Ok... so first off: Yes, this is real. No I'm not making up a press conference just to boost my number of articles on the site (rest assured, the fake press conference is probably coming soon though).
FSU Sports Information gave the media 45 minutes with Jimbo on Wednesday afternoon. We're excited that the Athletic Department is taking advantage of the publicity we will provide to over a million unique visitors this year. I was able to be the lucky Tomahawk Nation representative (I'm still shvitzing) so here are some of the notes I took. FSUncensored's comments attempt to filter through some of the coach speak.
The top story of the day: Apparently quarterback E.J. Manuel has dropped the periods from his name and will now go by EJ
Jimbo said he wasn't aware of that and would be sure to post giant dots next to his name in the locker room.
He isn't worried about the fullback situation. The tight ends have always cross trained for those duties, and Caz had a lot of FB responsibilities last year anyway. He made the statement that a tight end could do everything a fullback can do, but a fullback can't do everything a tight end can do, specifically in the passing game. FSU will not use a fullback this year, but rather an H-Back (smaller tight end). Fisher also said that he didn't use a fullback at LSU except for when he had Jacob Hester (now with the San Diego Chargers), and Hester wasn't a blocker but a runner and receiver. Fisher is totally comfortable forgoing a fullback and using two tight ends.
Fisher is right. He's stated before that he doesn't want to use a fullback in his offense, but rather an H-Back. I'll have an article on this later, but think of an H-Back as a smaller tight end who can catch and block, but who lines up slightly off the line and frequently switches sides of the formation, via motion. We won't actually see Caz Piurowski, Jabarris Little, or Beau Reliford lining up as a fullback, except for maybe goal line situations. Other teams who do not use a fullback include the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and often the Washington Redskins, to name a few.
Fisher talked about using two running backs at the same time to go with more of a speed look and said that FSU can do that now that the offensive line can pass block. They call it the pony package.
Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson have elite level hands for a back. Expect to see those two on the field at the same time.
He used the phrase "young, but they've played a lot" several times during the conference. Fisher is extremely excited that we have so many young but experienced players, and looks forward to working with most of them for another 2-3 years.
We have discussed this on the site multiple times, but Fisher is making reference to the failed 2006 and 2007 recruiting classes, which were not done under his watch. He can't come out and say it, but it is safe to assume that Fisher strongly opposed honoring some of the scholarship offers extended by the old regime for the 2007 class. He can't say so publicly because some of those kids and coaches are still around. The roster does not lie, however, as FSU has just 11 upperclassmen starters (from the 2006 and 2007 recruiting classes). 11 starters will be underclassmen, which will come mostly from the 2008 recruiting class (Fisher's first), and the 2009 recruiting class. That makes FSU one of the youngest teams in the country.
Feels really good about the passing game based on the spring and what Christian Ponder has told him about the summer. From Ponder's descriptions it's the "best summer (Fisher has) ever been around." Christian's confidence is way up. His friendship with Drew sort of kept him from really taking over the team last year. Now he is able to be a real leader. Ponder's got a year under his belt. It’s not going into camp saying it’s up for grabs," Fisher said of Ponder being No. 1. He can help teach the younger guys and also makes suggestions to the coaches about ways to get through to certain players.
Translation: Drew sort of acted like that guy who really wants to be the leader but wasn't in a position to earn the respect of his teammates because he wasn't a starter as senior. Then Drew went out and made decidedly non-team comments about how he should be the starter and how he was unfairly benched. Considering Ponder's legs helped power FSU to the top offense in the ACC, and Jimbo Fisher won the ACC Offensive Coordinator of the Year Award, I think the right choice was made.
Jimbo liked the fact that Christian understood why he was running certain plays in the spring. He was able to see why plays worked and why they didn't, which makes it a lot easier to correct mistakes. He expects to open up the playbook a lot this year because Christian and the offensive line are more experienced. Trickett is very excited as well. Fisher talked about the ability to open up the playbook now that the offensive line doesn't need as much help. He acknowledged their struggles in running a variety of plays that require good protection without assists in protection and in turn give the offense a shot to hit a lot of big plays.
You can memorize information and pass a multiple choice exam. It's much tougher to explain it on an essay test. Being able to conceptualize the plays is huge. Understanding why two reads could be correct but why one is more correct, or why one read is worse than another is important.
