Jan. 3, 2014
Randy Sanders: I didn't know I was doing this, but it's great to be here. Obviously we've worked very hard. It's been a great season. We've been fortunate to have a tremendous staff, a lot of good football players, and we've gone out and played well each week. Just an opportunity to play for the National Championship is what you want when you start the season. It's what you work for when you start in January.
To be here, we're very excited, very privileged, very honored, and look forward to playing the game.
My question is for the coaches, both coaches. When did you guys realize how dominant an offense you were putting together for this season, an offense that I think the lowest amount of points you had was 37 in one game.
Lawrence Dawsey: I would say the Pittsburgh game. Going into the season with a freshman quarterback, not really knowing what to expect, yeah, seen some good things in practice, but actually going into that game and seeing the performance, seeing how well that not only the quarterback played but the receivers, the backs, special teams, just everything we felt right now if they continued to just work hard to get better each and every week, we had a chance to have something special.
Jameis, you began the season sort of as an unknown quantity nationally. You end it with a Heisman Trophy and playing in a National Championship Game. Can you describe how your life has changed this season?
Jameis Winston: Well, my life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet. At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like okay, they've got a freshman quarterback. Nobody is going to pay any attention, now we're in the National Championship.
For you personally has anything changed?
Jameis Winston: Nothing has changed.
Jameis, did you think it would be this easy? You're making it look easy. Did you think it would be this easy? Or is it this easy?
Jameis Winston: Well, we've got a team and the coaching staff that we've got, it looks easy. But people don't look at the behind closed doors and how much hard work we put into this. We prepared ourselves for situations like this and we prepared ourselves every day at practice and the things we do every single day.
Yes, right now it is easy because all of us, we've got our mindset on one goal and all of us going the same direction.
Lawrence and Randy, not to belabor the point, but are there moments during this season where you have to sort of remind yourself that Jameis is a freshman?
Randy Sanders: Well, what he's been able to do has been remarkable. The way our team has been able to play – it's always nice to have a good quarterback, but the quarterback is usually as good as those other 10 guys around him. Our defense has been able to play well, to put us in situations where we can continue to play offensively like we've wanted to play all year. You know, Kenny and the receivers have played phenomenal, the offensive line, the backs, O'Leary and what he's been able to do at tight end.
But yeah, what he's done is amazing. You ask has his life changed? Well, he's changed mine. Last year at this time I was 2 10 and out of a job. So to be here at Florida State in the National Championship Game is a dream come true for me.
Lawrence Dawsey: Well, you know, being an alum at Florida State and just seeing how things have developed from the transition to where we are now, it definitely has. Just to watch this team get better and better each and every week, not only on the offensive side, but as a whole team, it's definitely changed.
What challenges, if any, does the one month layoff possess for the offense?
Lawrence Dawsey: Timing, more so on the offensive side of the ball. You've got your timing, the route runnings and you're used to being in a certain routine. You get out of that routine and come back and try and get back in that routine. The timing is the main thing with the month layoff that you have to get back in after being away from the game for a month.
Randy Sanders: Well, bowl games are always a challenge a little bit. They're a lot like opening games. We played 13 games to this point but it has been a month, and you always try to balance as a coach how do you practice. How physical are you in practice, because the best way to be good at playing football is to play it and to practice the way you play. Obviously football is a physical sport and involves a lot of contact. But every time you go out there and do that, you're scared to death, you're not going to get to the game with all your good players.
I think our team has responded well. I look forward to the challenge.
Jameis, you had a difficult situation that you had to go through this year off the field. How were you able to stay positive and not let that affect you, and Kenny, you're pretty close to Jameis. What was it like watching him go through that and stay strong through that?
Jameis Winston: Well, it goes back to the teammates. My teammates aren't looking at me anything differently because they know I did nothing wrong through the whole process. But at the end of the day, that kind of brought us closer together as a team, because dang, our quarterback is going through this situation, and dang, people still are not leaving us alone after we're having a successful season. But that brought us closer together as a team. That was a changing point in our whole team because that was a time we needed to get over the hump, we were playing against a Syracuse team that had confidence, and they were coming into our house and they had confidence that they would beat us. It got us back refocused to where we needed to be at.
Kenny Shaw: Looking at the situation from the outside in, you would think it would hurt the team, but we used it as a time to get stronger. We stayed close to Jameis because we knew the allegations wasn't true and all that. But we just got stronger and we didn't miss a beat.
Kenny, there's been several stories out there about how Jameis has been a leader from the start, a guy even at a young age who sort of came in and tried to grab the attention of upperclassmen. What was that like, to have an 18 year old freshman who wasn't even playing trying to be a leader, and even this year when he stepped into a starting role, for him to sort of be the leader of a team that had a lot of seniors on it, or juniors and seniors.
