TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the fall semester officially started on Monday, No. 1 Florida State went to work preparing for its season-opening clash against Oklahoma State at the Albert J. Dunlap Training Facility.
The Seminoles will face off against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium (8 p.m., ABC) on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
Head Coach Jimbo Fisher addressed the media at his first game-week press conference earlier in the day and said this year’s team is a very tight-knit group and has a similar mindset to last season’s national championship squad.
“The difference is there are new guys taking new positions over but at the same time I feel they are similar on how they approach things,” Fisher said. “This year’s team knows what to do, now it’s just a matter of continuing to do it over and over. Last year’s team, no matter what you said, until you get to that championship level, saying ‘are we really doing the right things,’ and now you know you know, but the challenge is going and doing it every week – how to work, how to mentally get ready, how to focus on the little details.”
Fisher also released the first official depth chart, which featured players such as sophomore wide receiver Kermit Whitfield and redshirt junior defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell, Jr. listed in first team roles for the first time in their careers.
Mitchell, Jr. is listed as the starting defensive end in FSU’s 3-4 alignment after battling injuries, including back surgery, during his first three years with the program.
Fisher said the Jacksonville native had by far the best fall camp he’s had since arriving on campus.
“(It was) really good,” Fisher said. “Best one he’s had by far. I feel very comfortable with Derrick. Derrick is looking at being a starter up front, he’s vowed his way up there. He’s healthy. His issue all the time was being healthy. He had legit injuries and a run of bad luck. But he is very athletic, big (and) a good player.”
Another player standing out to Fisher is sophomore defensive end/linebacker Demarcus Walker. Another Jacksonville native, Walker is listed as the backup at the JACK linebacker/defensive end position. Still, Fisher said he would be comfortable with Walker starting.
“(Walker) had one of the best camps out of any player,” Fisher said. “(He’s) extremely quick, (his) weight was down just a hair, but his lean muscle mass went up quick, agility, power, consistency, I thought he had a tremendous (camp). He’ll have a huge role for us. He’s like a starter right now – could start in two seconds.”
Greene to Return Punts
Senior wide receiver Rashad Greene is expected to start the season as the Seminoles’ punt returner. Greene ranked third in the country with a 15.4 punt return average in 2012, but did not return a punt last season.
“He catches the football,” Fisher said. “That is the number one goal – to catch the football. Give me a first down. Anything else is gravy. You have to get the ball back, and that guy has experience. He has been there. I am very comfortable with what Rashad is doing right now.”
Greene actually had the first touchdown of the 2012 season on a punt return, taking a Murray State punt 47 yards for the score just 1:29 into the season opening game. He added a 60-yard punt return touchdown against Wake Forest later that season.
Linebackers Coach Bill Miller Has Oklahoma State Connections
Florida State’s first-year linebackers coach Bill Miller was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 1989-1994. He also spent two seasons as a graduate assistant with the Cowboys from 1979-80.
Jimbo Fisher Press Conference Transcript – Aug. 25, 2014
“I’m very excited for game week to be here. Our camp went very well. I thought we got a lot done. I am really proud with how the new guys came in and really fit in and provided some depth and even our young guys that weren’t starters who we’re counting on now – I don’t think we have a bad area of camp as far as I’m concerned about as far as the development of some of our young players, especially at linebacker, secondary – young backup talent up on the D-Line. (I’m) very happy with the receiver development and the things we have, backup tight ends and those young running backs – those guys stepping up. I thought Sean Maguire had a good camp. Our depth on the offensive line is the best that it’s ever been since we’ve been here, by far. I’m very excited about that. The quality of our scout team went up. Quality people you’re working against on the other side, (they will be) good players for the future. From that standpoint, I’m very excited. We’ll turn our focus away from each other – tired of hitting on each other all the time. (We have to) play a game. We have to play a great Oklahoma State team, Mike Gundy is a great football coach. He’s been there for nine years and has done a great job. He’s won 41 games the last four years. He had a 10-win season last year. A couple years ago (he was) a game away from playing for it all, played in the Cotton Bowl, I think they were 10-1 and they had a tough loss to Oklahoma and had a great bowl game with Missouri. They have great players. Always have great speed and athleticism there. They have a good system there on offense, very diverse. Defensively, they play extremely hard, (they have) multiple looks (and) blitzes. They had a first-round pick in there last year but the corners they have now played a lot (and they’re) very athletic. It will be a great game. It’s close to their home and they’ll have a great crowd there but we’re excited. It’s a great challenge for us to start the season off where we are right now going to in Dallas. Our kids are very excited and I’m looking forward to the challenge this week.”
On keeping the focus on themselves this year:
“I feel really good about that right now. I think when we ask our guys to really lock in and as we developed during camp, I’ve seen signs of that. I’ve been very pleased with that. Again, you don’t know until you go play an opponent, but in scrimmages or big days or certain challenge days when we’re able to simulate game day type atmosphere as far as how we wanted to play and think, I was very pleased with how they stepped up. Every time we asked them to address an issue and do something it seemed to get done. From that standpoint, really understanding what we’re asking for as a coaching staff, the focused (on) and the leadership got that across. I’m anxious to see, but from that standpoint it was good.”
