Sept. 24, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Whether his team was 0-0 and on the verge of a new season or 4-0 and on the heels of a primetime win over a top-10 team, Jimbo Fisher's mantra has remained the same.
Eliminate the clutter.
All the extracurricular things -- Twitter, media coverage, hype, etc. -- they don't matter and shouldn't have any bearing on the Florida State football program. In Fisher's mind, the only things that have any shred of importance occur on the practice fields, in the training, film and meeting rooms and on game days.
There is no gray area.
And to this point, Fisher and his staff have done an excellent job of keeping FSU's players focused on the task at hand and not listening to or paying attention to what's going on around them.
But at no other point during his two-plus years as Seminoles coach has it been this cluttered outside the protective walls that Fisher has built around his program and as long as FSU keeps winning, blocking out external noise isn't going to get any easier. A statement victory over Clemson on national television last weekend has the hype machine trying to climb those walls and infiltrate the castle with talk of championships and a return to the glory days.
"You've got to handle your situations and ignore it," Fisher said at his weekly press conference Monday. "You've got to go on. It doesn't matter. It matters what you do next week. You can't the points from last week; you can't take anything. You've got to go do it every week."
Doing it every week means quickly moving past the success of Saturday night -- something FSU players already appeared to be doing in the early Sunday-morning hours after the fireworks stopped popping above Bobby Bowden Field -- and building off the miscues against the Tigers.
The Seminoles had to rally from 14 points down in the second half of that game because of some defensive breakdowns and special teams mistakes. Despite a near-flawless quarter and a half of football that sparked the come-from-behind win, Fisher knows that his team is still a long way from being where he wants it to be -- not matter what is being said or predicted about his 'Noles.
"There's a lot we can work on," Fisher said. "Like I say, 'Close the barn door before the horse gets out.' We chased the horse around the field for a little bit before we got him back in the barn. If you shut the door before you go chase him it's a lot easier day."
Fisher then added something that sums up his coaching personality -- and by direct result, the personality of his team -- perfectly.
"Everybody is happy; I'm not at all," he said. "Everybody is relieved; I'm not. Everybody feels relief; that's the worse thing we can have. It's time to put your foot on the gas and get better right now. Ain't no time to feel good about yourself and be relieved. It's time to move on."
Moving on means hitting the road for the first time this season and facing off against in-state foe USF Saturday at 6 p.m.
Fisher said Monday that of all the preparations that the 'Noles do this week for the Bulls, watching game film from USF's 2009 victory in Tallahassee won't be one of them.
"They are a new staff, new group, new team," he said. "It's two different teams. They'll run their schemes [and] we'll run our schemes and we'll coach against each other. That game's in the past. That has nothing to do with this team."
Still, that 17-7 USF victory will be a topic of continuous conversation on both school's campuses and throughout the state this week.
More clutter. More elimination.
In addition to EJ Manuel being named the ACC Offensive Back of the Week and Lamarcus Joyner being named the league's top specialist for their respective performances against Clemson, junior Menelik Watson was named the ACC Offensive Linemen of the Week.
Not bad for the former Marist basketball player.
After playing in just a handful of games in junior college after never playing football before, Watson hit the ground running -- and blocking -- from the moment he enrolled at FSU this past summer and has been one of the many reasons why FSU has had such a lethal offense through four games.
"He's a guy that has a lot of ability and is progressing really well," Fisher said. "... he has been a very physical guy. He has maturity. Understands urgency -- there is not a lot of time to sit around and he learned well. He's got the physical abilities and he's got a natural instinct to play. He's developing himself into a very good player."
Manuel said that not only is Watson's size and physicality an asset to FSU's running game and its pass protection efforts but his personality on the football team helps too.
From pumping his teammates up to providing leadership and setting an example physically, Watson acts more like a grizzled veteran than someone still learning the game of football.
"It's nice to have an actual player that's taking the reins of the offensive line and getting those guys in the mindset to go out there and be physical," Manuel said.
Star defensive end Bjoern Werner, whom Fisher mentioned as having a terrific game despite his lack of statistical production, sustained a hand injury against Clemson but isn't expected to miss any time.
The same is not true for freshman defensive end Chris Casher, who will have surgery on his knee to clear up some cartilage. Fisher said the injury was noticed during pre-game warmups but it probably occured during Casher's high school career and went unnoticed.
Depending on the recovery process, the former four-star recruit could be in line for a medical redshirt.