Kenny Shaw: Honestly it was weird at first because you're used to playing with quarterbacks two or three years older than you. But we took him in in the summertime and he gained our respect from then with seven on sevens and workouts in the summertime. Coach Fisher always preaches there's no limit to the ages of players. He proved that to us as teammates and the nation this year.
You guys had six new assistants on the staff this year, which is usually not a great recipe for making a big run. Why has that worked so well to be able to mesh the new guys in so well?
Lawrence Dawsey: Well, Coach Fisher did a great job of selecting the right guys to come in to be part of the program. Me being the guy that was one of the guys that was left over, he brought them in, we interviewed them and he always asked our opinion on the guys, and what he did was particularly picked the guys that he knew and that he felt comfortable that would not only come in and do a great job but also come in and be quality guys, to have the family atmosphere that he has been having and also be great coaches.
He did a good job of picking the new guys that came in, and they all just got right in. Wasn't no egos with anybody, everybody came in with having one common goal, and that was making us the best team we could be.
Randy Sanders: I agree. I think that's the one thing, being one of the new guys that I was most excited about was the kind of staff Coach Fisher had been able to put together. Several of us had been coordinators at one time or another and had had big moments in big games. Just to have an opportunity to get around those guys and work and enjoy coming to work each day. We work hard but we enjoy coming to work. It makes it a whole lot easier to do your job when you really enjoy what you're doing and you enjoy the people you're around.
Jameis, talk a little bit about your relationship with Coach Sanders and how he's helped your development as a quarterback.
Jameis Winston: Well, Coach Sanders is the main guy. What people don't understand is how much he actually does behind closed doors. Just the other day me and him were sitting down one on one watching film. He helped me so much and I've lacked to give him credit through this whole process, what he really has taught me. Every single day, Coach Sanders asks me what can I help you do to get better, and usually I say nothing and then he ends up giving me a reason why he can do.
What he's done for us to develop a relationship, it's hard because I had a good relationship with Coach Craig, but for him to come in day one and just me to have that automatic bond, this guy is hilarious, and just the way I look forward to coming to practice to get close by him team and you can see that with his past quarterbacks. We had Tee Martin at practice the other day and you just see the genuine love that his players have for him, and he's coached Peyton Manning and hopefully I'll be close to him one day, and just his résumé, he stacks up with the best.
Coach Sanders, you got to coach in the first BCS, now the last BCS. What's it like being able to – you beat Florida State and now you're with Florida State. There's a couple story lines with that.
Randy Sanders: Why you have to bring that up? If nothing else, I'm the answer to a trivia question, right?
It's exciting. When you play in the first one, you can't imagine it would be this long getting back, because we had a lot of good things going on at Tennessee at the time, we had a lot of good football teams.
I think having been in the first one, not that you take it for granted, but you kind of expect to do it again, and the fact that it's been this number of years between the two, I think not that I've worked any harder or any less for this one, but I've actually taken time to appreciate the fact that I'm here.
I think I'm in my 25th year of coaching, and having done it as long as I have, and as I mentioned last year wasn't a great season as far as success, but to get back and have this kind of success and be in this position, having done it as long as I have, makes me appreciate where we're at.
I look forward to going out there and playing the game because it's going to be fun, just being in that atmosphere, being in that arena is going to be fun. Obviously it's a whole lot more fun when you win, and we certainly expect to win. But from the first snap to the last snap, it's going to be fun.
Both coaches, I wonder if either of you have ever entertained the concept of a 19 year old quarterback being under center in the NFL, and how much do you entertain that concept now, whether it could happen or not this young for Jameis?
Randy Sanders: Well, whether he's 19 or 22, age is a number. The thing about Jameis is he's mature beyond his years. We have a number of guys – I think Kenny, even though Kenny is a senior, Kenny is a very, very mature football player, regardless of whether he was a senior or not. We're fortunate. We've got a lot of guys that understand what their role is on the team. They understand going about their business, and they do it in a very, very mature manner. I think a lot of that is a tribute to them but it's also a tribute to Coach Fisher and the way he's built the program.
But whether Jameis is 19, whether he's 22, whether he's playing at Florida State or whether he's playing in the NFL, I would expect him to play at a high level. That's what he does. That's what he expects of himself. He's done it 13 times this year, and does it pretty much every day at practice.
When somebody asked him the question earlier, does it make it look easy. Well, when you really prepare and you prepare hard each day, then game days are easier. I tell him all the time when you're making throws, try to make it hard on yourself. Make it as hard as you can in practice so when you get the opportunity in the game, it's easier.
I think we've got 85 guys on this football team that do that.
Lawrence Dawsey: I agree with Randy. To get ready for a game, age don't really have an effect on it. Me playing in the NFL and me going in as a rookie and you see the older vets, if you come in and play, they don't care what age you are. They just want you to be able to help them win football games. Obviously we've got a special guy up here next to us that can get that job done, and we expect to see him in the NFL some day getting it done.
