How ready are you guys for the game? It's been a long layoff.We definitely are. I feel like this long break -- I don't think we lost a step or anything. I think the closer it gets to game time the more we get ready.
Talk about Nick Marshall, much has been made about their run game. What about the passing game?Well, much hasn't been said because they don't pass the ball much. They are going to run the ball, they're a run the football team. I think when they try to throw the ball, it's more when there's more of a trick play or something like that. So he's a great quarterback, but we're going to have to go out there and play 60 minutes and play hard.
How do you think the young guys have done?They've given us a great look, if not even a better look than what we're going to get on the field, not taking anything away from Nick Marshall. Just because John Franklin, he's quick, but he might be faster than Nick Marshall. He's been hitting those holes, getting outside, having us run it. That's the look that we're going to need to win this ball game.
Auburn put up almost 300 yards against Alabama, over 500 against Missouri. What is it about you guys that you're going to be the team that can stop them? You just said it. That's Alabama, that's Missouri; we're Florida State.
What do you guys do defensively that they haven't seen?We're just going to go out here and play technique sound football. We're going to play for each other. We're going to make sure when the coach sends in the play, we do the right play and we're not going to try to be heroes out on the field.
What made you think you could get to this level (inaudible)?Coach Jimbo Fisher, he came in and he laid down what he wanted to do. He said this is a process. We're going to go hard and we're going to get the place back where we wanted to be. And that's what I wanted to be at Florida.
When I got out of high school we were a pretty good high school team. We were back on the rise again, and that's what I wanted to come to college and do. I didn't want to come somewhere where they didn't have a name for themselves, not that Florida State didn't.
(Inaudible.)Just maturity wise. When I got everything off the field, everything on the field started to develop more for me. So I was just maturity wise, and all my teammates around me, they definitely say I've matured a lot.
Let me ask you about the matchup you're looking forward to the most. When I say Jay Prosch what comes to mind?It's going to be a great matchup. It's going to be great. We're going to go out and play hard, just play our system.
What has been the message that Coach Fisher and the rest of the coaches have given you guys that you've hit the boots on the ground here?We're going to go out and play for 60 minutes. We're not going to go out and look at the score board. We're going to play hard and continue to do what we've done all season.
When you look at the Auburn offensive, where do you think you've got to shut them down?Everybody knows you've got to stop them running up the middle and the quarterback from the outside. You've got to beat them back to the ball and line up and execute. So if we do that we've got a great chance of winning this ball game.
You go into this game the only undefeated team in college football. When the coaches are away do you (inaudible) -- now be honest?I mean, it's great to be undefeated, but if we go out here and get our mind on that, then all of that was for nothing. We've got to stay focused, and I think this team has done a great job of staying focused and in the minute right now. We won some great ball games. But if we don't win this one, that was for nothing.
(Inaudible.)Oh, man, soon as I got here. It was already a family atmosphere. But my freshman year when I lost my father, that was the most, you know, turmoil time I had been through. That was the craziest time I had been through. And Coach Fisher, my coach at the time, and all of my teammates, they rallied around me. And I think he knew he had to step his role up, because he wanted to as a coach. I gained so much respect for him.
Since my freshman year since I got here, they told my mom there's nothing to worry about. So through the whole process I think our relationship has grown. And everything I've been through off the field, Coach Fisher has been by my side. And I feel as a coach I can't do nothing but respect and love the man.
Talk about the preparation you guys have had out here in California.You know, we haven't changed anything up. This has just been like a normal week of practice for us. We've just been going out there hard. We can't look at everything around us, we can't look at all the clutter around us. We've just got to go out and play our game.
At the same time, are you enjoying the experience of being out here?I definitely am. It's a little different. I think I even got a little sick from this weather out here, but I'm still loving it though. I love being out in California.
How prepared would you say you guys are for Monday night?We still got another day of preparation, but I'd say we're a good 92 percent.
How are you guys preparing the speed of Nick Marshall?Like I said, we've got great guys like John Franklin, like Mario on the scout team and they've given us great looks. We continue to go out there and make sure we get back to the ball, beat them back to the ball, execute.
And it's not only about going fast, but it's making sure you're doing your assignment, because that's how they beat most teams. That's what we try to focus on.
It's safe to say you focused on stopping run.Exactly. Stopping the run is the No. 1 thing, but that's the No. 1 thing in every game we go through. We know that's what we must do in any football game, stop the run to win the game.
Coach Fisher said one thing that separates you as a player is passion for the game. Everybody out there loves football. Why do you think he would say that's one thing you were particularly (inaudible)?I love the game, but more so I have a respect for this game. When I step on the field I don't just say, Oh, this is another practice, because that's where it starts. Anybody can get in the football game to get happy and go crazy because there's people watching. You've got a reason to do that. When you can go to practice and have that same love and passion and energy that you can take out on Saturdays to play, then you know you've got something special. Every day I step on the field for practice that's what I make sure I do, I have that same passion here that I have on a Saturday.
