ACC: Jimbo Fisher

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- In between breaking down pass-rushers and drawing up passing trees, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wanted to watch some basketball. Last month’s NBA Finals provided little drama, so he loaded Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals onto the screen. The "Flu Game."

This wasn’t a reprieve from preparations for the 2014 season, though. This was a lesson in history, one that will have a profound impact on the Seminoles’ 2014 season, Fisher believes. He didn’t so much wonder how Michael Jordan played through the flu-like symptoms, but why.

Why did Joe Montana play through six concussions? Why did Larry Bird refuse to retire from a back injury so bad that his surgeon was bewildered as to how he played through it?

“We study guys who had attitudes of domination who won for long periods of time -- Joe Montana, John Elway repeated, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson,” Fisher says. “Those guys all had that killer instinct and were guys who wanted to be on top, stayed on top, and one championship wasn't enough.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonJimbo Fisher said that Florida State's biggest obstacle in 2014 may not be an opponent, but complacency.
“A picture’s worth 1,000 words. Your actions speak, your drive, your commitment to excellence. Michael Jordan, you never saw him not play to the max, and that, to me, to the players, sends a message. It’s a constant education to me, to these kids, to get them to think in that type of mold, because it’s human nature to win and relax.”

There are certainly questions on Florida State’s roster, but it is still considered the best in the country. Where the Seminoles could trip up is mentally, an aspect of the game Fisher has worked so hard to strengthen within his program. He’s spent the past year praising the 2013 team for its work ethic and desire to return the Seminoles to the pinnacle of the sport they once dominated.

Now that they’re there, the next task -- admittedly his toughest yet -- is keeping the Seminoles there. So if you happen upon Fisher wandering through the Florida State library, it’s because he is looking for a book on a very specific topic. He’s soliciting suggestions, but perusing the bestsellers list and Oprah’s book club will be fruitless. The coach needs reading material on how to maintain the Seminoles' status as one of college football’s elite programs.

"Can't find many books on it,” Fisher says. “All of them talk about how to get there, not many of them talk about how to stay there.”

He’s turned to friend and confidant Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher during their time at LSU. Saban won the national championship at Alabama in January 2010, but a talented team failed to meet expectations during the 2010 season. Saban found the formula again, however, and the Tide won the title after the 2011 season; they repeated the next year.

As the confetti fell in Pasadena, California, in January when Fisher won his first national championship, the two coaches sat on the "College GameDay" set. They celebrated, they reminisced but, most importantly, they advised.

“He said, ‘Now you got some challenges, now is when the problems start,’ and I understood that,” Fisher recalls of their conversation inside the Rose Bowl. “He’s been through it, and he fixed it after a while, didn’t he? He had that one year and then came back and did it twice.”

But Saban isn’t going to spell it out for Fisher -- even Saban is constantly tinkering to quell complacency. They’re friends, but increasingly they have become rivals. Florida State is the biggest threat to end an Alabama dynasty that has three of the final five BCS crystal balls in a trophy room in Tuscaloosa.

Fisher says he believes he has a Jordan in Tallahassee, Florida: quarterback Jameis Winston, a player who wants to win two more than he wants to win one. The redshirt sophomore won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy before losing a game, which he still has yet to do. Winston says a loss is “definitely not in our vocabulary.”

With Winston, Fisher is confident that the “attitude of domination” has been instilled throughout the program, which means there is not as much of that annual concern as to whether his current team has the needed motivation for a national title run. What Fisher still needs to discern is how the 2014 team is different from last season’s. He has an idea, but the pads won’t come on for another two weeks, and two-a-day practices have not worn down this particular squad yet. One of the underrated aspects of being the head coach is identifying the personality and drive of a team, Fisher says, and pushing the wrong buttons at the wrong time can derail a season.

“There’s no formula for it,” Fisher says. “I think it evolves and don’t think you ever have the answer. It’s a constant battle that challenges you all the time. That’s one of the things that makes it so hard to duplicate that success. You’re constantly fighting that battle.”

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 23, 2014
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Georgia Tech has had some major roster turnover this offseason, adding more fuel to the fire surrounding coach Paul Johnson.

On Monday, the school announced backups Anthony Autry, Travin Henry and Darius Commissiong had been kicked off the team for rules violations. Since last season ended, Georgia Tech has lost more non-senior players from its roster than any other team in the ACC.

Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes over the complete list of departures:
  • Defensive lineman Justin Akins (left team)
  • Receiver Anthony Autry (dismissed)
  • Offensive lineman Morgan Bailey (transfer)
  • Defensive end Darius Commissiong (dismissed)
  • B-back Travis Custis (transfer, academic issues)
  • Defensive end Jabari Hunt-Days (academically ineligible)
  • Quarterback Ty Griffin (transfer)
  • Defensive end Travin Henry (dismissed)
  • Jimmie Kitchen (expected to transfer after suspension)
  • Quarterback Vad Lee (transfer)
  • Defensive lineman Kevin Robbins (transfer)
  • Offensive tackle Chase Roberts (medical)
  • Defensive lineman Anthony Williams (scholarship not renewed)

That is quite a list, though only Hunt-Days and Lee were starters last season. Still, it is very unusual to see this much roster turnover on a team with a returning head coach. So why have so many players either gotten themselves into trouble or decided to leave? Does this have to do with Johnson or something else?

Johnson did not shed much light into the turnover during the ACC Kickoff, saying there is a consistency to the way he expects the program to run. Some players adhere to standards. Some don't.

Turnover is always expected, but not like this. Johnson has had to defend himself for months now, but that has gone deeper than just the roster changes. There is a growing segment of the Georgia Tech fan base that has become disenchanted with him, his style of play and efforts on the recruiting trail. Johnson criticized all the negativity in Atlanta while he was in Greensboro, N.C., pointing at his overall and conference records while at Tech.

Still, it is alarming to see so many players gone.

The Jackets may not be done losing players, either. Autry's younger brother, Myles, signed with Georgia Tech in February but has been unable to enroll because of NCAA Clearinghouse issues.

Myles Autry, an ESPN 300 player, told the AJC he was indeed reconsidering the Jackets. He was the highest-rated player in the 2014 Georgia Tech class, so losing him would be yet another blow.

Here's a look at other headlines across the ACC:
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There was quite a different feel around the ACC Kickoff this season. More swagger, more puffed out chests, more bravado.

All those years of BCS misery? Almost like they never happened. Losing bowl record last season? Forgotten. How about that losing record against power-five conference teams? Nope, not going to talk about that. Because the ACC is now home to the national champions, and everybody in the ACC did their best to remind us all over two days.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsFSU's national title has given a confidence boost to the ACC.
Florida State permeated every single conversation, its national championship win serving as a national championship win for all. Its momentous victory meant fist pumps around the room. Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team lost to Florida State in the ACC championship game by 38 points, might have summarized the mood best when he was asked about the Seminoles’ championship.

“Go Noles!” he shouted.

Anybody think Coach K shouted, “Go Heels!” when North Carolina won its national title a few years back?

The dynamic in football is obviously different. There are rivalries, yes, but there also is a brotherhood among these coaches, steeped in their determination to make the ACC shed its “basketball conference” label. They have all shared in the pain over the past 10 years, watching the SEC exert its dominance while the ACC was left to answer questions about why it was always a step behind.

They all promised their day would come, selling the league hard to anybody who would listen. Jimbo Fisher has been one of their loudest defenders, his stock line: “There is really good football in this league!”

People used to roll their eyes. But now, finally, there are believers. Finally, the national conversation has flipped from, "Who can take down the SEC?" to "Who can take down Florida State?"

Without a doubt, the ACC deserves this moment. Winning national championships should come with a shot of confidence and an infusion of new energy. So what if it felt like some of the coaches were reciting a list of carefully scripted, neatly orchestrated talking points? Talking points, by the way, that John Swofford recited in his Commissioner Forum media event, perhaps hoping to set the tone for the Kickoff.

Every league coach should revel in the victory. They should use those talking points on the recruiting trail. Do you want to play against the best? Well, the best is right here, in the ACC.

Now, one championship does not make a league, nor does it change the perception that the ACC is not yet among the top three conferences in the country. There has to be consistency. The SEC did not earn its reputation based on one national championship alone, or one team alone carrying the flag for the conference.

Everybody else in the league needs to step up their level of play. Everybody else in the league needs to start winning its elite nonconference matchups. A national championship, a BCS bowl win, and 11 bowl teams are obviously a terrific start. But it cannot end there.

All this bravado and swagger need to be translated into results on the football field. Confidence needs to be channeled into momentum. Having bragging rights now is great. But the ACC knows it has to find a way to hang onto those bragging rights, so that every year it can beat its chest just a little bit louder.
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GREESNBORO, N.C. -- Florida State coach Jimbo's Fisher patience was tested at the onset of the ACC Kickoff on Monday. It wasn't a question about Jameis Winston or crab legs. It was a question that amounted to peanuts.

Literally.

"How about that -- people didn't know about putting peanuts in a Coke," Fisher ranted. "You believe that? This generation now. Golly."

He couldn't believe a reporter from the North (hint: me) never put salted peanuts in a bottle -- has to be glass -- of Coke, and had never even heard of it. But when your program is on the cusp of a college football dynasty, especially after an ugly slide from dominance, you can have the look of a coach without any worries, and he said as much Monday. Throughout his nearly 90-minute media session, Fisher was charismatic and engaging, usually the hallmark of Florida State's quarterback, which is a testament to how he views not only his 2014 team but the state of his program.

