Sunday morning's media day for the 2012 Florida State football team brought out media members in droves for the chance to speak with Jimbo Fisher and a wide variety of the team's players, as well as the lone opportunity to speak with some of the team's assistant coaches for the season. As you would expect, nothing earth-shattering was revealed, but the comments from both the players and coaches did lend some insight into where the team feels it's at after a week or so of fall camp.
Fisher opened things up by saying that he's pleased with where the team is at so far in terms of effort and energy in camp. He mentioned that the team has shown a strong base of leadership from its experienced players, even extending across units. He was particularly excited that the entire team is getting after each other in practice, even players on opposite sides of the ball, rather than simply seeing players staying on top of guys on their side of the ball.
Fisher also said he's been happy with the more vocal leadership the veterans have shown and the policing of themselves that the players have done in camp. He also mentioned that he's impressed with the talent, character, and work ethic of the freshmen class thus far.
Positive reviews of the young players on the team were a common theme all morning, with the veteran players also noting that the younger guys have been impressive in terms of their ability to take coaching and work hard at the college level.
Fisher also talked about the significant increase in size along his team's defensive front and the defensive philosophy he absorbed from his time in the SEC. "[Having a great] Defense is like a great pitcher", he said. "When certain guys are on the mound, you know they're only gonna get a run or two, so you're always in the game."
When asked about the dismissals of talented-but-troubled players like Greg Reid and Tyrann Mathieu, Fisher spent a good amount of time discussing the struggles to keep players disciplined in today's college game. He noted that there are more issues at work than people sometimes account for when it comes to players' behavior while in college, including socio-economic backgrounds and family histories with substance abuse. He also stressed that players today are under a more intense scrutiny than ever before, with advancements in technology like social media placing their every move under a microscope.
Fisher also said he views the growing use of marijuana and other drugs as an epidemic in the game, and believes in a supportive and corrective approach, rather than a punitive one, when it comes to his own program. "I want em to come in and say, ‘coach, I need help,'" he said. "It's a disease, not a crime, and there's a difference."
As for the players, greater team unity was a common theme echoed. According to Devonta Freeman, the players have spent more time together this offseason off the field and have built a stronger bond. Competition across the board on the practice field and the benefits it has on the players was another point made by several players.
The offensive line was talked up by players and coaches alike, too. Bryan Stork, Austin Barron, and Cam Erving all said the competition among their group has helped them stay sharp, while Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner, and Everett Dawkins all said their offensive counterparts are much improved so far in fall camp. "The biggest thing is they've gotten a lot bigger," Dawkins said. "It's definitely not as easy as it used to be to beat them."
Coordinators James Coley and Mark Stoops both also seemed optimistic about the progress of the team. Stoops said it's the most talented group he's had at Florida State, and that he's glad to see his experienced group focusing on details and attempting to take its game up a notch. "What we did last year isn't gonna win us any games," Stoops said. "But what I do see is guys really focusing, zeroing in, understanding things better, and trying to take the game to the next level."
Coley noted the improved size of the offensive line and the benefit that's had for the offense, and also sounded pleased with the tight ends. He spoke highly of freshman Christo Kourtzidis and said Nick O'Leary dedicated himself to bulking up and gaining strength this offseason to become a better blocker.
Notes and Quotes:
-Fisher said he thinks the defense can be one of the best in the country, but is wary of the extremely high expectations being placed on them. "It's a trait of our society- we try to make things so good, even when you play good, you can't reach the expectations," he said.
-When asked about what EJ Manuel needs to work on most, Fisher pointed to consistency, but added that better consistency and continuity among his supporting cast would likely help him reach a greater level of reliability. "If I came in and had a new secretary every two weeks, I mean, it drives you crazy," Fisher said.
-In relation to the rampant discipline problems across college football, Fisher said the infrastructure and support systems within programs have become increasingly important. "Infrastructure of a program is the secret to it all," he said. "Everybody has players and xs and os but it's building a support system around those kids."
"What people don't realize- how about the pressure theyre under now compared to before?" "They don't get to be kids anymore."- Fisher, on the increased scrutiny and attention today's players constantly face.
"Some people say potential is a bad word, I don't think it is, I think it's the greatest word you can have because it means you have the ability to win."- Fisher, addressing questions about the team's potential and expectations for the season.
"Wherever they need me-that's my preference."- Bryan Stork, on whether he prefers tackle or center.
-Cam Erving said that the other offensive linemen have been a big help to him in making his transition from the defensive line. He specifically credited Bobby Hart as being especially helpful, since Hart played left tackle most of his life before arriving at FSU.
-Erving also said that Rick Trickett has stressed improving technique among the offensive linemen to get them to rely less on raw athleticism and ability and start to play a more solid and sound all-around game.
"You can't just beat em off the ball anymore"- Werner, on the improved play of the tackles in fall camp.
"They're just bigger, stronger, faster, they're creating major holes right now"- Freeman, on the offensive line's improvement in camp
"I think the difference from last year is this year we really want to be one tribe, and have everyone come together"- Freeman, on the differences between this season and last.
-Brandon Jenkins seems pretty impressed with the new tackles on the roster. "When you have big guys like that who can move, it's very disturbing," he said. "A lot of people think that's one of our weaknesses.. I think that's one of our strengths this year."
-Jenkins alluded to a greater sense of team unity as well. "I have never felt like this before around my teammates," he said of the comfort level the team has reached with each other."
-Stoops said it would be difficult to replace Greg Reid's energy and passion, but said he was pleased with Nick Waisome's development to this point. He was also quite impressed with freshman corner Ronald Darby.
-As far as the high expectations for his unit go, Stoops said the coaching staff talks to the defense about continuing to work hard and staying humble after last year's success.
-Staying hungry is something Stoops is stressing. "Defensively, if you don't play with a serious chip on your shoulder, you're not gonna be very good," he said. "I don't care how talented you are."
-As mentioned, Coley had a lot of good things to say about the new-look offensive line. "We're going against a great defensive front, but you see a great o-line in the making, because these are big boys," he said. "And they're a tight unit... you see them walking down the hallway, if they wanna mess with you, you better run the other way. They're scary."
-Strength and conditioning coach Vic Viloria was also available to media, and singled out Werner and Lonnie Pryor as players who had good offseasons in the weight room, both adding strength while slimming down.
-Overall, Viloria explained, his focus isn't on players getting bigger necessarily, but building lean muscle mass. "It's the number on the scale versus what you can actually do on the field," he said.
"The better they come in looking, I gotta find new ways to keep my job, because I think coach Fisher is trying to recruit me out of the job"- Viloria, explaining the way that having such physically impressive players changes the focus of his job more from bulking players up to sculpting them, unlike at smaller schools where players need to grow significantly just to be ready to take the field.