You've been doing all these media opportunities. How excited are you guys to finally get out on the field and play?It's going to be big. We've been waiting for a long time, a month or so. All the practicing and everything like that is getting a little old, but we're ready to get out there and knock some heads. It feels like camp a little bit.
What has the experience been like trying to keep that focus?It hasn't been hard at all trying to keep the focus. Because all season we've stuck to the process. Coach Jimbo says, eliminate the clutter, that's the first and foremost thing. Don't worry about what we've done all season, focus on right now. Again, if we go out and we play hard and we do everything we've got to do, we're going to get the results we want. We can't look in the past or ahead, we've got to stay focused on right now.
Offense rushing attack, what impresses you the most?Just how they're able to execute so fast. A lot of teams they try to hurry up and then mess themselves up in the process. But Auburn, they stick with it and they rarely make a mistake on the offensive line or at quarterback.
So, yeah, it's going to be tough just trying to make sure we execute as much as they do.
Have you been enjoying this whole experience with the weather and all?I definitely have in the journey. I didn't think it would be this cold when I got out here. But it definitely has been nice. I love the California life. I like being over here on the West Coast.
You've seen all the East Coast weather; right?I can't say that. I love the state of Georgia, so I can't turn on them like that.
What has impressed you the most when you look at a kid like Jameis Winston? Just his maturity in the whole situation, not only on the field, but off the field. Not only off the field, but with his family and peers and everything like that.
Just for a guy so young to come in and take on a role so big and so major, and then not only take on the role on the team but in the nation as a Heisman Trophy winner, to have all that spotlight on him and still be able to stand tall when people criticized or people said you're this and that, you shouldn't have this, he persevered through everything, and when you have a strong minded guy like that with a heart to match it, that's an incredible young man.
One of the big concerns is you haven't played a close, tight ball game.That's just because that's the kind of football we like to play. We're going to start early. I can't help that another team can't keep up with us.
In the ACC Championship game where you went down early with a safety, what do you tell the team?We just don't look at the scoreboard. We've got four quarters to play, 60 minutes. We can't look at the scoreboard because 2 points go up on it. We've just got to continue to play hard and persevere through anything. As long as we do that, I know we'll come out on top.
Did Jameis say anything to you guys after that play?I mean, you know, he always stops on the sideline and say we're going to keep going, and the defense know that we've got to hold out. If they don't score, we win.
(Inaudible.)I mean, our motto on the defense is, it's on us. In order to be a great team you have to have a great defense, no matter if the offensive is okay, mediocre or whatever, you've got to have a great and solid defense. That's what we said on the defense, myself, Lamarcus Joyner, Christian Jones, Timmy Jernigan, we put that on us to say we're going to go out here and win this game for the team.
Yeah, we might not put up as many points, but when we get our chance to score, we try to put our points on the board. We always say it's on us, and that's what we're going to stick with.
(Inaudible.)Obviously we know we've got to get down there and stop the run. And we feel like we relied on our coaches this far, so there's no reason to change. We're going to rely on them, the called plays, we've got to go out and execute.
The biggest thing for us as players is to make sure we get back to the line, when we run the play, we're not trying to hurry up. Most teams they bust big runs on, they try and hurry up themselves, then they get out of line and try to make a play some kind of way, and then Auburn bursts for a touchdown, 60 yards down the field, or 30 yards, or even on the goal line, when you've got a quarterback and you're trying the stop, Tre Mason.
So it's a lot of little details that we must adjust to and make sure we have in order to stop the full run.
(Inaudible.)This is big. Personally, watching Vince Young and Reggie Bush and all those guys when out at USC, I said I've got to play in the Rose Bowl. I don't know how, I don't know when. It was just a blessing from God that everything worked out my senior year, my last year of college I straightened up everything and got my slate right, he blessed me to play in this game.
So we're going to go out and give it all we've got. Personally, I'm going to give it all I've got, just because this is the one shot at it, you'll never get this opportunity again.
For the team, this is a long time coming. As Florida State we've been working, this senior class we've been working hard four long years. We had ups and downs, we had upsets. We've been down that road. We had our learning curves and everything like that, we've grown with our coach. This is the only way -- I would say this
(Inaudible) this is the year, this is the team.I mean, every year in college football a team comes in and they just dominate. It seems like nobody can touch them. They're on top of the world. And I just feel like this year the football god put that destiny on us.
