For many years now, Florida State fans have been clamoring for Jimbo Fisher to run his quarterbacks more.
In this era of college football, a quarterback’s legs are another weapon to the offense that cannot be ignored. We’ve seen this around the country. From Johnny Manziel to Marcus Mariota to Lamar Jackson, some of the best offensive performances that have occurred in the past decade of college football have been from quarterbacks who have also used their legs to pick up chunks of yardage.
Florida State is fortunate enough to currently have a quarterback on its roster in Deondre Francois who is capable of using his legs as a weapon. Despite being listed as a pro-style quarterback coming out of high school, Francois showed in the Garnet and Gold spring game and versus Ole Miss on Labor Day that he is a very dangerous option on the run.
But the problem is that Fisher rarely, if ever, calls designed quarterback runs. A lot of the yardage picked up by his quarterbacks over the years on the ground have been on scrambles and the scattered run plays here and there.
But with the way that Florida State’s offense sputtered and died against Louisville, it seems as if Fisher has finally seen the value of the designed quarterback run. For the first time in forever, Fisher consistently called for designed quarterback runs versus South Florida. And, to no surprise, it was very effective at gashing the Bulls’ defense and helped the Seminoles drive down the field.
But before we begin to think that we’ll start to see a bunch of exotic quarterback run calls in the future, let’s first breakdown how Fisher and Francois were able to exploit South Florida’s defense with quarterback runs.
The play above is the first designed quarterback run that Fisher calls in the game. Florida State is in 12 personnel, meaning there are two tight ends, one running back, and two receivers on the field. The play call here is “QB Power,” meaning that Jacques Patrick becomes Francois’ lead blocker on the play. The offensive line gets a good push, and the receivers and tight ends do a great of looking for work in the blocking game. The result is a gain of eight yards on the play, setting up Florida State on the USF 1-yard line. They would score a touchdown on the next play.
This is the second time Fisher calls for a designed QB run, but this time he adds a wrinkle to the play with Travis Rudolph coming in motion. Still, the concept of “QB Power” is the same. Dalvin Cook becomes the lead blocker for Francois and he runs to the strong-side of the formation, meaning the side with the tight end blocking downfield. On third down, Francois picks up a gain of 17 yards and a first down.
Once again, the call is “QB Power.” Not much is different about this run than the others. Cook becomes the lead blocker, Rudolph gets a nice block downfield and Roderick Johnson’s block on the edge frees up the quarterback for a big gain. Francois picks up 18 yards with his legs and Florida State continues to drive down the field.
Surprise surprise, the call once again is “QB Power.” But this time, instead of hitting the edge, Francois displays very nice vision and sees the hole open up inside. Excellent blocks are made by Alec Eberle and Brock Ruble and Francois goes 35-yards untouched for the score.
Interestingly, this is the first, and only, time that Florida State ran “QB Power” towards the boundary side of the field. Previously, they ran towards the field side, as common logic would dictate that running towards the open side of the field would give Francois a lot more space to work with. This time, Fisher calls for Power to the boundary and it goes for a score.
This play occurs when the game is already in hand and Florida State is trying to run out the clock. “QB Power” is called yet again, Cook picks up a nice block on a USF defender and Francois takes this run for another first down. A common theme throughout these runs is that the offensive line is consistently able to get to the second level and get blocks on linebacker and defensive backs.
The last designed QB run called in the game. This time, USF brings the blitz and Patrick is forced to pick up USF #21 coming into the backfield. The South Florida defender manages to trip up Francois, but the quarterback is able to keep his balance and run for a first down.
All in all, Florida State was very successful on designed quarterback runs. They ran “QB Power” six times for 90 yards, good for a 15-yard per play average. The full breakdown from the six plays can be found below.
There are some interesting tidbits to the date. Florida State ran “QB Power” mainly in the second half, when they were already nursing a comfortable lead in the game. The Seminoles also consistently ran behind the strong side of the formation, with the tight end and multiple receivers blocking on that side of the field.
As previously mentioned, Florida State only ran once towards the boundary. While it went for a touchdown, common logic dictates that running towards the open side is more beneficial for what Florida State wants to do on their QB runs. The purpose of the designed QB run is to get your quarterback, who is presumably a good athlete, in space against a defense who is outnumbered on the edge against the number of blockers. Running to the field side means that your quarterback has more space to work with and blockers have an easier time of finding work.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the data is the fact that Florida State picked up a first down on four of the five runs that did not end in a touchdown. The only run that did not end in a first down was when Francois was stopped at the USF 1-yard line, nearly a touchdown in itself.
So why did Fisher suddenly start calling quarterback runs with Francois?
Perhaps it is because he sees what Nick Saban is doing at Alabama with his freshman quarterback. Saban’s offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, is consistently running Crimson Tide freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Against Ole Miss, Hurts carried the ball 18 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. Could Fisher’s change of mentality be because his mentor, Saban himself, has finally embraced the systematic change in college football himself?
Or perhaps Fisher finally realizes that quarterback runs give the offense a numbers advantage. Maybe it is because he understands that Francois’ legs give Florida State’s offense yet another weapon to work with.
Ultimately, we will never truly know why Fisher is calling designed quarterback runs now but we can only hope that he continues this trend. After the success that quarterback runs had against South Florida, the Seminoles need to add this as a staple of their offense moving forward.