On senior wide receiver getting the ball to Rashad Greene:
“We’ll go with the flow of the offense. He is the focal point of our team, but we have other great players. That’s one of the things that makes us on offense so diverse and I think hard to play at times. We don’t force the ball to one guy. One guy doesn’t get all of the carries. It’s like last year, when you had three 1,000 yard guys, our tight end had almost 600 yards. Teams are going to want to take guys away you have to be diverse and have your quarterback read the one-on-one match ups and that’s how we do things. We’ll have our plays when we want to go to him, but if they take that away, I feel confident in those other guys. I’m very pleased with where they are with their development.”
On this year’s identity:
“I think it’s a very tight-knit group. I think it’s a group that knows how to work. It’s a group that can be very physical but at the same time be very skilled. That to me is the epitome of how you want to play football. You want to be able to be physical and the guys up front they can run it or stop the run and be physical with the front seven. Just because you’re physical doesn’t mean you’re skilled and because you’re skilled doesn’t mean you’re physical. They really do both and even our skill guys can be physical but at the same time we can play physical and skilled, offensively or defensively. We can run. We can line up and bang from a stretch standpoint and that’s something I’m proud of. Now, we have to go and play that way. It’s not about what we can do. It’s about what we must do and how we play. That’s the thing we have to do – take it to the field.”
On the difference between this year and last year’s identity:
“I would say similar. Maybe now some of the spots you’re sound with, last year, you weren’t and last year something you were sound with you aren’t (this year). The difference is there are new guys taking new positions over but at the same time I feel they are similar on how they approach things. This year’s team knows what to do, now it’s just a matter of continuing to do it over and over. Last year’s team, no matter what you said, until you get to that championship level, saying ‘are we really doing the right things,’ and now you know you know, but the challenge is going and doing it every week – how to work, how to mentally get ready, how to focus on the little details.”
On what he’s seen from the young defense:
“You look at their backup roles, you go deep into the film to judge their athletic roles. You know they’re going to play to win and they’re going to play hard. They’re going to be sound and do things the right way. You have research, you may have high school film you may have a (report) of athletic ability from people who knew them and you research as much as you can. I’m going to tell you what, those freshmen are very dynamic.”
On the challenges that come with preparing for an opening game:
“I hate opening games sometimes. You don’t hate them but you check notes, you have a check list of things. ‘Have we covered this?’ That’s all you can do. You know a guy’s history of what they’ve done and what you read in the paper, you know when you teach – I think that’s why we try to do a good job early in camp not going against your opponent. Now we played game plan form in spring and looked at things and we did things during camp that I knew would help us with our game plan. Really we were (in) game plan form but in essence you go over all of the different types of defensive fronts – every possible front you could go over (and) how you would handle each play. Every blitz – how people do things that have ever been done to them and you try and teach conceptually. So, if they come out in something they haven’t shown in the past, when you teach you don’t memorize plays or blitzes, you remember this is our play, this is the concept on defense. I think it’s very important when you coach, especially early in the season, so people do things you haven’t seen, you can make adjustments and get the call and do it that way. I think from that standpoint you’re always worried because people are always going to do different things during the offseason. That’s the unknown you have to be careful of.”
On what the wide receivers have done to really stand out:
“(They) understand how to get open versus man, we play against the press, two-deep, three-deep, getting in the holes, how to sit in the holes, how to separate, how to rub off each other – whatever it is to create space in certain coverages where the ball is going to be thrown. I think they have a great knowledge of not only their assignment, but then there’s technique. I think just being football players. I say, like you move into a new neighborhood. I say this all of the time, you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know your way home. Every stop sign you stop and look at. Now, they’re running the stop sign. They’re going through them fast and getting in the holes and the timing (with Jameis Winston), the rhythm and the comfort level – balls not hitting the ground in practice. Very few times, either a guy (on defense) makes a play or a tip or something like that. (It’s) not just running a route, but getting open, deep, short (and) a lot of different guys and that’s what has me excited.”
On if he had conversations with senior running back Karlos Williams about being the No. 1 guy:
“Not a lot as far as don’t put the pressure on yourself. Just go play. Get yourself in the best possible shape. Understand the mental conditioning you have to have and be ready for the added carries. I don’t think he has to do anything special. He just has to mentally be prepared to do it every play and don’t put pressure on himself. Just react and let your natural ability take over (and) make sure you understand all situations – working on the mental situation and understand how to run the ball at first and ten compared to third and one – times in the game, situations, field zone that stuff is educating (for him) and I think he did a nice job of that in camp.”
On redshirt junior defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell Jr.’s camp:
“(It was) really good. Best one he’s had by far. I feel very comfortable with Derrick. Derrick is looking at being a starter up front, he’s vowed his way up there. He’s healthy. His issue all the time was being healthy. He had legit injuries and a run of bad luck. But he is very athletic, big (and) a good player.”
