My goal is not to make excuses or try to fix blame but attempt to understand how such a promising season could have turned out so bleak.
I want to start with two premises that many of us can hopefully agree. First, the coaching staff is filled with talented coaches. While they may not be the best coaches in the country, they are clearly good coaches with solid resumes.
I think it is fair to believe that they can teach the game, put together a solid game plan, and make adjustments to the plan as needed. They have done it in previous jobs so it isn't a stretch to believe they can still perform these basic functions.
My second premise is that FSU is filled with really talented players. Again, they may not be the best in the country, but most of them are clearly in the top 25% at their position. Many of them better than that.
With talented coaches and talented players how is it possible we are sitting at 7-4 with the season in tatters? How can so much promise go unfulfilled?
I believe the answer can be found in the mental strength of the players. My background is in coaching multi-sport. I have learned that the mental aspects are a huge part of performance in sport. I believe this skill carries over to any sport. How else do you explain talented golfers like Collin Montgomery and Greg Norman folding in the majors while golfers like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus shine? Every sport has examples of individuals and teams who fail consistently on the big stage. Almost always it has less to do with the player's physical talent and everything to do with what is between the ears.
When we talk about the mental aspect of sports we are really talking about a series of blocks that build on top of each other. First you have the motivation to practice and prepare to play. With preparation comes the internal confidence to play on the biggest stage. Don't confuse confidence with a look of confidence, cocky behavior, or other external signs of confidence. True confidence is the deep internal belief in ones self. With confidence you can play relaxed. You can be positive regardless of what transpires on the field. Which leads to the ability to focus on the job at hand and control your emotions so you can perform at the highest levels when it counts most.
It has become apparent to me from watching the games and this teams inability to focus and execute (stupid penalties, being in the wrong spot, inattention to details, etc) that they are missing a fundamental building block of mental toughness, confidence. I believe they lack the confidence in themselves to reach their fullest potential. The UVA game was a perfect example. The better team didn't win. The more confident team won.
How does a team loaded with talented coaches and players lack confidence? I can come up with a few potential reasons.
A) They believed they were going to win the OU game and the loss shook their confidence and it snow balled with losses at Clemson and Wake
2) Players playing positions that are new can lead to doubt. This includes moving offensive line men from position to position. Freshman playing college ball for the first time.
d) Injuries. It is difficult to have complete belief in yourself when you are playing through an injury. It keeps you sidelined from preparing to play and leaves a nagging doubt in your mind.
X) The complexity of the offense and defense is too great and players don't believe they have complete grasp of the system
y) The coaches are setting the bar too high for the players and the players have become discouraged because they can't reach those lofty goals
Z) The coaches are too critical of the players either during games or during practice which has shaken their confidence
It is probably a confluence of these and other I haven't thought about. All I know is that this team is playing without true internal confidence. It is hard to play with the focus and intensity necessary to win games when deep down inside you don't believe in yourself.
I hope at the end of the season, the coaches take a hard look at their processes and figure out a way to change the mental state of the players. Until they can right this ship, I fear it is going to continue being a rocky journey.