Fisher was most impassioned when talking about the latest renovation at Florida State, which has been the most cosmetic of his Seminoles tenure. He spent the first four years internally tearing down and rebuilding a program that sat at the pinnacle of college football for two decades. When preseason camp opens in two weeks, it will do so with a complete makeover of the football facilities, allowing Fisher to surpass rival SEC schools in the ongoing arms races.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonJimbo Fisher has the complete makeover of the football facilities that he has desired.
"I always ask folks, when you walk into an organization, you go into a business, the minute you walk in you make a first impression: Is this place committed to excellence, is it a championship organization?" Fisher said, hands bouncing off the table.

It was a pointed message, particularly aimed 550 miles away at Tallahassee. Fisher thanked the university administration and athletic department for the new toys, but he alluded to some early resistance, normal for a demanding coach and budget-mindful athletic department. They were changes he wanted earlier that a national championship finally afforded him. It's not limited to just superficial alterations like new locker rooms and statues with light-up jerseys, but changes that are hard to initially quantify that the old staff didn't endorse.

It was a change in culture, a trending phrase in football-crazed outposts throughout the country. Throughout the world really. Fisher spoke glowingly of the German national soccer team, which won the World Cup a little more than a week ago. The governing soccer body in Germany felt Brazil's facilities were insufficient and adverse to creating a winning environment, so the German soccer association built its own hotel and training grounds in Brazil, thousands of miles from its base in Europe.

It's doubtful Florida State football settlements will pop up in Miami and Chapel Hill and Blacksburg, but Fisher expects the Tallahassee colony to at least rival the ones in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge and Austin.

"Our players weren't growing in those first three years, our university was, and our culture -- from administration and all the things we had to do around those kids, academic support, player development, mental conditioning -- that's the culture that had to change for us to be a champion," Fisher elaborated. "When you demand so much from that kid and you don't put that into your own organization, how do you expect that kid to be a championship if you're not?

"... I'm not a spoiled kid. If I want it, it's because it's going to make our organization better. Every decision we make is about winning and developing our players. ... Our school and administration are doing a great job, and I'll continually push. I still got a bucket list."

There was a list of priorities from Fisher when he took the head coaching job in 2010, and maybe what speaks loudest about the state of Florida State football is that the surface-level changes are among the last to come. The behind-the-scenes work has been going on the past four seasons, and it culminated in a national title.

Midway through his media session, Fisher was asked whether Florida State is poised for a run similar to the one predecessor Bobby Bowden orchestrated from 1987 to 2000, when the Seminoles finished in the top five every season. It might be an unrealistic goal in this era -- Fisher doesn't rule out the jump to the NFL, either -- but Florida State is in the best position to unseat Alabama and Fisher mentor Nick Saban. Monday, the Seminoles were picked to win the ACC and Winston was named the preseason Player of the Year. Florida State is the odds-on favorite to win the College Football Playoff. Only Alabama is recruiting better.

"Why can't you? I don't know if it's feasible," Fisher said regarding a run similar to Bowden's. "Let's go play ball and find out."

Video: ACC media days wrap up

July, 21, 2014
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videoAndrea Adelson and Jared Shanker wrap up ACC media days, discussing Florida State Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher's comments on the Big 12, Bobby Petrino and the Miami Hurricanes as preseason Coastal favorites.

The ACC's nice guys

July, 11, 2014
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College football fans sure find easy targets to wear the black hat. Whether it's a coach bouncing from school to school, a recruit flipping to a rival or someone who just can't avoid making headlines, there remains no shortage of villains in this sport.

That doesn't mean it's without guys worth rooting for, though. Here, we give you five ACC guys whom even rival fans have to appreciate for what they do on Saturdays and beyond.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Rodriguez
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtWR Daniel Rodriguez walked on at Clemson after serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Daniel Rodriguez, Clemson. The Tigers receiver served roughly 18 months in Iraq and one year in Afghanistan. He served in the Army from 2006-10. He earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal With Valor Device. Just watch this "College GameDay" feature on him. One of the better moments all of last season was Rodriguez scoring a 2-yard touchdown against The Citadel on Military Appreciation Day. He enters his senior year with 10 career catches for 30 yards and five punt returns for 31 yards. You don't see stories like Rodriguez's every day, and he certainly helps put the term "hero" in perspective.