Fisher and the coaches think very highly of Ponder. Very highly. While some believe Jimbo always praises and protects his quarterbacks, I am not so sure. He definitely didn't do it with Weatherford or Matt Mauck (LSU). They obviously recognize what few have pointed out- the pass protection last year was atrocious (you need to read that to understand some of the struggles). Tim Tebow would have looked bad dropping back behind the youngest offensive line int he country. If you go through the 13 interceptions Ponder threw last year, and more importantly break down the tape as we've done, you realize that the majority of the blame for the lack of a passing game falls upon the physical limitations of the young offensive line group and some seriously inconsistent wide receiver play. That's not to say that Ponder is blameless or perfect or that he is a serious NFL draft prospect. He is none of those things, but the passing game is a product of quarterbacking, protection, and wide receiver play, and for FSU in 2008, the latter two are more to blame than the former.
In fact, ESPN's Mark Schlabach revealed that Jimbo Fisher told him Ponder will be one of the best QBs to play at FSU. You have to keep that in context. FSU plays a much tougher schedule than it did under Ward and Weinke, but in terms of performance against competition, it could happen.
Both Christian and EJ ask the right questions. He is happy with where their heads are. Christian is the guy, but never count EJ's ability out. He's talented and intelligent. Fisher really believes in these two quarterbacks and thinks FSU is in very good hands.
Very exciting news there. It would have been easy for EJ to get down on himself after fracturing his finger the first day of spring practice. He's worked hard and looked very good. It's always good to foster competition. EJ Manuel is the future of FSU football and is a lock to start for 2 years. That said, I don't know anyone I trust as a source inside the program who thinks that Manuel has a legit shot to pass Ponder for the starting position this year.
Didn't sound like guys had just gone through the motions over the summer. Sometimes they would stay out and work for 2-3 hours a day. Christian would call him on the phone after a lot of the workouts. Every 2-3 weeks he'd seemed focused on a different player that was being great. For awhile it was "Jarmon Fortson this" "Jarmon that". Then he'd be stuck on how good Bert was, or Rodney, or Bo. The competition level is definitely higher and players know they need to perform. Fisher seemed much more confident in the passing game and talked about how they threw the ball well in the spring.
Fisher went on to rave about Ponder and said that the main difference he sees is confidence and trust. Confidence that he is the starter and trust in his protection and his recievers.
Fisher of course can't observe the workouts, but I would be shocked if he doesn't talk to coach Stroud multiple times per day and watch tape of the workouts. Form all reports, Ponder has looked really good and it is "his team."
Wide Receiver Taiwan Easterling (torn Achilles March 2009) and Tavares Pressley (ACL Surgery August 2008) should be good to go against Miami. The first hit will tell the tale. They'll worry about Taiwan more than TP, but both should be ready.
This is really good news. FSU doesn't absolutely need both of these guys to beat Miami, but they sure would help.
Tavares Pressley looks great in workouts and could challenge for serious playing time at running back provided his knee holds up.
Senior wide receiver Rod Owens should be available as well.
Brian Landman of the St. Pete Times Seminole Report found that Owens pled no contest to his misdemeanor DUI charge. The case is now resolved. Owens already served his suspension and is reinstated. We told you this would happen a few months ago. To think that a kid would miss the Miami game for his first offense ever- a misdemeanor, is silly. Big boy football programs do not give long suspensions to seniors who have been quality citizens for their entire stay except for a first offense misdemeanor. Owens is a good guy on the team and can be an important player for the 'Noles this year. Probably a 25 catch, 400 yard type, which is important.
Jimbo plans to have Redshirt Senior wide receiver Richard Goodman for the first three games. Goodman has really stepped up, taken responsibility, and been accountable in the face of adversity.
Goodman is a very good player. He was coming on in his junior season before getting injured. Then he looked like FSU's best wide receiver going into last year and broke his leg. Some have labeled Goodman a bust, but they really need to think about why Goodman hasn't produced. I would look to a logjam at his position and injuries. It is not as if he has played in a lot of games and disappointed. He is primed to have a huge breakout season. A quality kid from St. Thomas Aquinas, Goodman was cleared after being wrongfully accused in the infamous union brawl. He has never been in trouble at FSU to our knowledge and could easily be the opening day starter at one of the receiver spots. It's a credit to Goodman that he remained stedfast in his innocence and worked his tail off this off-season, not only getting better in the weight room, but also prepping other wideouts just in case he was not cleared. Look at the shape Goodman is in:
The other thing to think about is Goodman's maturity. He was born December 30th, 1987. He'll play this college football season at 22 years old. There is a big difference in both physical and mental maturity in a 22 year-old as opposed to a kid who is 18 or 19.