Jameis as the Heisman (inaudible)?Right. Well, everybody knows your offensive is going to bring in the crowd and sell tickets; but defense wins championships. That's the respect that I have for him because he knows without a solid defense you can never have a great offense because it will be overshadowed by the points. I'm not going to bring up any teams, it's shows attitude and way he is, and things like that. He can pass the baton and say I know my defense is doing great and going to hold it down for me.
(Inaudible.)A dream come true. Again, the Rose Bowl, the biggest stage you can be on in college football, just to end it like this with a championship and say you're the best, that's what we've been working for the whole season, my whole four years in college, it will be a dream come true.
What do you have to do to be successful to beat this Auburn team?Obviously we've got to stop the run. That's the biggest thing. They come out and put up 3 to 400 yards a game. And one single player might have that. We've got to go out and stop the run and execute, execute, execute.
What does Jimbo Fisher tell you guys leading up to this National Championship game, a lot of anxiety?It's the same thing since we've been playing all season. He's given us the same message he's given us all season: Stay focused, eliminate the clutter, one game at a time. That's what we feel like we're going to do.
Jimbo says he thinks you've not played your best football yet. You say why? I say I agree with him. That's my head coach, if he says he thinks we can go higher, that's what we're going to do. That's one thing we say, go higher. We can never be average or settle for average or even settle for great; go higher.
When you watch Auburn on tape and see their running game, how good is it?It's phenomenal. Just the fact that they can go at such a fast pace and execute every single time, that shows you've got to be on your toes every time they snap the ball. So every time they snap the ball, we have to make sure we're lined up, know our assignment, and we go out there and do the job.
What is your first read when you see the offense, for your specific assignment, is it finding Marshall first, is it read and react, is it more attack? What is your specific assignment?It really depends on what play comes in the game. Coach Pruitt, he's done a great job, a phenomenal job all season calling plays. Just because I know they have dynamic players, if he calls in the play, I'm not going to try to get my eyes on the quarterback to make a play, I'm just going to cut to that receiver.
To answer your question, any time my eyes could be on the quarterback or the fullback or the running back or I could be going out to go at a receiver, it depends on how we run that play.
Discipline, discipline, discipline.That's all it is.
You can say it and try to practice, but how hard is it going to be when you see that you're supposed to instinctively almost run and read and react and chase a ball carrier down, sometimes you've just got to stay at home. Is that possible?That's what separates an average team from a great team. That's what I feel like has got us here all season. We've gone out on the field and executed. I feel like we haven't had any heroes that try to get on our defense. Everybody is playing assignment football. And that's what we're going to do Monday night.
When you see this running game on film, how is this different than like a Georgia Tech, for your reads what do you have to do differently?Just more so because they try to give you more smoke and mirrors. They try to send the receivers across your face, send the fullback across the face, and sometimes he's not going to even fake the play, he's just there to get your eyes going.
Just discipline, just making sure you're doing your job. And if that is making the play, blowing it up, that's what I am going to do. But if that is just taking on the offensive lineman, I'm going to do that too.
Are you guys going to win Monday night?Come on now. Come on now.
What did you see in the Missouri film? Were you shocked they tried to play them with three and four defensive lineman?I'm not going to say I was shocked. A defensive coordinator got his own mindset. He's going to try to do what he thinks is best for his team and go out and lead them to a win. Maybe the coordinator thought he saw something that the other teams didn't. I really can't answer that question for them. But in my eyes, maybe he saw something we didn't.
What was their mistake they you're going to do differently?Just got to be technique sound, disciplined with the run. You can't be a hero, like we've been saying. A lot of times you're in that ball game guys tried to get out their gaps, guys didn't have their eyes on the quarterback, guys tried to overrun plays, miss tackles. That's the biggest thing we saw and the biggest thing we've been working on.
Can you blitz to disrupt the run game?I definitely think the blitz could be effective in the pass or the run or even on the special teams. The blitz is a very effective play if you use it right.
How valuable is it having a month to prepare for this kind of offense?It's very valuable, because you're getting that work every day. It becomes muscle memory, you have to do it 365 times. But we haven't done it 365 times, but we rep'ed it a lot. But I feel everybody is comfortable with what we're doing.
How critical is Nick Marshall triggering the action in the option offense? He's big. Just because he's a running quarterback. He can keep the ball and run and when he run, he can break out for a long one and burst it on you.
We've just got to go out and make sure when you have the quarterback, you have him, when you have the running back, you have them. And if we do that we'll be great.
Lamarcus Joyner joked by calling Tre Mason a freak of nature in early December. Have you talked to Tre Mason, any smack talk?Come on now, you know, we never do that. And that's one thing I love about this team. We don't have to go out and say we're going to do this or do that, we're going to go out and play hard nosed football. We're going to speak when we get between the lines, between the whistle.
