WATCH: Kendal Briles, Sept. 17
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Through three games, Kendal Briles’ impact on the Florida State offense is clear.
Not only are the Seminoles on pace for their highest scoring total since 2016 (33.6 points per game), but they’ve also seen healthy upticks in rushing yardage (137.7) and passing yardage (281.0) from a year ago.
Most importantly, they’re doing it in Briles’ preferred fashion: Quickly.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Seminoles are averaging 19.1 seconds per play – the second-fastest rate in the country and more than four seconds faster than last season (23.5).
FSU is also averaging 75.7 plays per game, good for 39th most in the country, nearly three plays per game better than 2018 and on pace for the program’s most since at least 2004.
And, quick as the Seminoles have been, Briles believes there’s still room between the accelerator and the floorboard.
His offense at Houston last year, for instance, averaged 79.0 plays per game and regularly logged play counts in the mid-80s.
“We’re still not playing the tempo we want to be able to play with,” Briles said before Florida State’s practice on Tuesday morning. “I think that’s the biggest thing we still need to continue to get better.”
Which doesn’t mean that Briles simply wants the Seminoles to physically move faster. Improvement, he said, will come through increased knowledge of the offense’s mechanics, doing little things like handing the ball to officials rather than waiting for them to pick it up themselves, and understanding how field position, down and distance all affect what the offense is trying to do.
More than anything, though, the Seminoles will best be served by knowing their signals to the point that receiving them and then lining up properly becomes second nature.
“You know, sometimes (players will) get nicked and you have to change personnel and it slows you down in the game,” Briles said. “And (officials) look at calls, measure first downs, all that kind of stuff – you can’t control that.
“The things we can control are getting the ball in, seeing the signals faster and getting lined up faster.”
FSU’s pace has become a hot topic in the wake of the Virginia game, during which the Cavaliers held the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
The Seminoles lead by a touchdown after three quarters, but UVA scored 21 in the fourth and head coach Willie Taggart theorized that being on the field so much caused his defense to wear down in the final period.
And, while the issue came to prominence at UVA, it was hardly new. The Seminoles through three games rank last nationally in time of possession (23:10.67 per game) and were on the short side of big discrepancies against Boise State and ULM, too.
And the topic was thrust further into the spotlight on Saturday night, when, leading Virginia 24-23 with 6:02 to play, the Seminoles went three-and-out in the span of 68 seconds of game time.
WATCH: James Blackman, Sept. 17
“We could have stayed on the field a little more, offensively,” Taggart said. “It would have helped (the defense). But I do think we need more than 20 minutes of time of possession as an offense.”
Briles on Tuesday was asked Tuesday if the Seminoles had a “four-minute offense” – meaning the ability to drain the clock and play keep-away late in tight games.
And although he didn’t divulge details, Briles said, “we have that (ability),” and that there are “several different ways” to slow things down without hindering the offense.
Briles is fine stepping on the brakes when it makes sense to do so. But he also thinks that the Seminoles can better solve their problems by being better at what they do normally.
It’s likely not a coincidence that FSU’s low time-of-possession numbers also coincide with a sub-par third-down conversion rate. And room for improvement on third down implies, of course, that the offense isn’t always getting things done on first and second down.
Better execution from the offense, then, will not only allow the Seminoles to hold the ball longer (and give their taxed defense more breathers), but it will also lead to more points on the scoreboard.
And no defense ever complained about that.
“I know (time of possession) has been talked about, but that helps more than anything – just executing,” Briles said. “…Us staying on the field puts their (opposing) defense on the field longer.
“Then, you happen to have plays that work in your favor. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to stay on the field longer and move the ball.”