As the Clemson Tigers have been preparing for their highly anticipated matchup against the Florida State Seminoles, one thing has been on the mind of many Clemson and college football fans alike: Just how do you stop Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston?
By all scouting reports, he has been the picture of perfection. At 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, he has the size you look for in a quarterback. His mechanics are sound, he has a strong arm, great pocket presence, and he’s a threat to take off from the pocket thanks to his great mobility. And thus far, no defense has been able to come up with a real solution to stop him. Thus far, Winston has thrown for 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and two lone interceptions. He also has 135 rushing yards with two rushing touchdowns. Since stepping under center, the Seminoles boast the nation’s third ranked scoring offense, averaging 53.6 points per game, while ranking 18th in passing yards with 320.8 points per game and 17th in rushing with 228.2 points per game.
So just how can Clemson shut down the freshman sensation?
First, it all starts with Clemson’s front seven. Clemson’s defensive line has been great getting pressure on the quarterback all season long, and getting consistent pressure on Winston will go a long way towards limiting his productivity and keeping him from getting in any kind of rhythm. This means that national sacks leader Vic Beasley, as well as Corey Crawford and Shaq Lawson, must bring it from the edge, while it will be up to Grady Jarrett,Deshawn Williams, Josh Watson and DJ Reader to disrupt the Seminoles’ interior offensive line.
Next, the linebackers must stay disciplined in their gap assignments and keep containment so as to not let Winston use his legs to beat them. This means Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony must not lose containment as Winston rolls out of the pocket. Winston has performed well when the play breaks down, mainly because teams often lose containment because of his ability to escape outside the pocket. Just as Winston is the quarterback of the offense, it will be up to Anthony and Shuey to correctly align the Tigers’ front seven to limit Winston on the ground. The Tigers did a great job in limiting the nation’s leading rusher in Andre Williams to a mere 70 yards on 24 carries. They have to do the same to not let Winston beat them with his dual threat ability.
Next, it all starts with limiting his down field passing game. Just as teams have done to Clemson in limiting their down field passing attack with a two deep safety look, forcing Winston to think about his deep ball and forcing him to take a shorter underneath route could have its dividends. You can be sure that defensive coordinator Brent Venables will throw a good number of looks at the redshirt freshman and force him to think about making the deep ball throws. This means that safeties Travis Blanks and Robert Smith must not get caught looking in the backfield, and Clemson’s group of veteran corners in Bashaud Breeland, Darius Robinson, Martin Jenkins and Garry Peters must continually challenge Florida State’s receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Last but not least, it’s up to the 12th man to do their job. This means that whenever Winston is on the field, make it known that this environment is unlike any he has ever played in. This means being loud on all four downs and do your job. The 12th man has rattled its share of quarterbacks, and Winston is no different. It should be the goal of every Clemson fan on hand to make sure that Saturday night is to be as absolutely loud as possible to properly extend a welcoming environment the redshirt freshman to Death Valley Memorial Stadium.