Jimbo Fisher likes to send messages to his Florida State team and the fan base through the media. Last year, while outwardly maintaining that the 2015 Seminoles squad had as much potential as any, Fisher went out of his way to let everyone know how young the team was.
Consider Jimbo Fisher wants to make sure you know how young Florida State is, from August.
Fisher didn't waste any time in getting to his preseason message, using some form of the words "develop," "educate," "teach," "learn," "young," "potential," and "knowledge" 20 times in his opening statement. Before taking a single question, Fisher set the tone about just how young his team is and how different 2015 will be from the three-year run upon which his program had embarked.
Fisher was excited about coaching his 2015 team because he is a teacher at heart, and was getting the chance to mold a bunch of young talent.
But he knew that the 2015 team wasn't going to be a championship-level squad after losing a record amount of talent to the NFL draft in a three-year span. He didn't want the team to get down on itself due to the huge number of mistakes that would occur in practice and games due to the massive roster turnover.
His excitement about the 2016 squad is different. There was no hidden message about youth or teaching in his opening spring press conference Wednesday. Instead, it's one of maximizing potential and the need to give championship-level effort, because Fisher knows 2016 could be a special year.
"You knew when you played [Arkansas Basketball with Nolan Richardson] there was a certain level -- they played with that press -- that's the way we want to play," Fisher said. "We did in 2013, at times in 2012, at times in 2014. That 2013[championship team] had it and could instill it from the first play to the last. It doesn't always happen. The great teams I've had -- it takes a special group of guys -- but that's the key to being successful."
The 2013 team was the best team in program history, with a unique circumstance in which its best players were also some of its best leaders. It was the product of an unsustainable hit rate on the recruiting trail, and players who worked extremely hard in part because they were tired of hearing about how Florida State "always underachieved" and wasn't "SEC quality."
2013's recipe might not be all that repeatable.
After practice, Fisher was unhappy with the effort given on Day 1 of spring.
"I ain’t never had a day on this field like that, period," Fisher said. "… Culture of dominance? That was about as far opposite of that as I’ve ever seen. There was no culture of dominance out there. They didn’t want to be out there."
It's possible that Fisher is trying to set the tone, but it's also possible that he was genuinely disappointed that the effort level wasn't where he hoped it would be on Day 1.
Motivation is a tricky thing. For many players, playing time is the ultimate motivator, either through love of the game or as a means to achieve a goal of playing at the next level.
But what about players who don't really care about playing? It's no secret that some just like being on the team and getting the substantial perks that come with it.
Fisher's efforts to foster a culture of family within the program produces many benefits, but the unwillingness to recruit over players who don't develop or who don't give great effort creates a segment of the roster that is very tough to motivate.
If a player doesn't care about playing time, and knows his scholarship is safe even if you don't give maximum effort, how is a coach supposed to motivate him? Worse yet, if young players see that upperclassmen are still on the roster despite not giving maximum effort, they could perceive that giving that 100 percent really isn't required to stay on the team. Programs who are more business-like with their roster management don't have to deal with this all-carrot, no-stick problem.
Luckily for Florida State, it seems that many of the young players are motivated by playing time and are more likely to take after the veterans with good habits than those who just enjoy saying they like to play football.