A little back story, I recently moved to Minneapolis and started working full time post-college... My time trolling TN has been significantly cut back and I've been missing the community a ton. I've wanted to post a fan shot for a while as far as my feelings towards the program post Bowden, safely into the CJF era and after the 2010 season... The fact that the Twins are a massive disappointment and the NFL lockout isn't progressing at all, it seems like now is a good time to do so... I need something positive to think about right now... Enter the Florida State Seminoles and Coach Jimbo Fisher. What I've come up with are thoughts that most of you have regarding the program, so I feel as if I'm preaching to the choir, but I really need to get my thoughts on paper and into a forum of my peers.
Let me preface this by saying that I love Bobby Bowden. What he did for Florida State University won’t be replicated ever again in collegiate sports. He came in and revolutionized college football, transforming Florida State from a football team with the reputation of its past as an all girl’s school into a national powerhouse. What he did cannot go unnoticed or without praise, and I appreciate everything he did for my school... but just like Ali Larter said to James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues, "things change, Mox." and boy did they change for the worse.
That being said, the past decade has been tumultuous to say the least as far as Florida State Football goes. The atmosphere grew stale in Tallahassee, the swagger was gone and the team on the field was uninspiring. Bobby had made some poor choices in coaching hires, instead of going out and finding up-and-coming, sought after coaches and coordinators, he hired members of his family and inner circle. Tallahassee was still ripe with top talent year after year, unfortunately the direction of those x’s and o’s was fractured and under qualified. Development was lacking and instruction was underwhelming. The team went from a National Title appearance in the 2000 season and degraded into an unorganized mess of a team. Some may not consider 8-5 and 7-6 an unorganized mess of a team when you consider some of its ACC competition, but for what FSU was, it was a massive disappointment.
Continue on and hit the jump if you care to read my thoughts on the Noles.
I had followed recruiting casually for a time, but it wasn’t until the past 5-6 years it became more and more of a focus as I was trying to figure out what was wrong with our team. Why wasn’t the talent developing? Why weren’t these 4 and 5 star kids turning into college stars? I basically depended on what Rivals told me as far as expectations on these 17 and 18 year old kids, I expected them to come in and be All Americans under our legendary coach. That obviously wasn’t happening, the talent wasn’t being developed, and the system wasn’t working. Were we recruiting the wrong players? Was our evaluation off? Were we waiting on recruiting service’s top 250 to come out before we offered kids? My frustration was growing with our former staff, and that was a feeling growing among the fan base as a whole as well.
The change happened in 2007, Jimbo Fisher, former LSU offensive coordinator was brought in to run the FSU offense, a change that was desperately needed. Coach Fisher breathed new life into the program, as the quick talking southerner transformed an offense that could be described as laughable into one of the ACC’s best, and eventually the ACC’s best. He developed what some considered a throw-in recruit, Christian Ponder, into yet another first round NFL draft pick. Unfortunately one coordinator could not completely turn around this team, as the defense struggled to adapt to new school offensive schemes and their own coaching and depth issues. The head coach in waiting would have to stick it out for a couple more years before he was finally given the reigns to the program.
I’ll be the first to admit that the way that it happened, Bowden’s exit, was not ideal. I also believe my degree doesn’t have Bobby Bowden’s name on it anywhere. What our program had turned into wasn’t up to par with the bar he set in the 90’s. I heard from various people (mainly fans of our rivals, funny enough) that you never fire an icon, “he built it, and he should decide when it’s time,” was the general argument I heard. Well, I can see why someone would have no issue saying that when their program is benefitting greatly (on many levels) from our team’s struggles. The events immediately following the announcement that it was now official, Jimbo Fisher was now the Florida State Seminole head coach, were crucial in reaffirming the decision to part ways with Bowden and start a new chapter. Immediately Florida State’s recruiting class received a boost from multiple high profile recruits. Coach Fisher also cleaned house when it came to coordinators and brought in enthusiastic, in demand coaches and coordinators. The program hadn’t established a ton of positive momentum over the past 10 years, think of trying to turn around an aircraft carrier with a jet ski. It is going to take some serious work to bring FSU “back.”
One thing I noticed right away was the change in attitude among the coaches and the players. There was this new word being thrown around, “Process.” The new Strength and Conditioning coach looked like he would smack you in the mouth for taking a rep off (or to psych up your kicker…). The general attitude surrounding the program had changed. For the first time in a while I felt this team was working together, on a strict plan, aiming at a goal. If someone wasn’t doing their job, they were letting the team down. I started using the word accountability positively when describing our team, a word that had only been used to describe frustration in years past since it seemed our squad lacked it. It seemed like we weren’t going to trot out on defense and purely try to “make plays.” I had confidence in our coach’s prior body of work, what their resume’s looked like. I had always been excited about the prospect that this was going to be “our year,” only to be let down by false hope. This new feeling was refreshing. For the first time in years I trusted our coaches and our personnel. I had a feeling that there was now a sense of accountability, which seemed non-existent under some of the former members of the Seminole staff.
This new sense of trust I had built up with the staff then circled around to the recruiting aspect of the college game, too. I had always felt we were bringing in the talent and that our former coaches knew what they were doing, but after seeing poor play and lack of quality depth at key positions I began to question what was going on. I felt that this new staff was using that new word again, process. It seemed they had a game plan for recruiting the players they wanted. I saw FSU offering kids before any other team, before scouting services had even evaluated them. This was new to me. I began to trust what our staff was doing on the grounds of addressing the team needs and evaluating players before the competition, extending the all important first offer. That fact that they know what they’re doing is reaffirmed when Alabama is a late offer to a FSU committed quarterback that described Bama as his “dream school.” This point was again reaffirmed as Jimbo delivered the nation’s top 2011 class and is on pace to sign another top class in 2012. I no longer immediately look at what a recruiting service’s top players look like, but who we've offered and what our big board looks like.
The 2010 season was definitely a step in the right direction, there were growing pains, but that was to be expected. They fulfilled my expectations and now I expect them to build on that this season. I realize where we’re at as a program and I see where our current players are growing under our tremendous staff. I can go on and on about the 2010 season, beating our rivals like it was going out of style, the confidence in our staff, etc… but this should end at some point. The swagger is coming back, the atmosphere is getting hyped up again and the future looks bright.
You now get the sense that players feel that they need to earn the right to wear the Spear, rather than feel entitled to it when they sign a letter of intent. The passion is back in the Garnet and Gold, on the field and in the stands. I can’t wait to see where this staff can continue to take this program.
FSU c/o 2010