Head coach Jimbo Fisher and his Florida St. team is dealing with a lot of changes this off-season, including the loss of star quarterback Jameis Winston. He talks about the upcoming season at his pre-camp press conference yesterday.
Q. With Everett transferring in, you were talking about your experience transferring in as a quarterback. Can you discuss what that was like for you and some of the challenges you had while trying to earn a starting spot?
COACH FISHER: In a short period of time, what you have to do is understand how to get these people to trust you. That you’re not here to be an individual, you’re not here to disrupt thinking. You want to be part of their family and have success and we all do this thing together. You get that by one thing: You put your nose down and go to work, treat people very fairly. They see your work ethic, demeanor, personality is to be one of them, not be above them. You get acclimated. Once they realize you’re there with them, you’re walking side-by-side with them, you’re there to help in their success, they usually accept and then go to play.
Q. You brought over Roberto Aguayo. Can you talk about the leadership he’s shown from being the kicker.
COACH FISHER: It’s odd until you meet him. You say ‘a kicker’. To me, he’s probably going to be one of the greatest in college football history. This guy is a special guy. The respect he has on our team, he’s so athletic and he plays. But when you watch him work and practice, the grind, I mean, he’s good because he’s talented, but he’s great because he has a tremendous work ethic. He’s a perfectionist. Our kids say that. The confidence, when he walks on the field, our kids jump up, How far is he kicking this one? They know what’s coming. We had Dustin Hopkins, Graham, but this guy is a special guy. He’s a great leader on our team, has a huge influence and impact on our players.
Q. To look at this team on the field with all the success you’ve had, off the field you’ve been able to corral the team. What can you say about this family and the environment you created that even when things are happening off the field, you can still get it done?
COACH FISHER: I think life is like that. Think about your life individually. Nothing’s ever smooth. There’s always an issue. There’s always a problem. You talk about learning to perform and getting what athletics teaches you for life. Like the scenarios I go through with my son. I revert to when I was a player, how to compartmentalize and take care of the things you can take care of. I got one problem here. I don’t need two problems by letting this go away. When you’re a husband, you’re a father, you’re a mentor, whatever it may be, there’s issues at work. There’s always going to be something in life. Life never goes smoothly and it’s not fair. What it teaches these kids, you got to control the things you can control with the time can you control them in, deal with the others later. We’ve put a lot of time in our mental conditioning, mental preparation, in our sports psychology and all those programs to help these kids deal with that. It’s not just helping them win football games, it will help them down the road in life. It’s exactly what I’m dealing with, with the personal circumstances I go through now in all the different things.
Q. How frustrating has it been for you with the recent activities off the field and the fact that your president had to step in and say, Let’s get this in order?
COACH FISHER: I think it’s disappointing. But our president is over there when we’re doing well. We communicate quite often, once or twice a week. He’s in our locker room. He also knows we’re the window of this university. I think bringing him over, along with ourself, our AD, it’s another voice to these kids. It takes a village to raise kids. When you hear it, it’s like teachers. You’re the principal of an organization. You have so many different teachers that affect the kids differently. When they hear it from a different voice, it catches their attention. One of the ultimate challenges of coaching, it’s something I love the most, and it’s also the most frustrating. Just like today, I’m speaking and there’s 75 people in here maybe. Whatever I say today can be interpreted and written 75 different ways and will be. That’s human nature. We all process information on our own level totally differently. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just like players. You’re talking to 120 players. You’re saying that. They’re hearing that 120 different ways. How they process it and how they filter it. I think the more voices you get there, they emphasize the importance of it, the role in which they play. That’s one of the challenges as a coach, he interprets it this way, he interprets it this way. Making sure you have the individual relationship with those guys to be able to get them to hear that message consistently. When you have great people like President Thrasher, our AD Stan Wilcox, it only enhances it. That’s the challenge when you’re dealing with such a large variety of players.
Q. You’ve won 29 out of 30 games, suddenly you’re the underdog in the pre-season poll. How does that feel?
COACH FISHER: When we were the favorite, they didn’t give me the trophy. When you’re the underdog, they’re not giving Clemson the trophy. It’s all about how you perceive yourself in going at it. It’s great to have the expectations. Clemson deserves it. They’re a great program. Dabo has done a great job. We have our work cut out. There’s other great teams, Louisville, Miami, Georgia Tech. We have to have those pre-season polls. If it would, I would have more free time on the weekends, if we just had to live out the pre-season polls. It would be more fun. I don’t know if it would or not. It is what it is. That shows you to me the depth of the conference, that we’ve had three conference championships in a row, but they’re thinking another team is going to win it. To me, that’s only great for the ACC because I think they’re such a great brand of football out there.