Randy, you talked about the difference between last year and this year for you. Ellis Johnson, kind of in the same position as you are. Just talk a little bit about your respect for him, and Jameis said you're hilarious. Did you know you're hilarious?
Randy Sanders: Well, he cracks me up sometimes, too.
Ellis, having been in coaching, as I mentioned, 25 years, and the previous 24 years was all in the Southeastern Conference, having played as a player in the Southeastern Conference and then coaching there, and Ellis kind of having his roots in the Southeastern Conference, we've faced each other a number of times. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his knowledge.
Whenever you coach against a guy as many times as we've kind of gone against each other, you have history. I can remember 2004, things we did, the way he reacted, the things he did, the way we responded to him, and it's pretty much been an ongoing process every year but about one or two there for about the last 10 years.
Good football coach. You know, sometimes as coaches we're all measured by our wins and losses, but the wins and losses don't always measure your true abilities to coach. It still gets down to players playing, and he had a year in there at Southern Miss that wasn't what he expected, but no question, good football coach. He's been in a lot of big situations, big games, and I know he'll bring his best game night.
Jameis, can you take us back to the Pitt game, your first start and that performance, I think 25 of 27 and all the touchdowns and the statement you made that day? Randy, how surprised were you? I know you've got a lot of confidence in him, but Game 1 for a freshman to have a performance like that.
Jameis Winston: Well, that game was really just out of anger and out of happiness of me just being on the football field again. When you love this game so much and you've got to sit a whole year off, I mean, it kind of hits you into the heart, and it's like a reality check, like hey, bro, you were sitting on the bench last year.
When I came out to that game, I was like, I'm ready, and I had the weapons around me to help me do that. That's when, I mean, I realized as a player – back in the spring I realized we've got a great team, but I realized as a player, hey, we're out here gelling, we've got this little thing about us, and that's when I knew right then, FSU is going to bring that swag back because we went out there and just showed the world, hey, look at us, we're here, we're here to make a statement.
Randy Sanders: Honestly I wasn't really surprised. I was a little bit in awe, I think, like a lot of people, just the poise and composure that he had. You saw it every day in spring practice, through the summer, through the fall. But for it to show up on game day that way, that was nice to see. And he had two incompletions, one of them was a throw away, and the other one could have been ruled a completion on the sideline. I think it was a catch Kenny made on the sideline.
But the way he saw things, the accuracy he played with, and then our guys getting open, catching the ball and making plays around him makes it much easier.
Jameis, from start to finish, start of the season to the finish, through the controversy, do you feel you've been treated fairly in the press, in the media?
Jameis Winston: I mean, I can't control people's motives, but what I can control is what I do on the football field every single day and how I react around my teammates. That's what we really focus on because it's not over yet. Obviously we've got a great Auburn team that we've got to face, and it's an actual rivalry game for me because I'm playing the home state team. I mean, we just look forward to this game.
What people think outside of this and what people are trying to do, I can't control none of that. I just go out there and play football because I enjoy it and I love it and it's my passion, and I've got these boys around me, and that's what we love to do, go out there and play Florida State football.
Two questions: Kenny, Dr. Phillips high school, if you could comment about coming from there to here, and then Jameis, you've had such poise through all of the pressure that you just talked about, and when we ask some of your defensive players if they felt overshadowed they said know because if you could have voted for the FSU team for the Heisman Trophy, you would have. How has it been for you to stay to humble through all this hype? And Kenny, talk a little bit about your days at Dr. Phillips for me.
Kenny Shaw: Coming in from Dr. Phillips days, coming in as a high recruit, then you're coming into the Florida State atmosphere, it's a reality check that hits you because everybody else is bigger and stronger and you've got to find a new role. Being the man in high school, you're a little shrimp in college. Coach Dawsey did a great job of getting me level headed. The first two years there was a little rough for me, but coach Dawsey, he's a great father figure to me. I ascribe my success to him.
Jameis Winston: Well, the defense is absolutely right. I definitely would vote for our team as the Heisman, and when I brought that thing back, I said, thank you to everybody, and I gave them the trophy. I said, hey, this is your trophy.
Actually the other day at Dave & Busters, somebody told Kenny congrats on winning the Heisman. I'm like, you're right. He won it for me.
When you talk about pressure to me, with my mentality, I'm thinking about just the stuff on the football field because that is my sanctuary, and pressure outside of everything else, that's something that I'm not focusing on, especially when I'm around all these guys because when these guys look at me, they see a – he's going to be smiling all the time, we probably have to tell him stop playing so much or we've got to tell him calm down. I'm very exciting and sometimes I do things around these guys that they just put their head down like this is our quarterback.
But pressure is something that I really don't focus on outside of the football field. I get most of my pressures when Coach Fisher is crawling down my back about making the wrong read or Coach Sanders telling me that I don't got my weight back and I just overthrew a six inch wide receiver wide open down the field in practice. Now, that's pressure.
