Florida State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett is working to translate the effort he sees from the Seminoles during practice to stronger production on game day.
Like FSU coach Willie Taggart, Barnett firmly believes the Seminoles are capable of doing more than they have been able to deliver recently.
While the secondary has had its issues, Barnett said the No. 1 priority is to stop the run. He described No. 20 Boston College (7-3, 4-2 ACC), FSU’s opponent Saturday, as a very physical team with a look the Seminoles (4-6, 2-5) haven’t seen much this season.
“They do it differently. They like to run the football like you said,” Barnett said. “Head coach is a former offensive-line coach. This is the second guy we’ve faced like that I know of — the Northern Illinois guy was an offensive-line coach as well — and so they’re going to do what they feel comfortable doing. They do a good job at it. They’re well coached. They’ve got a big back that runs hard. It’s going to be a major challenge for us, and we’ll be ready.”
They will have to contain running back AJ Dillon, who enters the contest having amassed 1,589 yards during eight games this season.
“He has good vision and feet. He’s very nimble to be so big,” Barnett said. “I think those are great qualities of a good running back. Vision, feet and the size with it. He’s not a slow big guy. He can run.”
The Eagles’ offensive line has shown it can impose its will on opposing defenses, helping Dillion rack up yards. Barnett said they will have to match their intensity and physicality at the line if they hope to contain the run and make things hard for the quarterback, whether that be Anthony Brown, who is day-to-day with an abdominal injury, or backup EJ Perry.
“You’ve got to be physical in this football game. You know that’s what their guys are being told, and we’re telling our guys the same thing,” Barnett said. “We always say to play fast, physical and aggressive but let’s put an emphasis on physical this week. Ready to play a physical game on Saturday.”
Barnett said that last week defensive end Joshua Kaindoh got the nod because “he’s doing well” and the “best players play and we’re going to stick with that.”
He also said having linebackers Dontavious Jackson and Leonard Warner on the field at the same time could help.
“You like that, first of all, they’ve both been in control of the defense in the middle of the defense, being able to call things out,” he said. “So D-Jack and Leonard are in there together, calling things out, seeing things, maybe helping one another out by seeing something, helping the entire defense out by calling something sooner because they’re working together.”
Barnett still believes his secondary is in position to make plays, they just have to step up and do it.
“They’re right there. It’s not like they’re 10 yards behind the guy. You’re back there taking pictures sometimes right there where they’re catching the ball. You can yell, ‘Hey, find the ball! Make a play on the ball,’ ” he joked.
He also noted that there’s a chance FSU could play more zone coverage to help out the defensive backs.
“This team is not built that way as much, I don’t think. But you can see that because you have more vision on the ball and being able to break on the ball with zone coverages,” he said. “We try to mix ’em up anyhow, so they’re not just always locked up. But definitely. We want to be able to mix a little bit more of that in there so our guys can have vision and break on the ball and make plays on the ball.”