good for a 4.1 yards per attempt average. Unfortunately, a lot of what he did on the ground ended up just being short gains for three yards before bailing to the sidelines or being completely stuffed up the middle on zone read plays.
Where Brown and Davin Meggett did have some success, though, were on pitches off outside zone reads. The slight misdirections by Brown where he pitched it to Meggett were one of the main reasons Davin was able to gain around four yards a carry in 2011. Now Ross and Meggett aren’t the same kind of runner, but Brandon Ross could benefit greatly from being able to get a full head of steam on some pitches to the outside.
It also limits the amount of hits Brown will be taking against a team that tends to hit very hard. Obviously Brown got hurt his last outing against Florida State, and using his legs to run outside can prevent a lot of those hits. Dishing it off to Ross (or Diggs) at the last second can further limit that damage.
This year’s FSU defense isn’t nearly as dominant as the 2011 version, but to suggest that they aren’t just as talented is foolish. The Seminoles can turn it on at any given time and show up with an excessively good performance. No, there’s no Greg Reed, there’s no Werner and Tank Carradine, but they still have an abundance of skill. Finding the simple things that work against them will be important.