COACH FISHER: Great to see everyone. This is my seventh one. The older you get, time goes faster. Seems like the season just ended.
Saying all that, the last seven years, what we've been able to establish at Florida State, getting us back to an elite status in college football, winning a national championship, conference title we want, but more importantly making us relevant in the conversation again. Very happy what we've been able to do, the culture we've been able to create, the games we've won, but the players we've been able to develop, all the aspects of their life. Very excited about that.
More so than what we've done in the past, what we've got going on in the future. Very excited about this team coming up. As you see the two guys we have here, DeMarcus Walker and Dalvin Cook, two of the great players in college football, but the future of our program. The legacy the guys in the past have left, the legacy these guys are leaving the next group, very excited about where we're going in the future. That's what it's all about. That's what we expect at Florida State. That's how we play. That's why these guys come here.
It's always great to be up here with you trying to keep Florida State relevant. We're definitely going to do that.
Q. What do you think of Dino Babers fit at Syracuse?
COACH FISHER: Well, I mean, anytime the hurry up, those guys, they have their own little tweak or turn to it. The key to all those things is you have to be in great condition, just like DeMarcus said. You have to be a great formation recognition, keep great eye discipline.
But everybody has a different twist to it. It's not just one standard offense. Dino has had great success with it wherever he's been. He's a heck of a football coach. They got great players, fast players, quarterbacks can run and throw. It's going to be a huge challenge. We're going to have to get that recognition and, again, let our eyes get in the right position so we can let our talent play.
Q. To take a look at where you're going with the future, what you've been able to build on already, what can you say about the quarterback situation? A couple years ago you were in a different place. What do you see out of the four guys you have right now?
COACH FISHER: I'm very happy with Sean. As we know, he came in and played great in the Syracuse game. When he came in, had a great Clemson game. It was a tough game. We lost it, but he did his part of it. Played at Florida and won. Played on a broken bone under his foot, basically an ankle. Our guys have tremendous respect for him. Can make all the throws. A leader. Means a lot. A very tough guy.
Then you have our younger guys, Francois, very talented, makes all the throws. Had a great spring. Very happy in the spring game, the development he made. The progress he seems to be making in the summer from everything we're hearing. Very excited to see him, how he takes it from the spring into the fall camp, what he's doing there.
J.J. Consentino, we've seen play. Had a good spring.
Malik Henry, came in one semester, he really flashed, did some great things with the limited knowledge he had coming into the game. This guy can play, too.
We're in great shape. The future looks really good. Anxious to see how these first guys battle in fall camp, see where we're at.
Q. Talk about the third and fourth down for defense. Seems like last year the defense was on the field too many third downs, fourth downs, extra plays. What do you have to do this year to stop having the extra plays?
COACH FISHER: I think win first down. I think the first thing you want to do to be good on third downs is win first downs. You can put them in third-and-long, third-and-medium, you usually come out more on top.
On the offensive part of that, too, is we got to convert. Last year was one of the first years we didn't convert at a high rate as we normally do on offense. The more plays you make there, you keep your defense off the field. That's always a huge emphasis for us.
You hear me say it all the time, red zone, third-down turnovers are very critical parts of the game that are very important. We practice those a lot. We're going to have to do a great job.
If you really want to win third down, you have to do a great job on first down, defense, make it second-and-long, to get them in those situations. On offense, if you're successful on first down, it's hard not to get a first down, converting on that end of it.
It's something we have to work on. I'm hoping with the experience we have we're going to be able to do that.
Q. This is the second year in a row you got the top player out of Virginia. Also the second year you got the top player out of Virginia Beach. Talk about what you like out of that area, also about Josh's improvements going into the season.
COACH FISHER: First of all, that area to me is one of the top areas in this country. If you research it over time, the number of players and athletes that have come out of that Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton area, that whole area, you're not just talking about football players, Lawrence Taylor, Dwight Stephenson, all the way back, some of the greatest ones ever. You go into basketball, Alonzo Mourning, all the guys, Allen Iverson. In baseball, the Upton brothers. I mean, it's every sport.
That area has always been a productive area. We've had some success. Our recent success started with EJ Manual. He came down, was a highly ranked guy, one of the greatest quarterbacks in Florida State history. I think a lot of people had a lot of respect for him.
We were winning. That's a natural avenue for us. We go back that way to play. That's in the ACC territory. We're having a lot of success. The guys we've gotten out of there, Derrick Nnadi, Levonta Taylor. Of course, Josh I think is a very special guy.