Nobody has really pressured you this season. Does Auburn have the best chance, do they look like the most difficult offense to stop?You say that now that Auburn has that -- I mean, that we haven't been pressured. But at the beginning of the season Maryland came in. Everybody said Maryland is going to do it to you. When we were going to Clemson, everybody said Clemson is going to do it to you. When we were going into Florida, they're the worst team -- my bad. We were going into Florida, Florida is going to upset you. We're going into the ACC Championship, we've been playing great ball all season, Duke is going to upset you.
All season we've been saying these teams are going to upset us, we've eliminated that. All we've done is went out and played hard nosed football, and that's what we're going to do this game right here.
You guys have been speaking about winning by 30 and 40. What kind of noise will that make if you guys do that Monday night?It will make the same noise we've been making all season. After that, if we put up those numbers, if we do that, then people are still going to say, well, there was this, so we can't look at all of that, we're going to go out and play hard and just see what happens.
Are you going to be satisfied if you win by like 2 or 1?I'm going to be satisfied if we win the game. Because we've put in all this work, I don't care if we win by a point, I don't care if the score is 2 0, I'm going to be happy with a W.
You haven't been in a real close game. If you are in one, how do you think you respond?We haven't been in a close game?
Not a real close one.Not a real close one. This team right here, one thing that we do respond to is adversity. Maybe we haven't faced it on the field, but off the field with all the clutter and everything going around. I feel like as a team we know how to adjust, and that's what we do, we adjust to any situation.
(Inaudible.)Whenever I speak, whenever I talk to my teammates, I let it come from the heart. If you try to write something or script something, then it's not real. I try to make sure I'm real when I talk to my teammates, and that's why they respond to it.
We persevered through a lot. So it's a lot of stuff that's on my chest, on my heart, but I don't know what's going to come out.
(Inaudible.)We've got to go out and execute, play assignment football, technique football. And if we do that, we'll have a great game.
(Inaudible.)It definitely is, when they're in a hurry up play, they rushed 12 yards on you, and in one play you're going to be like I know they're going to do it again, then you try to do something extra, and that's called being a hero. And that's what I feel like we don't have, we don't have heroes; we have football players.
(Inaudible.)If any difference, I've seen Coach Jimbo cry when Jameis got the Heisman Trophy. I've seen Jimbo go off and practice when we didn't execute right. I wouldn't say a different Jimbo, I would just say a more confident Jimbo in his team that he's got it right for this process.
(Inaudible.)I would definitely say so, that he's more confident. Not in any other team or anything like that that he's had, but he's more confident in us because of the players that he has, he knows the kind of job we're going to go out and do and how we're going to perform.
The way you were talking about looking at film, it seems you think a lot of these other teams were trying to be a hero, were trying to make stops. You just have to take your medicine with Auburn?Exactly. That's what you said. You can't go out and try to do too much. You can't go out and say because they've got 20 yards on this run, I'm going to make sure I get a tackle for a loss, because I know what it's going to do. Because at times they could switch up the whole play on you and run something else and then you really messed up because you didn't do your assignment. As long as we go out and execute and do your job, what we've been doing all season, we'll play a great ball game.
How confident is this team right now? You're No. 1, you're a favorite. You really haven't had a threat where you had to come back at the end.I mean, we're very confident, you know, that's just because we believe in each other. We know what we're capable of. We know if we play hard and play hard nosed football for 60 minutes, no team can play with us in the country.
Is there pressure on you being at the top?I don't feel like it's any pressure. We feel like we've been at the top since day one. Only thing around us that's changed is people want a number by a name.
What does mean to you?I mean, it means a lot just because you know you've worked hard and you put in a lot of time to this ball game. And to see it pay off like this, with a room full of people asking you questions about the game you love, I mean, it's incredible.
Talk about Auburn and the respect you have for them.We have much respect. This is going to be the second one in four years, if I'm correct. They're a great program. They have a lot of history. I even watched -- I always watch the video on Netflix. I always watch that documentary. I just love the history of the game. Even though we're playing them, I still am going to watch it tonight.
How do you feel about the 2010 class and where they started? How do you feel about the match up of FSU's defense against Auburn's offense?This class has come a long way. When we came here we said we come to win championships and bring Florida State back. As a freshman, people thought we were just talking, even the upperclassmen, they didn't believe in what we were doing and the process that Jimbo had. And I feel like every year we grind at it, we ate at it. Even though we got upset a few times, we pushed and we persevered. And it only goes to show that when you put your mind to something and a group of guys come together and love each other, the way I love you, man, I'm telling you, it's amazing what can happen out there on that field.
