Jimbo Fisher addressed media for the final time before Saturday’s game against Duke Thursday, speaking about the energy level of his team as they enter their ninth straight game without a bye, the progress of running backs James Wilder and Devonta Freeman in the absence of Chris Thomspon, and the skills that newly appointed punt returner Tyler Hunter brings to the table for Florida State.
"Really good Thursday, our guys were really focused, very detail oriented", Fisher said. "Guys were locked in to the run game, blitz game, pass game, in all situations. I was pleased with that because we responded from an emotional game, a rivalry game and I think our team is showing a lot of maturity in how we’re growing up and moving on to the next game."
Despite the relative lateness of the Seminoles’ bye week, Fisher said the team hasn’t dulled in practice physically or mentally. "I’ve been very pleased with their bodies, the way they’ve responded and their minds the way they’ve responded," he said.
Fisher said that Freeman and Wilder both appeared ready to seize the greater opportunity that is in front of them now that Thompson can no longer carry the load.
"They’ve stepped up and they know they have an opportunity and that our team needs them," Fisher said of the two sophomores. "I think the consistency of not just always when you run the ball, but blitz pickups—that’s what I was high on, they were picking up blitzes, they were seeing calls. Just that consistency level, everything you do that the average fan doesn’t see."
"I think they’re both great young men and they want to live up to the legacy of what Chris has left and knowing how well he was playing and the things he was doing, even without the ball," Fisher added.
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree drew some pretty high praise when he was brought up, as Fisher was asked if Renfree reminded him of any other quarterbacks he’s seen. "Those Manning guys he [David Cutcliffe] used to coach," Fisher answered. "Gets the ball out of his hand, big and long, accurate, throws the ball down the field. He’s a heck of a player."
Fisher concluded with high praise for one of his own players as he discussed Hunter, who he announced would replace Rashad Greene at punt returner earlier this week.
"Very athletic, very tough, loves to play. One of those Lowndes guys where if you had to practice for 10 hours he'd stand out there and practice for 10 hours," Fisher said.
Despite being a defensive player, Fisher said Hunter has strong instincts and ball skills, which were honed in part by Hunter’s experience playing baseball. Aside from being a standout in football, Hunter was a star outfielder who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 48th round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
"Hes got tremendous ball skills, he’d be a heck of a wideout, an offensive player, a back, whatever he wanted," Fisher said. "It makes a big difference because when that ball comes off the bat, those outfielders know how to get there. We talk about football players being track guys I like seeing those guys also play baseball because of the ball skills, the judgment."
Fisher also said that for now, Hunter would be the exclusive starter on punt returns, barring any new developments.