We weren't thinking we were going to have him play last year. He came in, played almost every game, played all the snaps. Right now about 250 pounds, running strong. I think he can be one of the elite players out there, I really do. I look for him to have a big year.
That area has always been productive. It's in our realm of where we go play and recruit. Great coaching in that area, great player development, great competition. In the history of the United States, if you want to look at it for athletes, that's been one of the top areas, can match up with anybody.
Q. There aren't many schools in the country that reach the status that you have reached. A school aspires to that level of achievement, what do they have to do to get there?
COACH FISHER: I think consistency. Everybody says it's about players. No, it's not. Players are a key ingredient. But we have to build the culture of the university, to have consistency. Player development is a person, how they develop with community service, relationships, understanding the role who they are, role models to young kids, all those types of things, academic development, making sure they have success in school as far as giving them academic support, make sure they understand the importance of having an education.
We so focus on the athletic part of it, if those kids aren't having success as people and students, you don't play well as a player. That's just a fact. People don't believe that. I've been in coaching 27 years. The guys that develop as people and develop as students, have success in other areas that they never thought were important or actually thought could never have great success in. It's amazing when they do well in those areas, how they develop in ball.
I think it's a coach's responsibility and a school's responsibility to keep developing the culture, stay on the cutting edge of all the peripheral programs that help these kids with behavioral issues, all the things that will give them all the tools in hand to be successful.
I'll tell you what, being an athlete today in the college game I think is harder than it's ever been in the world because of the issues they face, the situations, the way things are done, the social media world. Everyone knows what these kids do all the time. The pressure for these guys to play so early in their careers, I think it's critical.
I think you have to provide all that leadership and guidance at an early age from the second they get there for them to get on the field. A lot of these guys are leaving when they're juniors. Used to be you never played when you're a redshirt junior. Now they're leaving when you're a junior.
Someone asked me the scenario. Charlie Ward, Jameis Winston, who is the greatest quarterback? Here is a perspective. There is no answer to this. They're all great. They never thought about this. This is 1993 to 2013. When Jameis left in his career, that was the time Charlie Ward was just getting on the field. Think about that a minute. When Jameis left with what he accomplished, that was the time Charlie was starting with his career.
What's significant about that is maturity issues, guidance issues. Guys are being asked to do things at such an earlier age than they've ever done. We want the expectations, we want the pressure, we doing all that.
I think for schools to provide outlets and help these guys grow as people is the key ingredient to having consistency in your program. It's the support system and the commitment of the university to do those things. I think that's been a huge part of what we've been able to do, the programs we've been able to put in place.
Q. This season you open up against Ole Miss. Next season against Alabama. Both neutral-site games. How beneficial is it for the motivation of your football team?
COACH FISHER: I think they get your attention very quickly. Just like a couple years ago, we opened up with Oklahoma State coming out of the gate. Opened up a couple years ago with Pitt up in Pittsburgh. Anytime you have a big-time opponent like that, your off-season is ramped up. It's a natural instinct.
Coaches don't have to say a word. Kids know it. They know everything that goes on. They know the importance of the game. They know the competition. That's why these guys come here. They know how to compete.
But it makes your off-season, in my opinion, so enhanced. You know what I mean? It jump-starts it so much quicker. I've been extremely pleased with our attitude and our work ethic through the summer. Our weight coaches is saying it's one of the best ones we've had in the last four or five years.
You get better. If you're not, you get bit right off the bat. It's going to be a great challenge.
Q. You and Clemson have been toward the top of the league for the last few years. Do you feel the rest of the league is catching up? Is the gap closing at all?
COACH FISHER: Oh, I think it definitely has. Us and Clemson have had great success. We've been here six years, played in the championship four out of six years, they played the other two. We've won a national championship. They've played for one. We're playing at a very high level, two of the elite programs.
We've had some success against Miami, but all those games have been nail-biters right down to one-possession games right to the end. Georgia Tech upset us last year and plays very good. Pitt, NC State. North Carolina is an on-side kick away from having a chance to beat Clemson last year going into that.
There's so many teams. Virginia Tech when Frank was there was one of the elite teams in college football for a long time. This is a great league. I've coached in the other leagues. I know what they are. This is a great football. Great football players. You name me a league that has bigger stars than Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya.
