October 3, 2012

In few chances, Seminole return game shows flashes

They haven't had all that many opportunities to perform this year - a credit to the Seminole defense - but Florida State's kick return team has been an interesting group to watch. Much like a professional backfield, special teams coach Eddie Gran provides a blend of speed and power in 2012 with Karlos Williams and Lamarcus Joyner back for a second year of split duty.

Team's don't universally favor kicking to one player over the other, either. First, Clemson decided to direct its kickoffs the way of Joyner, ultimately surrendering a big second-half return to the junior safety. Then South Florida decided to pick on Williams and promptly paid for it with a 60-yard first quarter return.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher commented that both returners have film that could deter an opponent from kicking to one, the other or simply deciding to kick it out of play.

"It makes a difference," Fisher began, "because if you can kick it away from (just) one, it helps� Both of them do a great job supporting each other."

Echoing his coach's sentiments, Williams said neither returner is worried about who gets more touches. It's all about fulfilling direct and indirect assignments.

"We believe in the scheme that coach Gran coaches week in and week out," Williams said. "It doesn't matter who catches the ball, me or Lamarcus, the off returner is going to block. It's more taking responsibility as a team, and we've stayed together on that."

In fact, the return team has a ritual before it takes the field. Once coach Gran imparts his final adjustments, the team will break with the word "house" in order to reaffirm their goal. Asked if that means both returners have a green light to go from anywhere they catch the ball, coach Fisher said the team has its guidelines. Pressed if the "guideline" was halfway deep in the endzone, Fisher smirked and said "somewhere in there."

There's no question the big plays have been there, but there have also been a few moments of surrendered field position. Let's first take a look at the big plays.


Lamarcus Joyner - 90 yard return against Clemson

Down 31-21 in the second half, Florida State needed a spark. The packed Doak Campbell Stadium erupted as Lamarcus Joyner took a 90-yard return up the left sidelines. Quarterback EJ Manuel would find receiver Rashad Greene shortly thereafter for a momentum-capturing touchdown.

Karlos Williams - 60 yard return against USF

The straits were not dire when Karlos Williams secured the Seminoles' first kickoff in Tampa, but when the hulking sophomore took a return across the field and down the sidelines for 60 yards, any early USF momentum was quelled. Williams' return put Florida State at the Bulls' 37, a distance the offense covered five plays later.


Penalties and field position surrendered

In its past two games where the return game had multiple attempts, Florida State has at times surrendered field position to its opponent. Two kick returns in the Clemson game were brought back due to penalties, forcing drives to start inside the 20. Against South Florida, two Williams returns from deep in the end zone resulted in drives beginning from the FSU 18 yard line. It's worth noting that with the game at 30-17, Williams did take a knee halfway deep in the end zone.

Although Fisher didn't divulge the plan for each returner to stay at home, the debate rages on: are Florida State's returners good enough to take a chance from the end zone? Or with the touchback now coming out to the 25-yard line, should the approach be more conservative?

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