On sophomore DeMarcus Walker’s progress:
“Had one of the best camps out of any player. (He’s) extremely quick, (his) weight was down just a hair, but his lean muscle mass went up quick, agility, power, consistency, I thought he had a tremendous (camp). He’ll have a huge role for us. He’s like a starter right now – could start in two seconds.”
On if having a high profile game last year against Pitt jumpstarted the success:
“I don’t think there is any doubt. I think you know that your opponent is Oklahoma State and you know they’ve won 41 games in the last four years and the history of their program - that will definitely get your attention and you have to bring your ‘A’ game from day one. Being in the limelight as far as some of the games we went to, I think it will hopefully rub off in the future. That’s the plan. As long as you can be in those games your kids get used to that atmosphere and environment.”
On freshman wide receiver Travis Rudolph’s camp after injury:
“You talk about a guy who is very mature way beyond his years. He has a little setback with the foot, but he’s back to full speed. He’s running routes; you talk about a guy that sticks to it on the ground, great burst, great speed, great ball skills. I’ll tell you the other thing, how intelligent he is. He knows three or four positions. He can play the slot on both sides, he can play outside at X and Z. That is extremely rare for a guy that young and he has the ability to do both. You talk about being able to read a guy and run routes – that is exceptional. I’ve been pleased with all of those freshmen. They made a lot of developments.”
On if there are any challenges playing at a neutral site:
“It’s different and I’ve heard that. That’s why we’re going on Thursday night and trying to go out on Friday, which we usually don’t do, we may stop by and take a half hour before walk through and have them turn on all the lights and bells and whistles on and catch a few punts here or there, throw some balls around just to get used to that atmosphere and get that part out of the way, which is unique. I heard it’s different. We’re going to try and eliminate that clutter.”
On how he’ll be with this being Coach Kelly’s first game as a defensive coordinator:
“I’ll be the same. Just like Jeremy (Pruitt) last year and his first game. The guy is hired to do a job and he knows how to do it. I’m very comfortable with what he’s done, I know who he is and what he’s done. We’ve got a great staff. Charles has been in a lot of battles and situations throughout his career and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
On the middle linebacker position with sophomore E.J. Levenberry and junior Reggie Northrup:
“They’ll both be playing and rotating consistently. It’s like having two co-starters there. Both guys are doing well – not from a lack of a player but an advantage of having two guys you feel comfortable with. That’s what it’s all about. You know if you take a day off and the guy behind you is going to take your job. Don’t be Wally Pipp. You know who Wally Pipp is? He was the guy that decided to take a break and Lou Gehrig got the start one day. 2,130 games later, Wally got his job back. That’s one of the good things about playing on a team with good players. The level of competition and your execution and development is that much greater because you know there is someone behind you challenging you.”
On freshmen defensive back Trey Marshall and linebacker Jacob Pugh making the depth chart:
“Athleticism and size and having a sense of maturity to get in there. (Lorenzo) Featherston is right up in there. I’ve been very pleased with that whole group but those two, physically and Trey being here in the spring and knowledge-wise getting the different types of positions he can play. (He’s) a very good special teams guy because they can run, they’re big, they’re long and athletic, can play in space or block. From a special teams standpoint, they’re doing a great job. There will be a few freshmen we feel very comfortable about playing.”
On if Oklahoma State’s quarterback rotation causes a problem to prepare:
“You have to prepare for each player. You prepare for all quarterback runs and passes. You really have to study what guys do and don’t do, and what their strengths are. I hate to say it, but that is getting to be more of a norm too. Everybody is kind of doing it. It is always a problem, but it is something you face at least every other week.”
On what makes Oklahoma State’s offense able to be consistently good: “They are very diverse. They are very athletic. They are very well coached, and they call plays very well. They keep you off balanced, and they are not scared to do things. They are very aggressive with how they play. They get to the edges, but they are physical inside. They have been a very, very good offensive team for a long period of time.”
On how to avoid overlooking a young team like Oklahoma State: “History tells you they are going to be well coached. They are going to play hard, and play fundamentally sound. They are going to be a very football team, so you better match that. You have to play the best that you can play. That is how you have to approach it.”
On how he feels about the Dallas2Dallas slogan:
“I am not worried about reaching the National Championship. I am worried about playing well. Our goal is to be in the National Championship every year. I want this team to be the best team that it can be, and play as good as it can play. We will live with the results.”
On Kermit Whitfield being atop the depth chart as the slot receiver:
“The guy can fly. Two – he is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Three – he is physical. He is a short guy, but he is strong. I am very happy with the way he plays without the ball. There is no important receiver that plays better without the ball in this group. He is one of the guys I am talking about – just being dependable and getting where he has to get to. He is getting extremely comfortable, and he is really evolving into a very, very good receiver.
On Rashad Greene being named the team’s punt returner:
“He catches the football. That is the number one goal – to catch the football. Give me a first down. Anything else is gravy. You have to get the ball back, and that guy has experience. He has been there. I am very comfortable with what Rashad is doing right now.”