This question is for Kenny and Jameis. Can you talk about the magnitude of the moment? Obviously you all are chasing a perfect season, trying to bring a BCS title to Florida State for the first time in more than a decade.
Jameis Winston: Well, it means a lot just for Seminole Country. We've got Coach Dawsey sitting up here who's a Seminole himself, and I bet it means more to Coach Dawsey and I've been in meetings more with Coach Dawsey and Coach Haggins than anybody else because they're past Seminoles, and then we've got Coach Sanders here, who's got a past championship, and we've some of these guys on this team who ain't had a championship, like me personally, I haven't had a real championship since middle school.
This game means so much to me, like we've got people, like Telvin, Telvin won a lot of championships in high school but this is still the most important game to him in his life. When you've got the opportunity to play in a National Championship Game and your team is the only team on television, and then this game on my birthday, we're not going out there just to play around. We're not going out there to take anybody for granted. We're going out there to play a great game. We're going out there to do what we came here to do every single game, 13 games. It's not over yet. We've got a 14th one, and why not end this year with a victory?
Kenny Shaw: I mean, obviously this game means a lot to me because it's my last year. It's the best time to get it in my last year, my senior year.
Like you said, in high school I haven't got a state championship. I was always one round, getting eliminated, so I haven't got no state title. I ain't got no championships other than probably 2K championships against the boys.
I know it means a lot to the coaches because they put in so much work, so many hours with the film and everything. It means a lot not only to me but to my family and to the coaches. We're going to go out with a bang.
Jameis, maybe no other player can relate to some of the things that you've gone through than Johnny Manziel. Did you have a chance to talk to him at the Heisman ceremony, and if so what did you guys talk about, and has he kept in touch with you?
Jameis Winston: I did have an opportunity to talk to Johnny. He just told me to stay myself. When you think about the things that Johnny went through and then you see the things that he does on the field, it makes you forget about the things that's happening, and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to make football be my getaway, and that's what he's done a great job of, and that's why I'm glad I've got a team like this because they allow me to let football be the get away because when I look in their eyes, they're like, we're ready to fight. That's what we've got to do as individuals. We've got to fight for the rest of our lives because life ain't fair. So we can't just sit there in all the circumstances and all the things that we go to. We've got to live our lives on a day to day basis. What's wrong with dreaming? I dream about this my whole life and I'm going to keep dreaming until the day I die. I can't let nothing in the past control my destiny because today, right now, in the present, Florida State Seminole quarterback, red shirt freshman, senior, nobody, red shirt, senior, we control our own destiny, and that's how I'm going to live my whole life, no matter what goes on, no matter what I go through, and that's how I expect everybody in this room to live, that's how I expect the coaches.
If no one wants to set a certain standard for themselves, you don't have to. But one thing that Johnny did is he set a standard for himself. He's more focused on himself, more focused on the things that he do. That's why the guy went 30 for 38 against Duke and just ripped them apart and basically won that game by himself. That's why every day I come out here to play with my Seminoles because I know we're going to go out there and fight, we're going to control our own destiny and we're don't care about nothing else that's going on outside of this football team.
Randy Sanders: They couldn't process nearly as quickly as what he does. He has phenomenal abilities and he throws where he wants the ball to go. His accuracy and talent, his hand, his ability to flick the ball with his hand to get it to go where he wants to is probably better than anyone else I've coached.
How important was it to build a relationship with him quickly knowing that Craig just left?
Randy Sanders: Well, the relationship between a player and a coach is important but I think it's critical between the quarterback and his coach because as a quarterback you got to trust what that coach is telling and you as a coach you got to trust that he's going to do what you tell him to do. How to prepare a game plan and how to call a game. The relationships with the players is no different than relationships with your wives, girlfriends, whoever.
It doesn't just happen. You can't force it to happen, it takes a little bit of time. The trust and respect, you try to give it but you don't have it until it's earned. To earn it takes time. So it was a process through the spring and summer and then through the fall to build that type of relationship.
How similar is this?
Lawrence Dawsey: Kevin's maturity has been big for us this year. Last year he hadn't played in a year, being rusty and having to come back in and get around the guys and get comfortable with the quarterbacks as well as with me getting on his behind a little bit in the spring. But he made a commitment to him and to the spring in the team that he was going to be the best receiver he could be coming into the season and it showed this summer. He got with the quarterback and they worked together and he came in and told the guys, you can count on me. He didn't do that the year before. Just the maturity of him taking full advantage of the guys around him and working hard with the rest of the receivers and with Jameis they was on the same page.
Coach, who is better your guys or the Fab Four?
Lawrence Dawsey: I'm going to say these guys are better. They got more speed, they're bigger. The whole game we didn't come close to what they're doin' right now. You look at the quarterback they have throwin' it to 'em, so I'm going with these guys being better than the Fab Four.