Q. Florida State finished dead last in sacks. Is that acceptable?
COACH FISHER: I’m just worried about winning games. Whether there are sacks or whatever. If that helps us win games, it does. I think we will. I think we have more fast twitch guys. Style of defense, the way things go. Those are all things that you have to consider when you do that. In an offense you do what your players can do. On defense you do what your players can do. You have to pressure the quarterback. That’s something we must get better at.
Q. With the offensive line this year replacing a bunch of guys, how important is it that these guys have had a chance to work behind the guys who have left?
COACH FISHER: I think, again, it goes back to your culture. I think that’s the most important thing of any organization, how the kids eat, think, believe, the way they act. I think the standard that’s been set by the previous groups for these young guys to watch, learn and experience I think are very critical. We are a very talented football team. Hopefully they can take the work ethic and demeanor of the previous teams, how they prepared and got ready to play, be able to take that to the field. I like our offensive line. That’s one of the areas you always worry because up front, the guys that put their hand in the dirt are very critical. I was very pleased coming out of spring, we have a lot of work to do, but I can see where we can have a very good football team up there.
Q. You have developed a pretty strong intra-divisional rivalry with Clemson. Do you have a particular preference as far as playing that game earlier or later in the season?
COACH FISHER: No, I don’t necessarily. I think it’s fun. It’s become such a great rivalry. I think one of the things about rivalries, you set a time for them, you play ’em the same every year. I think that’s a very good thing to do because, like I say, inter-divisional rivals, whether it’s early, late or in the middle. Like every rivalry out there in college football, you know the date, the time, the network. They’re always on the same date, time, same network, whatever it may be. I think this game is evolving into that. That’s something we need to think about. I think it not only builds the brand of those two teams, but your conference.
Q. You lose half of your starters this year. There are a lot of question marks on the board. Have you seen younger guys step up and fill those roles?
COACH FISHER: That’s one of the things I’m most excited about. Whether they fill those roles, they have to to do it on Saturday when the scoreboard counts, when those numbers really matter on that scoreboard. But I like the demeanor of this team. I think the chemistry is very good. I like the work ethic. I like the hunger. They’re fighting to be the next guy up, the competition within practice. Again, talent, we are very talented. But what we have to do right now, I think what’s happening in sports today, we’re pushing this up so much, guy plays as a freshman, as a sophomore, goes to the league as a junior. I think what you’re starting to see in the NFL, they’re having a spring developmental league. I think there’s better athletes playing football than ever. We have to make sure they’re great football players playing football. I think there’s a difference learning to be a great football player than being a great athlete. That’s why all you see that in the NFL. These guys are all coming out so early. Back in the old days you never played as a red-shirt junior. Now these kids are playing as a freshman and leaving as a junior. My point is, getting them developed. I think it’s the same way, we’re having to play younger players because of that consistently every year. I think our challenge this year is this: We’re a very talented football team. We have to do a great job as coaches of educating and teaching what a football player is and our players have to do a great job of learning and accepting that coaching and developing. I think that’s going to be the key to our success, because we have talent, we have a great staff, we got to get them into being good football players and not good athletes.
Q. You came into Louisville on a Thursday night last year, an electric atmosphere.
COACH FISHER: It was.
Q. They’re going to travel to Tallahassee in October. What’s different about a game day in Tallahassee? What are they going to experience?
COACH FISHER: I think it will be great. I think Louisville is great, Bobby is a great coach, great tradition. They had a tremendous football game. We had 11 guys drafted, they had 10. The division with the most draft picks in all of college football was the ACC Atlantic Division. We had the most draft picks in all divisions of college football. They talk about the quality of ball in the ACC. Louisville is one heck of a football team. It will be a great environment because we’re going to have to bring our A game like we do every week to play them. They’re very talented, very well-coached. I’m sure it will be as electric down there as it was in Louisville. I know we won the game, but I’m talking about the atmosphere for college football. That was a great night.