Previewing Terps-Florida State with Orlando Sentinel reporter Brendan Sonnone

October 03, 2013

To get ready for Saturday's Top 25 clash between Maryland and Florida State, we traded emails with Brendan Sonnone, who covers ther Seminoles for the Orlando Sentinel. You can check out more of Brendan's coverage on his blog The Chopping Block.

TRACKING THE TERPS: FSU quarterback Jameis Winston has gotten plenty of pub already. How does he compare to EJ Manuel, and has he shown any weaknesses yet?

BRENDAN SONNONE: As odd as it is to write this, Winston is already playing at a level that is comparable to Manuel, a first-round selection in this year’s NFL draft. Manuel is a bit more athletic than Winston, but the redshirt freshman quarterback has the edge on Manuel in about every other category. 

Pointing out weaknesses of Winston’s is nitpicky. Sometimes he can try to force things and will not look for the easy check down, but that aggressive nature has really served him well thus far. The coaching staff would rather have Winston be a bit too aggressive than too conservative. At this point, it appears that Winston is the real deal.

It seems like this is a younger Florida State defense under a new coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt? Is that an early concern for this team?

FSU is certainly relying on many young players in this new multiple-scheme defense, but the periodic defensive struggles we’ve seen early on have more to do with a lack of comfort in the scheme than youth. Players seem to be feeling their way through this new scheme and are not reacting as quickly as they did last season when the team was in a base 4-3 formation. Against Boston College, it looked like guys at the second level were doing more thinking and less reacting. As a result, the Seminoles surrendered 200 yards on the ground.

Part of that may be inexperience, but as DT Timmy Jernigan said the other day, it’s like the staff is working with a whole defense full of freshmen because everything is new to the players.

Give us one key Seminole to watch on Saturday who we probably haven’t heard of yet.

Keep an eye on sophomore cornerback P.J. Williams.

He was a reserve player for FSU last season but has emerged as a starter this year. He was excellent last week, recording a timely interception return for a touchdown against Boston College.

Williams is obviously a critical part of this matchup because Maryland fields a handful of explosive playmakers, namely Stefon Diggs. It will be interesting to see how much Williams is matched up against Diggs -- Diggs could very easily see CB/S Lamarcus Joyner for most of the afternoon depending on where he lines up. But whoever Williams is guarding, he’ll frequently be asked to hold his own one-on-one. How he does in those situations could dictate whether Maryland has success through the air.

What’s the impression of this Maryland team from down there?

The Terrapins getting that AP top 25 ranking really helped open up the eyes of some fans here. Because of Maryland’s relatively soft schedule, there were those who were skeptical about whether the Terps were for real or not. Now that they’re 25th nationally, it seems like FSU fans are intrigued about Maryland and this multidimensional offense, although I don’t know if they’re as nervous as they should be about the Terps.

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