How close is this team to the team you played on?
Lawrence Dawsey: Similar because when I was there we felt like we played the game during the week because we went against the best we was going to go against, I went against Dion Sanders and Terrell Buckley and those guys and we felt like, hey, we going against some of the best guys and when our guys get to the game, we felt like game day was easy for us.
Talk about the process. When do you see things play out, in practice? When did you know he had that special vision and special ability to process it?
Randy Sanders: As a coach you recognize it pretty quickly. The first few times it happens, you wonder did he really do that or was he lucky. But when it happens on a consistent basis. You know, there would be plays that he may not do exactly what you wanted him to do but, all right, when you say "why did you do that?" And when he gives you the answers you're looking for, that tells you he's able to process it and it's a matter of getting him to respond the right way. You've got to have the ability to throw the ball and hit the guys but that ability to process and react quickly probably is what separates the good quarterbacks and the great quarterbacks more than anything else I've been around.
In the spring?
Randy Sanders: You recognize it pretty quick. His ability to do that is high so it didn't take long.
There was any time where he had to fix it on the fly during a game?
Randy Sanders: Sure. Growing up in Tennessee with General Neyland and the comparisons to the Army and all those things, one of the things I truly believe is football, like fighting a battle is once the thing starts it's chaos, right? And that's where your discipline, your training, your habits. Because once the chaos breaks out you're going to fall back into your habits, what you have been trained to do. Just the way he handles all those situations tells you that the ability to process is there because he falls back into his habits and responds very well. Rarely does it happen nearly as clean as you draw it up on the board.
Which of your guys reminds you of yourself as a player?
Lawrence Dawsey: That's tough.
Randy Sanders: I'm anxious to hear that.
Lawrence Dawsey: That's if you have I would say Rashad, I didn't have the speed he has but I tried to run the routes and the details on and off the field.
Does he block as good as you did?
Lawrence Dawsey: No, not quite as good but if I had to pick a guy, I would go with Rashad Green because of the things he does, the details in everything he does. I would go with Rashad.
Lawrence, Jameis talked about rivalries. Is this a little bit of one for you?
Lawrence Dawsey: I'm looking forward to going back to Alabama and saying, hey, we did beat the Auburn Tigers. My family has been calling me he saying, hey, I don't want to eat crow they're talking trash back here about the Auburn/Florida State game. And it reminded me of when I had a chance to play Auburn so I would say it's a rivalry game.
How much are you thinking back to those games?
Lawrence Dawsey: Oh, man, it's been a lot. I was thinking about the Sugar Bowl when we played and Dion intercepted for us to win the game. I was recruited from Auburn.
Nick O'Leary: Well the wishbone had a lot to do with it! (Laughter.) And that had something to do with it! But it's a rivalry game.
Nick O'Leary, how does he add to this game?
Lawrence Dawsey: We knew he had the skills to do it, but just the plays he made not only catching the football but becoming a better blocker that made our whole offense a better team because we're able to run the ball and when we put him in we can use him – the year before we used him for passing but now we can keep him in and run a pass zone and by his catching the ball he has probably some of the best hands on the team and a great route runner.
What's it like coaching against an Ellis Johnson defense?
Randy Sanders: One thing you know about Ellis' team is they're tough, coached well, play behind the pads, use their hands, play very hard and Ellis knows the answers to the questions, usually. He's not a guy that – and the longer you coach the more you realize, you don't necessarily outcoach people, usually you don't necessarily trick people. Rarely do you have the absolutely perfect play called or the absolutely perfect defense called.
Usually it gets down to putting your players into position to make plays. You coach 'em during the week you try to have a sound scheme and sound plays called and you put them in the right position but it comes down to them doing what they're supposed to do.
You know his guys are going to be very well coached, they're going to be in good positions. If you're going to beat 'em, you're going to earn when you get there are no freebies.
When he takes four or five guys in at a time he keeps 'em fresh:
Lawrence Dawsey: They do that, they push the pocket in the middle, the size up front and the size in the interior that you don't just knock 'em off the ball and make it easy to run. It's a tremendous challenge. They got good people and the scheme is good. It's going to be a challenge for us offensively.
Randy Sanders: He's really good. You watch the Alabama/Oklahoma game, defensive end for Oklahoma he's not 6 4, 280, either, but he was disruptive last night. If a guy can rush the passer it's always something you have to deal with. Whether you have to manage him in protection or help him out with a tight end or having to back chip his way out, anytime you get someone that can rush the passer and be disruptive to the quarterback, it's a problem.
(No microphone.) How rewarding is it to be back on this stage?
Lawrence Dawsey: I can't tell you how many phone calls and text messages I get from former players that are excited to see Florida State back on top and playing for a National Championship. They're so proud where we came from and getting back to this and like I say, Florida State playing in the last one, it's a dream come true.