How do you feel about our speed against (inaudible)?You know, that's one thing that we've had above a lot of teams this season. We've had a lot of speed, beat teams to the ball. When they try to outrun us to the sideline, we try to beat them. I don't think this team is going to try to outrun us to the sideline. I think they're going to be try to come at us with a tough, physical game, so that's what we've been preparing for.
What are you going to the tell the leaders of this FSU defense to take care of business in this game?It's just like you said, we know we've got to do what we've done all season, we've just got to go out and take care of business.
You're able to watch Jameis. What goes through your mind when you see what he's done as a freshman?A lot of times on the field we're actually making adjustments and stuff like that. So we don't really get to look up at the player until we hit a guy, and then we try to catch a glimpse of something. So, you know.
But to go back and I do rewatch the games every time we play, so just to go back and see from day one how he stepped on the field, each game he's risen, overcome everything, you know, that just shows attitude again, how far he can go. And he's just a redshirt freshman. So the sky's the limit.
Talk about your defense defending that run game they have. That's something you guys have been looking at over and over.That's definitely what we've been looking at. Because that's how they've beaten multiple teams in the running game. Yeah, they got the kick 6 in the game against Alabama, yeah, they got the Hail May pass against Georgia, but at the end of the day, if those teams had stopped the run, it wouldn't have been a ball game.
That's what we're going to make sure we do, stop the run.
Talk about your confidence, defense confidence, team confidence.We play with a little swagger about ourselves. We know what you're capable of doing, we know we can go higher, and we know each guy trusts and loves each other. And when you say that, it only grows and grows. When you get out on the field and play for each other, you can see what happens.
Can you describe what it's going to mean when you step out on the field Monday?I've never stepped on the Rose Bowl field, never been in California, never been in a National Championship. When all of that come out on that field, it will be a great feeling, it's a blessing.
Jimbo said (inaudible)?I had -- actually, it was between Georgia and Florida State at the end of the day. And I really, really, really felt great about Georgia, just because I love Coach Mark Richt, I'm a Georgia boy, I felt like having that G on my helmet, my favorite colors are red and black, it felt like everything was right to go there. But at the same time when I said I'm want to change the game. When I said I want to bring a program back, I saw all of that in Coach Fisher.
At the end of the day when I had to sit and think about it, it was more praying and saying, Lord, please let me make the right decision than thinking about it, and I know I did.
What did Jimbo say to you in the Burger King parking lot?Actually, he didn't nothing. I called him and said, Coach, I don't know what I want to do. I said I don't know what I want to do. I have to call you back. And I hung up the phone. So I know he went crazy when I hung up the phone. Just because I really didn't give him much. I just said I don't know, I'm going to call you back and let you know.
But I told him at the beginning, when he came and sat in my coach's office, I said I'm a Seminole, and when I said it I knew I meant it.
The nucleus of your defense are the four senior. Talk about your development and the special bond you have and now to look at Monday.Myself and Christian Jones, we met up, we went to camps together, we went to combines together, so we kind of got an early bond. And it was just crazy how everything worked out. At the time, I was yelling LSU and he was yelling Florida State. It just all played out.
When I heard Joyner committed, I never even heard of him, being from Georgia. But when I got here and I met him and saw his love and passion for the game, I said I love this man. And then he drove me, I drove him. Christian pushed me, I pushed him. And then Terrence came and put icing on the cake. We're going to have everything over the top.
And, man, it's been an incredible journey growing with these guys, seeing these guys grow and become the men that we have and lead this team the way we have.
People refer to Auburn as a team of destiny because of the finishes they've had. For you guys to be in the position you're at, injuries have been limited, you've dealt with off field stuff and come through it, they could say the same thing about you to a certain extent, no?A team of destiny? I just feel like -- like I said earlier, every year a team comes into college football and they just eliminate everybody. They seem like they can't be touched. They seem like they're at the top of their game. Everything works out for them. The football gods put that on us this year. We've worked for it, don't get me wrong. But a lot of times stuff could have gone terribly to the left with the whole Jameis situation, with the whole injury situation, we could have lost many people. But again, we persevered and pushed and continued to believe in each other and now we're here.
Does Auburn's offense remind you of anybody you've played this year?The tempo would take me back to Nevada. The hard nosed running would take me back to Miami, to the Floridas. So I feel like all year we've prepared to be in this situation, game in and game out.
And then people say we haven't been in a close game, I feel like the Boston College game taught us, you don't take anything for granted when you step out on this field.
You say we won by 30, we won by 40, that's because we've learned, you don't leave it up to the refs. You don't leave it up to the other team. We have our destiny in our hands and that's what Coach Fisher has been telling us all season; we control our destiny and that's what we're going to play with.
Right after the BC game you had Clemson (inaudible)?Right. Like I said, we woke up after that Boston College game because we could have lost that game real easily. The running back, he was up for the Heisman. So that tells you the aptitude, the capability of what that team could have did to us.