There's other guys in our league that are great players. We have other great players. Miami has other great players. Clemson has other great players, so does Georgia Tech, NC State. All across the board, everybody has them. Big running back in James Conner, big runningback at Pitt, having him back in the league. You're talking about the Player of the Year from two years ago. We have star-studded players. This is a great league of football.
Q. When you first came into the league, it was in a defensive phase. One year when there were six first-round draft choices. Now it's clearly an offensive phase. 90% of the offensive stars are back. You just said some names. Talk about the offense.
COACH FISHER: There's a lot of dynamic players now. There really are.
But it goes in cycles, offense, defense. You still have to play great defense to win. But there's a lot of dynamic players. Don't just get first downs, they change the numbers on the scoreboard. They can finish plays.
Our guys are as dynamic as anybody. Deshaun with his legs, with his arms. Brad Kaaya throws the football around. So many guys, speedy receivers. You have to have your A game on defense.
The multiplicity of things. People say this all the time. It's much easier, as crazy as this sounds, to be a defensive coordinator in pro football than it is in college football. Because first and second down in pro football are all about the same. Third down, creativity on the blitzes. College football, just in our league, you play us, a traditional pro offense. You go play a wishbone, play Georgia Tech. Then you play no-huddle at Clemson. Then you play North Carolina's no-huddle. Then you play Syracuse's no-huddle.
The diversity of these defenses, the multiplicity of what these kids have to learn and play, it's a huge disadvantage on defense. In pro football, your offenses are basically the same. You put those dynamic players out there in space, it's tough. Our defensive staff is going to have their hands full.
One of your goals on offense is you make sure you score your points and keep the ball away from the other guy. Like I was saying a minute ago, third down situations, make sure you're converting. If you convert two third downs and don't score any points or kick a field goal, it's better than giving it back to them there. It's tough on these coordinators.
Q. Talk about Miami with Mark Richt coming down, talk about your battles.
COACH FISHER: You'll have to ask Mark what he's going to do to change Miami around. He's won 146 games, almost 10 game a year in a great conference. Mark knows how to coach, knows how to win. Great coordinator when he was at Florida State. Won a couple national titles.
Great gentleman. Knows how to recruit. He lived in South Florida, played in Miami. He knows the area. They have a top quarterback, probably be a top-10 pick in the draft. They've got good skill guys. They've got players. I think he'll do very well.
Miami made a good hire.
Q. You've had a lot of success with different types of quarterbacks over the years, guys that bring a lot of different things to the table. What would you say are your non-negotiable fundamentals? What would you consider the non-negotiable fundamentals above the waist and below? What do you look for when you're looking at high school quarterbacks, what is your checklist?
COACH FISHER: We've been fortunate to have some great ones, we really have. Great pros, great college guys. Three first-round picks in a row, first pick of the draft.
In quarterbacking, at the end of the day, they all have different strengths. You call the different game, call different plays, different throws. At the end of the day quarterbacking gets down to two thing. Does the guy have a good arm? Is he tough? Does he have leadership? Does he have good footwork, balance? Does he make good decisions where he's throwing the football or is he checking off and handing it off right? His decision-making ability and his accuracy when he throws it. He has a soft arm, can make this throw, that throw. Does he hit what the heck he's throwing at?
Footwork, leadership, toughness, we have all those intangibles. If he can't make the decision, hit what he's throwing at, he can have all those other things, it's not going to work. At the end of the day, sometimes we complicate it so much, find ways in which they can do that, find ways in which they can do that.
Again, when you're looking at a quarterback, there's a certain level of arm talent you have to have. Number one, first and foremost, has to have a certain level of arm talent that he has to have to play at the next level, our level I'm talking about. Then we get back to the other things. Does he move his team?
The other thing is, when you watch him on film, is he moving the ball. At the end of the day, what does a quarterback have to do? He has to move the ball down the field.
Dink it, dunk it, do it the Joe Montana way, the John Elway way, the Peyton Manning way, the Brett Favre way. Does the ball move down the field and do the guys around him respond to him?
We complicate it so much. But there's a lot of different ways to skin a cat. Those are key things. When you're watching the arm talent, then you get into the decision making, the accuracy, then all the other intangibles.
I'm going to say this. It's hard to ever judge one. I don't care what you say. As a coach, people ask me what you think. I don't know, I ain't never coached him. Till you coach a guy, you don't know a guy. Don't pretend like you know what he's looking at or what he should be doing. Could be being told right and done wrong or could be backwards. Hard to judge those guys till you ever coached them.
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