No one has been able to slow down your receivers, what do you guys notice about the match up?
Lawrence Dawsey: They done a good job of getting to the championship game. They made enough plays to get here and they got some talent back there. We just got to go out and do what we do. We got to put ourselves into position to make plays that Jameis give us our players an opportunity to make. Our guys are excited. We know it's going to be a tough match and they're going to get in our face and be aggressive so we got to go out and do what we do.
How much of a success is Jameis making something happen?
Lawrence Dawsey: It's a lot. Jameis don't play like a freshman. He gives us the opportunity and puts the ball where nobody can get it but our guys and he's a big part of the success of the group and vice versa they have been a big part of his success, too.
How much has Kenny Shaw been a help to the team?
Lawrence Dawsey: He's probably the best route runner we got on the team and Jameis has confidence in him and having the senior lead the whole receiving group, it's been great.
I have a question if there about a 19 year old quarterback. How old were you when you got to your first camp and what was that like?
Lawrence Dawsey: I was a country boy so I didn't go to a camp until my senior year in high school.
I mean NFL camp:
Lawrence Dawsey: Well, just goin' in the locker room and being around Chester Birdie and those guys, and being a rookie, it was like, wow, I'm here with you guys and you get out on the field and you get butterflies and you think just don't mess up, don't mess up but once you go in and start making plays, those guys are like, hey, leave it on the field you're a rookie, play hard. And when you leave it on the field and play hard you gain the respect and trust of your team mates.
If you could make plays didn't matter?
Lawrence Dawsey: Bottom line, don't matter. If you can help the team win, they're all for it.
You guys only had four veteran guys in the receiver core, how much do you think that has helped the chemistry to have the same guys in there all the time?
Lawrence Dawsey: I think it's helped a lot. They had a chance to be familiar with each other, their legs getting burned out because they don't have the rotation that we used to have with all the guys being in there but I think it paid off because they were familiar with each other and Jameis knew when they made a step which way they was going to break out and he knew what they were doing. But I do miss Greg and Scooter when they went down, but it helped Jameis working with the same guys all the time.
All the players talked about competition in the camp. How close and how difficult it was for you guys to make the decision that Jameis was the starter? (Laughter.)
Randy Sanders: People look back on it and they don't believe us, but it was a very, very competitive situation. Coker is a good football player and did a tremendous job through spring practice and through fall camp. It was one of those things we thought we were going to make a decision and then it gets put off a day, put off a day and I remember sitting in there in the staff meeting and kinda going around the table and hearing all the opinions. I promise you, it was it not a unanimous thing. Sometimes you make a decision and you go with it, and it's hard to say we made the wrong one at this point but if we had chosen Coker we wouldn't be sitting here and feeling like we made the wrong decision there, too.
Is there anything that pushed it in Jameis favor?
Randy Sanders: I don't know that there was any one thing. They each had their strengths and weaknesses and we felt like Jameis gave us the best opportunity to win games and that's certainly not a knock against Coker and what he was able to do.
Randy Sanders: No, age never came up. It never came up. That's one thing I can say, my 25 years, I don't know that age has really ever come up in a conversation on whether a guy was a senior or a freshman, it's always been who's the best player, who gives us the best chance to win. You tell kids that in recruiting all the time and they look at you like, "Yeah, "okay" and I mean that, that never came up. It was just a matter of who gives us the best chance to win, who can put us in position to get where we are right now, and I'm not sure if we had gone with Jacob we wouldn't still be here. Obviously Jameis has had a tremendous year and the teams had a tremendous year and we are where we are.
Anything you would change about him?
Randy Sanders: Anything I would change? Sure, I'm not going to be critical but there are a few things that I would change. I have never been around one that was absolutely perfect, you know, but he's pretty good. (Laughter.) But there are a few things I would change.
You were a star player on a high profile team. Do you think players today face more scrutiny than they did in your day?
Lawrence Dawsey: No doubt about it. Everything that you deal with, the media, everywhere you go, I'm glad I'm not playing at this time right now because of what these guys have to go through. They're under a magnifying glass. It's part of it and they have to play responsible and do the right things and say the right things because somebody is always watching and you got a target on your back especially on a stage like right now.
Lawrence Dawsey: They make us look good, but when we look back on it, we hit some home runs in that class, guys able to come in and get Florida State to this point, with the Kenny Shaw's and the kinda guys that came in. It was big for Coach Fisher, to come in and establish that Florida egg, he was going to build in the mix of recruiting because you had wars going on with Florida and Miami doing their time with the recruitin' ballots in the sate. By us being able to put that class together is one of the reasons we're setting here today.
Lawrence Dawsey: Its was the foundation of Coach Fisher. When we got that class, that was the foundation to get us back to where were nine and – it's a class we're still building off of, this next class is gonna be the same as before.
What's the affect of the recruiting and what goes on in the dynamics?