With all the headlines with Jameis and the offense, even though you statistically you are one of the best defenses in the country, if not the bests, do you still feel like you get overlooked and underrated a little bit?Look where we're at. We can't get overlooked. Everybody knows who got us to this Championship, and that's defense. The offense sells tickets. They make highlights. But when it comes to that nitty gritty, grinding dirt, they know the defense is going to put that work in.
(Inaudible.)We pushed. We knew where we wanted to go in my first year when we got to the ACC Championship and Virginia Tech put that whooping on us, we learned then that you can't take anything for granted and the power of preparation is real. And that's when we started really believing in Coach Fisher.
The next year we didn't make it, but now since we've won two back to back, I think this Florida State team has really taken grasp of what we're capable of and how far we need to go to get it.
(Inaudible.)Be assignment perfect and it will take care of itself. If everybody does their job and everybody push each other to be great and go higher, I think we'll have no problem.
(Inaudible.)There you got me with that one. Let me see. Let me think. Before the Clemson game, what did Jameis say, We going to get a victory. That's what I've got for you.
What's the friendly rivalry between senior and junior class?Listen, the junior class want to say what they did -- don't get me wrong, they brought a lot to this program, you know. But everybody know with 2010, the class of 2010 stepped on campus, Florida State was changed forever.
They came in -- look at them. I'm telling you, they came in, they have some big shoes to fill. They pushed us, made our program grow a little bit. They pushed us and they let us know what we had to run.
There's no rivalry.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?When I was a kid I actually wanted to be a firefighter. And then I thought being a firefighter was something great just because they got to ride in the big trucks. When people called it seemed like they were there. At the same time, it didn't seem like they did too much. So a firefighter was my dream job as a child.
(Inaudible.)No matter the sport, what it takes to be the winner, you've got to have heart, you've got to have a strong mind and you've got to have leadership. If you don't have those three things, I don't care how hard you practice and everything, if you don't have leadership, I don't think you have it.
(Inaudible.)It's the power of execution. They go out there and they run fast. They snap the ball every 12 seconds, I think. And every 12 seconds all 11 guys do their job. And that's just big. And that speaks volumes to their team that they continue to play that fast and run it. And that's how they beat most teams. They get out and start running.
(Inaudible.)If you practice, practice makes perfect. We may not be perfect, but we're going to practice to get as close to it as we can. If we go out and whatever Coach Pruitt says, that's what we're going to do. If he feels like we can stay in one scheme and do it, that's what we're going to do. So it's on the coach, what he want to do.
(Inaudible.)It's time to tighten up my chinstrap and get ready to make some contact.
What has been the key to creating so many takeaways this season?Just Coach Pruitt, that's the one thing I can say about this defense. He's put us in the right spot. It's up to us to get there and make sure we make the play and get our hands on the ball, but Coach Pruitt has definitely brought this scheme here and transformed this defense into a takeaway machine.
How would you describe your strength of schedule?Our strength of schedule? I would say, you know, we've had our test. A lot of times people say our season -- like I said earlier, we came in, people came in and said, oh, this team is going to do this, Monday night, they never perform great on Monday night, when we went to Pittsburgh, we went up there and won the game. We started off slow, but we won the game.
Maryland came in, they're ranked 25, Florida State better watch out, upset alert. We knocked them off. Next thing you know, we go up to Boston College, where nobody really talked about that game, but after that game, everybody said well, they're going to Clemson next. You see what they did to Boston College. We literally destroyed Clemson in their house.
Next thing they say, we've got an old time rivalry, the Florida Gators. They're going to get upset. This is a team -- we went out there and played our hardest, because we knew what we had on the line and we won. Got to the ACC Championship and they said, Duke is a new team, a new coach, they're a team of this, they're a team of that. We went out there and we beat those guys.
All season I feel like we've been tested by others, and we've been put some place -- our schedule, I feel like it's been just right for us, it's been a great schedule for us.
In the game film of Auburn, what's the biggest concern?Our biggest concern is to make sure we're lined up. It has nothing to do with them. If we line up and execute, there's no way we're going to lose the ball game.
Jameis is at his best against five rushers or more this season. Why is he good in that spot?Look at what you just said. We go against him everyday. We put that pressure on him. It's that defense, we get it right. When you get in that situation, he knows what to look for. He knows he don't have to start scrambling. He knows to look right there and get the ball off or he knows to look for K.B. down the field and throw it deep.
If you practice that way every day, then the power of preparation is amazing. We go out and practice against those guys every day, and we get better, and you see the results.