When asked about the tackles, he's really excited. Compared having a great tackle to having Deion Sanders or TBuck, in that they can secure the edge. Someone who can say "that's my guy, you don't have to worry about him." He said that they couldn't do much last year because they had to protect their tackles.
What FSU's offense did (top offense in the ACC, top 20 nationally) with two kids at tackle who had literally gone to prom just 6 months earlier is pretty remarkable.
Some Freshmen will play against Miami. They will have to because of numbers. Said FSU used some freshmen last year.
I think he's mainly referring to defense today.
RE: Bobby's retirement. The contract says what the contract says. Jimbo and Bobby don't really worry about it.
Fisher will take over on or before that date. Bobby was stonewalled when he asked for a three year extension last Winter.
The key words for today and conditioning and accountability. He must have said them both a dozen times. We are miles ahead of where we were 3 years ago in both. Said this is by far the best summer and best conditioned team FSU has had
Coach speak? Sure, somewhat, but it also looks to be true.
He can already tell the guys have improved just by looking at their body types. Even though he can't watch them practice, he can see them grow and change. He also talked about how this group of kids stays together and eats together and bonds as a team, not as sectioned off units. Fisher talked a lot about getting bigger, stronger kids who have good speed. It sounded very much like when he talked about getting the type of athletes he had at LSU.
Coach Stroud deserves a lot of credit. The team hangs together because most have bought into the process. The attendance at workouts has been awesome.
Sophomore Offensive Tackle Andrew Datko has gone from 265 to 292 this year. They knew he had the frame to grow, but not that fast. Datko decreased his body fat by almost 2% while gaining 27lbs. That is remarkable and he is a kid who understands the big picture.
Datko has an incredible work ethic and is one of Trickett's all-stars. His importance to this offense cannot be overstated. Ponder can trust that his blind side will be protected by Andrew.
Also talked about the size of freshman running back Chris Thompson's hands and feet. Their size indicates a strong bone structure and that he can take a lot more hits than other guys his size. Hester was the same way.
Chris Thompson has some amazing hands and quicks and FSU will definitely throw the ball to him out of the backfield. He is too quick for safeties, much less linebackers.
Our guys are a lot bigger than they used to be but are in better shape. That can be attributed to "recruiting, accountability, and commitment."
He talked about accountability and commitment all day. FSU has had a very clean off-season in terms of behavior.
Fisher thinks the defense is probably better than we think they are. There are several guys who have played a lot of games over there.
This is encouraging. We profiled how FSU's offense dominated Mickey Andrew's defense in the spring, averaging over 8 yards per play in scrimmages (more remarkable considering the QB is a non-contact player and is whistled down upon being touched). The defense did all it could to keep FSU in the Wake Forest game last year as the offense failed, and the offense bailed out the defense in the Georgia Tech and NC State games (see also, 40 minutes of possession time). Good football requires both offense and defense. Luckily, the new clock rules implemented last year help an offense mask a defense if it needs to. 10 minute drives to finish out a half are possible.
What I hear about the defense from those who I consider "in the know" is this: The defense wasn't nearly as good as many think it was last year. FSU had two safeties at outside linebacker for much of the year. The talent is better this year, but it is mostly with the young guys and the defense really lacks quality depth because the lame-duck defensive staff didn't fulfill its obligation in recruiting. More talent, a lot less experience, and very little depth. Here's hoping the 'Noles grow up quickly and stay healthy.
Mentioned freshman defensive end Brandon Jenkins several times. Struggles to remember Jenkins is only a true freshman.
Jenkins enrolled early and has been impressive in every phase of the game. He was great in spring ball, is a quiet leader for his group, and works very had. Plus, he is a quality character kid by all accounts.
Isn't going to negative recruit and won't bash the guys using probation against us. Oklahoma and Ohio State have played for the last 2 National Championships while on probation and the threat hasn't slowed down Alabama.
FSU's rep is telling kids like it is. Recruits appreciate the honest approach.
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