Lawrence Dawsey: When you are playing for a championship, guys want to win. Being where we are right now we are getting a chance to get quality players. You're not having kids flipping back and forth because we are winning. So we are fortunate to be where we at and hopefully we can continue to get better.
What have you done in the game plan to go take some pressure off and doing other things?
Randy Sanders: I've just tried to do whatever I've been asked to do since I got here. When I got here I was coaching running backs and that was my role and I was happy to do that. Then it changes to where I'm coaching quarterbacks, then it changes to where I'm doing scripting and things like that.
Whatever he asks me to do I try to do. Fortunately, I think he and I think a lot alike when it comes to offensive football so I've been able to kind of, I guess, learn how he likes doing things, how he wants to do things and kinda pick up on it and it's still an on going process. It's been a good partnership to this point.
This is for all three, and we can go from your right to your left. We covered Jameis in high school, and we know his personality and the way he loves to talk. Do you guys ever have to say, hey, man, calm down just a second here?
Devonta Freeman: I mean, I think that's him. Everything he do that's him, we don't really mess with him too much. That's him, that's his comfort level with the game and stuff, and we just let him play.
Bryan Stork: Yeah, he loves to talk, but I think he loves to play football more, and that's what he's more about. He just likes to have fun with it.
Nick, what is it like growing up as the grandson of Jack Nicklaus?
Nick O'Leary: I mean, it's just like anybody else. I mean, just he played golf for a living, and I mean, it's just like anybody else's granddad.
What kind of advice has he given you, him being a professional athlete?
Nick O'Leary: I mean, he really doesn't try and get into it like that with me. He knows I'm going to do what I've got to do. Any time we're together he doesn't like to talk about his life or he doesn't like to talk about how I'm doing in football, he just wants me to do what I have to do.
Bryan, can you talk about Auburn's defensive front and what you've seen from them and challenges they present?
Bryan Stork: I think they're a great front. They're well coached. They do what they're supposed to do. They're where they're supposed to be. I definitely think it's the best defense we're going to play, and their front is very talented, and there's many of them.
For any of you, talk about the confidence of the offense? You guys scored bunches of points all year long, I think 37 was the least amount. When you take the field, just talk about the confidence that you have.
Bryan Stork: It didn't just happen. Confidence comes with preparation. There's a reason why we did that. Coach Fisher has prepared us tremendously, more than ever, and that's the reason why.
Devonta Freeman: I think the main role is to be consistent, be consistent and play for 60 minutes, the whole game. I think the coaches put us in great situations and prepare us very well and get us going, and I think that's the main reason why we're like that.
Bryan, how did you come to your decision about staying in school?
Bryan Stork: Well, I mean, football isn't forever, and a degree is. That's very important to me and my family. One day I'm going to have to shave off this beard and get a real job. You need that piece of paper because the world is a tough place now. It's even harder than ever to get a job, as I'm sure y'all know. That is very important to me.
How has Coach Sanders really helped the development of this offense since coming in?
Devonta Freeman: I think he's just taking it from the head coach because coach Jimbo calls the play. Sometimes it takes two, and I think he does a tremendous job helping Coach Jimbo call a different play and helping him prepare for the game because he knows the offense just as much as Coach Jimbo and getting us ready, and I think that plays a big part.
Nick O'Leary: I think he makes like good calls down in the red zone, and I mean, if Jimbo makes a call, he'll say I like that or he doesn't like that, and he'll give him plays that he likes to call down at that time.
Bryan Stork: I think Coach Sanders is the man. I'm very glad he came here. He keeps Jimbo calm at times when Jimbo gets all tense. Because Jimbo is a very intelligent guy, got a lot of things going on in his head, and Randy kind of keeps him calmed down. He can think like Jimbo does in a football sense, and he sees a lot of things that Jimbo might not see. It's a very – it works together well with those two.
Bryan, a few years ago the offensive line was not in great shape. It was considered more of a weaker point. There was a lot of younger guys. How has the line transformed over the last few years and what's been the key to that happening?
Bryan Stork: Well, we're still the same guys. Nothing has really changed. We just kept getting better and better in the weight room and gaining a better intelligence of football and being able to anticipate certain things, certain looks. I remember hearing all that stuff. We've still got the same coach. We're still the same guys. It seems like when things go wrong, everybody blames the offensive line. When things go good, it's because of the quarterback. I mean, it is what it is, but we came a long way, definitely.
This is for Bryan and the other players feel free to chime in. Not that you would overlook Auburn, but given what's happened in some of the other bowl games, Baylor getting upset, huge favorite against UCF, last night's game, OU over 'Bama, is that a good reminder of what can happen in a game against a team that's a so called underdog?
Bryan Stork: Yeah, I would say it's definitely easier being the underdog because you're not expected to do anything. I think we are favored, but anybody can win on any given day. It all comes down to how much you prepare and how in good shape you are.