You've heard for a month about their rush game. What about your running game? I feel like we have three of the most dynamic backs in college football. James Wilder, he's a tough, hard nosed runner. He's not going to go down with one person. In practice he lets us know he's not going to go down with one person. But he just gets us right.
And then they put Levonte in the box. He's a shifty one. He's got power, too, don't get me wrong. He will lower that shoulder and drop it on you. And then you have Karlos Williams, I feel like Karlos is a combination of both of those guys.
When we go against those running backs every day, they prepare for the worst situation to come at us. Whatever a team throw at us, I feel like we'll be ready for them.
(Inaudible.)That is the thing that helped the most, that we had experience, and that we were able to teach the younger guys how to run the defense. A lot of people said this will be complicated, I don't know if they'll pick it up so fast. But when you have older guys that know how to learn, and have been through the process, it's easy to teach them. We have great leadership on this team.
(Inaudible.)It puts us in so many positions to make plays, it's ridiculous. In the Wake Forest game, we had like six interceptions or seven, whatever it was, that just shows the volumes of what the Coach Pruitt has done for us, and what we go out on the field and execute. I just feel like it just shows the versatility of each player on the field.
(Inaudible.)The biggest issue about stopping him is stopping the Auburn offense. He runs through those guys. At any time he can keep the ball or not keep the ball. It's just doing your assignment on the play. And if every guy does the assignment, it won't be an effect.
Tell me about your recruitment. Did you ever think of Georgia or Georgia Tech?I definitely did think of Georgia. Actually, on signing day I had a little epiphany and went through a little crazy situation with Coach Fisher and I called him right before I was about to sign and said I don't know, I have to think about it. I prayed about it and everything, and then I decided Florida State was the best team for me.
You're feeling pretty good about that decision right now?You see it, I'm smiling. I've been smiling ever since. It's great and I couldn't ask for a better coach or better teammates.
Have you ever thought about Auburn?No. I wasn't looking at Auburn. The furthest I was looking was LSU when they came through. But that's just because I love Coach Les Miles. I haven't talked to him since then, but I would love to tell him thanks for the opportunity, even though I didn't. I just love him and his program. And those colors, purple and gold, that did something to me, and the "Eye of the Tiger" on the field, I loved it. But that Seminole "Renegade," it did something a little bit more for me.
Why Florida State over Georgia specifically?I just believed in what Coach Fisher said. Coach Martin was a great guy, he sold his program. I just believed in Coach Fisher. And he told me, I looked at the history of Florida State, in the '90s Florida State was the most dominant team in college football, and he said that's what we're going to be. All you have to do is trust me. When he said that and he looked me in my face, and when a man look you in the face and man to man say that to you, then I understood what he wanted and what he expected, that's when I said okay, I'm down.
Stopping Nick Marshall, he's a heck of an athlete.He's a heck of a player, heck of a quarterback. He brings the versatility to the position that a lot of guys don't have. So we're going to have to go out and execute and play hard.
What about for you as a linebacker, what makes it so difficult to stop what they do?When Coach says in the play I just have to do my job, each player, 11 guys have to do their job. If 11 guys do their job, we'll be fine.
How did you try to simulate Auburn's offense in practice?We have a great guy by the name of John Franklin, Mario Pender, those running backs and quarterbacks, when they run, and when they get you right, man, they push you. And I get mad at them sometimes, because I think they do too much, but they don't. They're get us right and they're getting us ready for the National Championship.
How confident are you that you can win this game?I'm very confident. Not only -- not because what we've done all season, but because of the practice and how I've seen us prepare this week and this whole month since we've been preparing. Each week we've gotten better, each week we've gotten a little bit closer to what we want out of practice.
I feel like now that it's winding down, these guys are getting ready, and they're starting to foam at the mouth a little bit.
What's the plan for Coach Sunseri?Man, you're the first person that's ever asked me that. I'm happy you asked me. I never get to talk about Coach. I love Coach Sal. He's a straightforward guy. He's been in the football world a long time. He's been in Super Bowls, he's been in National Championships, ACC Championships, SEC Championships. He just has a long line of football history behind him.
You can't help but respect him on the field. But off the field he's like a father that you always wanted, because he brings his kids a lot. When you see how they love him, I love him just as much. I hug that big teddy bear like he's my own father.
He's a funny guy, isn't he?Man, he's funny. That Italian come out of him a little bit.
Talk about Auburn's run game and what makes them so effective and how you hope to stop that.What makes them so effective is the power of execution. They come out and they hurry up and they run, they run and run and run. And each time it seems like somebody messes up around them and they're able to make a big play. But that's what we're going to try to do, beat them back to the ball and execute the play.
How have you been preparing for that over the past month?Just going hard at temp at practice. But not only getting out of our schemes and just getting away from what we do, because we want to make sure we know what we're doing and what we're going to go into doing when we get out on the field. As long as we get out there and make sure that each guy knows what they're going to do, we'll be fine, I don't care how fast they go.