Really haven't had much to worry about in the fourth quarter except for the BC game. What sort of scenarios have your coaches created for you in practice to put you in those high pressure situations so you're prepared in the event that happens on Monday?
Bryan Stork: I'd say in practice the coaches are the pressure. They put the pressure on you every single play, to constantly be perfect.
I mean, we just got to go do what we do and not worry about all the other stuff. We've just got to just focus on us. In whatever situation we're in, we'll prosper.
This question is for Bryan. You've been here the longest, and everybody mentions how much this team has grown since you've been here. How much has Coach Fisher grown as a coach and a person since you've been here?
Bryan Stork: We've all grown together. We've had a lot of growing pains, too. But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm glad he's on our side, and I'm sure he's glad we're on his side, and we wouldn't trade each other for anybody.
A moment ago you guys all answered a question about your coach, and you referred to him as Jimbo, not Coach Fisher. Is there a reason that you call him Jimbo? Is it your relationship with him? And how is he a players' coach and has that comfort with you guys?
Bryan Stork: I'd have to say Jimbo rolls off the tongue easier. We don't call him Jimbo to his face. We just say Coach. But he knows it. Heck, I even think his kids call him Jimbo. I don't know. It is what it is, and we're still respectful to him. We're not on a first name basis with him if that's what you're asking.
Question for Bryan and Nick: Your relationship is like what with Jameis?
Bryan Stork: It's very – most people wouldn't think we're all good friends because we're all from different backgrounds, but it's very tight. He's just as goofy as the next guy. He's definitely taught us to kind of – because we're more business like – but he's taught us to kind of loosen up a little bit and just have fun with it, and that's what I've taken from him this season.
Nick O'Leary: He just answered it.
This question is for Devonta and Bryan: Everyone is talking about Auburn, their running game, but you have a chance, Devonta, to be a 1,000 yard rusher, something FSU hasn't done in a long time. Could you guys get the veteran offensive line to take over and make the running game be a story?
Devonta Freeman: I think we could, but 1,000 yards for me is just an individual goal, and a championship for us is a team goal. I put that aside for the team goal. I just want to win. It's something that hasn't been done in a long time, but if I don't get 1,000 yards and we win the National Championship, that would be a bigger achievement for me.
Bryan Stork: Like I said earlier over there, he couldn't do it without us and we couldn't do it without him. We're not worried about records, and we're just worried about the Ws, and that's what it is. At the end of the day, it's about winning.
Nick, what's the season been like compared to last year and the year before? What are the biggest differences?
Nick O'Leary: I mean, I've gotten a lot more balls, and in my blocking game I've improved a lot, got a lot stronger over the off season. When I get more balls in a game, it gets me more involved in it and just makes me play a lot better.
Auburn's defense, at last statistically, is not ranked that high, especially against the pass. On film what have you seen in terms of what they do back there and how strong they are?
Devonta Freeman: I think they do a lot of great things, again, with a lot of guys confused, offensive linemen, by getting guys to mess up on their points and stuff and getting free hitters in the box. I think they're great tacklers, and I think they're a great, solid defense.
Bryan Stork: I think they're pretty good. Yeah, the stats say they're very average, but I beg to differ. I've seen the film. Yeah, they give up some here and there, but like I said, anybody can beat anybody on any given day. They're not to be taken lightly.
Devonta, what are the considerations for you to think about going to the next level? What do you have to decide?
Devonta Freeman: I really haven't been focusing on that. I've just been focusing on the championship game. That's something I'll meet with Coach Jimbo with. I trust him and I know he'll help me make the right decision, and talking to my brothers and stuff, just to see how things go, but I really haven't been focusing in on that.
Nick, your relationship with Jameis is what?
Nick O'Leary: I mean, we hang out off the field, also. He comes over a lot to the house. We always just have like a fun relationship, like it's not always serious talking about football and everything. That's what I like. Once I'm out of the stadium, I don't like to talk about football, I like to talk about anything else.
Obviously the SEC has kind of dominated in BCS Championships. Would you all like to break that streak, and what are your thoughts on trying to be the team from another conference that takes the title?
Bryan Stork: I'm not worried about no streak and all that, getting caught up. That stuff is for the fans and the media and all that. We're just worried about our game. SEC is SEC. There's conferences everywhere. But you can't get caught up in that stuff. You've just got to worry about playing the game.
This question is for Bryan and Nick. Are the beards just for the final? Will they be there after the game regardless? Or is it a team effort on the beards?
Nick O'Leary: Mine is getting caught off on the 7th.
Bryan Stork: I look like a 12-year-old kid when I shave mine, so I'm going to keep it. But they just kind of happened. The trick is – you know what the trick is, right, to growing a beard? Don't shave it. Yeah, I mean, the beard is a beard. It's just consistency. You've got to have discipline to do this. You know what I mean? It is what it is.