Talk about the past month and the adversity this team has faced.It's been crazy, all the ups and downs, not only this month but the whole season. If anything, I think it's brought us closer together. It's pushed us further, and let us know if we're not together and for each other, nobody will be for us. And that speaks volumes of how we came together, when everybody tried to tear us apart and tried to take our quarterback from us and things like that. If anything, it just brought us together and said we're one team, one heartbeat. We just stuck by it and that's what we live on.
How did this team rally around Jameis during that touch time?Man, we knew it was tough on him. But he's such a respectable young man that he just kept pushing through it. He needed what he needed, but he didn't need us there too much because he knew he was innocent in the first place, and then he knew he had a team that didn't have no worries about him. He knew we loved him and he loved us, and we just kept pushing through.
You guys have bonded together. When you take that field, who's going to be the leader that you look to?The leader that we look to? There's not one particular guy we look to. People look at me and say I'm the vocal leader, but we have a few. James Wilder is a big, vocal leader. Obviously Jameis is a big, vocal leader. Timmy Jernigan is a big, vocal leader. Lamarcus never says anything, but when he gets on the field he speaks volumes in the way he plays.
So it's not one guy we're going to look to, it's this whole team we're going to look to, and say we've done this all season, let's continue to do this by how we play.
Kelvin Benjamin said you're the Floyd Mayweather of football. Can you comment on that.I mean, I'm not going to talk too much about it, but we like to have our confidence and we like to play hard. So, yeah, when we take care of business in one aspect that's what you can say, when we take care of business, we take care of business. But off the field, we're a bunch of clowns and we love each other and just like to joke around.
Looking at how you guys have banded together, what does that say about the fight behind this team?That says in itself. We've got a dog in us that can't be tamed. Obviously Coach Fisher did a little bit of taming to get us on the right line. But it just shows we'll go the distance for one another. When any adversity comes on the field or off the field, this Florida State team is going to stick together.
On the upset alert every week, did you have to get over that yourselves mentally? Was there a game or two that helped you get over that?Other than the Boston College game, I think that woke us up, if anything. It didn't put anything us. But it put us in the position to say we know what we've got to continue to do and continue to get better. We can never be satisfied with where we're at. And that's how I feel like we went about our business.
So, yeah, that pushed us and brought us together.
You feel the BC game (inaudible)?Exactly, it definitely did. Because after that we played Clemson and you saw what happened after that game.
Does it help you have so many coaches on the staff who have been to a National Championship game?It definitely does help, because they get us ready for it. A lot of teams might not have that experience in the game and the coaches might get rattled. These coaches have been calm all weekend. They told us, act how we act, do what we do, follow us, and we're going to lead you. And they haven't led us wrong all season, so they're not going to do that this game.
(Inaudible.)I definitely see him as a threat on this team -- on that team. He can bust a run at any time. He find holes. He's a very dynamic player and a patient running back. That's rare in what you'll find in a running back because they're so used to getting all these yards, head for these yards, but he's patient. He let his O line do their job, and that's why he's been so successful.
(Inaudible.)Do our assignment. Do our job. If we go out and do that, it will be a great game.
Do you laugh when you see Benjamin running through the secondary?I mean, I don't laugh, I say, wow. Just to see where this guy came from and to see where he started and to see where he's at now, that's just tremendous that he's able to push through that and keeps going higher. And he's just now starting, so if he keep going, there's no telling where he could up end at.
What changed?Just the team. I feel like he saw the duty or responsibility he had to this team. Everybody knows the responsibility that they got. We say be accountable, and a lot of times in the game he wasn't accountable, and he'll even tell you that. But now he said I'm going to fight for this team. When we say fight for each other, I really mean -- I really think every player really means that, fight for each other.
What's it like trying to cover him coming across the middle?You know, it's tough, because he's a big guy. He likes to throw his body around and get to the ball. But he's a great guy to get us prepared for the game.
As a senior, how rewarding is it to be here? Has it sunk in? You're about to play in the National Championship.You know, if anything -- I saw this with my picture on it and stuff like that. But all season we've just eliminated the clutter. All season we've stayed focused. So if we got to this point and we started to do the opposite of what we've done all season, then we're not who they think we are, or we're not who we think we were.
As a team that's all we're going to do, continue to push, persevere and stay focused, eliminate the clutter and play a hard nosed football team.
You haven't allowed yourself to enjoy the moment?We've definitely enjoyed it. We talk about it all the time. But when it's time to take care of business, all that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. If you don't go out and execute and play hard, 13 wins won't mean a thing, you'll be just the second team in college football or a team in college football that got upset.