Laken Tomlinson, Duke. Tomlinson arrived in Chicago from Jamaica at the age of 10, with little knowledge of the game of football. His recruitment and background is very similar to that of "The Blind Side," with Tomlinson ultimately committing to David Cutcliffe and a then-rebuilding Blue Devils program. He took part in a service trip two years ago in Ethiopia to help construct freshwater wells for local communities. He's blossomed into a pretty good offensive guard, too, earning All-ACC honors during Duke's run to the Coastal Division crown last season.

Kevin Haplea, Florida State. You're out for the season with a torn ACL. So what do you do? If you're Haplea, you help start a charity chapter at your new school. The Penn State transfer founded the Seminoles' chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which, coincidentally, holds its first event, "Lift for Life," today. The fundraising effort raises awareness and research money for rare diseases, with FSU's chapter championing Fanconi anemia, which is the disease that coach Jimbo Fisher's son, Ethan, was diagnosed with. A redshirt senior, Haplea could see his role expand this year, complementing Nick O'Leary in FSU's two-tight-end sets.

Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville. With both of his parents in jail, Mauldin bounced between different foster families before one of his foster mothers introduced him to football in high school. He's excelled since, registering 9.5 sacks last season and earning second-team all-league honors from the American Athletic Conference. Mauldin does no shortage of community work as well.

David Durham, Pitt. The starting defensive end has done no shortage of work around his new community since transferring from Ohio State prior to the 2012 season. Durham has hosted youth football clinics, wrapped and delivered Christmas gifts to families in need, volunteered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and, most recently, was part of a group of Pitt players who visited an orphanage in Haiti in May for a weeklong mission trip. Durham was the Panthers defense's winner of the Ed Conway Award this spring, which goes to the most improved player.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Kevin Haplea says he was looking to put his new-found idle time to good use. Free moments are a rarity for major-level college football players and are often unwelcome -- forced on a player recovering from a serious injury.

Candi Fisher, wife of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, believes it to be something more divine. And why wouldn't she as her 9-year-old son battles a rare, incurable disease with an average life expectancy of 33 years and mortality rate of 80 percent before the age of 18?

[+] EnlargeKevin Haplea
Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMISidelined by an injury, Kevin Haplea spent his free time helping the Fishers raise money to help fight a rare disease.
"I felt like it was divine intervention with how Kevin ended up coming from Penn State where [Uplifting Athletes] was founded and he had an injury last season and had extra time and it was one thing after another that fell in place to make this happen," Candi said in an interview with ESPN.com. "He took the initiative and it speaks volumes for the kind of kid he is."

The initiative was organizing Florida State's inaugural Lift for Life, a fundraiser and offense versus defense lifting competition taking place at 4 p.m. ET on the Seminoles' campus Friday.

A redshirt senior tight end at Florida State, Haplea tore a ligament in his knee in June 2013, a little more than a month before preseason practice. Unable to contribute on the field during the Seminoles' national title run, he was intent on emotionally helping a reeling family and community. In 2011, Jimbo and Candi's son Ethan was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare medical condition that affects roughly 1 in 131,000 people. Fanconi anemia prevents bone marrow from making enough new blood cells, which leads to bone marrow failure. Risks of Leukemia and other forms of cancer are significantly higher and affect Fanconi anemia patients at much earlier ages. The Fishers have developed the Kidz1stFund, which raises awareness and money to help find a cure.

As Haplea rehabbed his knee, he drew upon his first few years at Penn State, where he played before transferring in the summer of 2012. In 2003, Penn State players created the first Lift for Life to raise money and awareness for a rare kidney cancer afflicting a player's father. Born from that event and the ones that followed annually was Uplifting Athletes, a national non-profit. There are now 21 chapters across college campuses, each in support of a different rare disease.

"I had originally thought about [an FSU chapter] when I first found out about Fanconi anemia and Kidz1stFund, but there was so much going on when I first got there," Haplea said in an interview with ESPN.com. "I was literally sitting around one day after I got hurt in the summer and thought if there's any time to get it started this is it."

Haplea walked into Fisher's office last summer and approached him about an inaugural Lift for Life event to raise money for Fanconi anemia. The offense and defense square off in a series of strongman competitions to help solicit donations from fans. Fisher was floored at Haplea's charity. Often injured players feel isolated from the team, but Haplea volunteering to help Ethan, who Haplea now sees as a younger brother. As of midnight Friday, the event has raised $11,708.

"It was a tremendous act of kindness and one we really appreciate," Fisher said in an interview with ESPN.com. "It's a tremendous act from our players on how much they understand their role and helping their community is important. I'm very proud of them and happy to coach and be around them."

Haplea's actions come at a critical time for Ethan and the Fishers. While Ethan is still playing baseball and appears physically healthy -- he is considered smaller for his age -- the brutality with Fanconi is there are no predictors of when a bone marrow transplant is needed. Doctors originally estimated in 2011 he would likely require a transplant during a three-to-five year window. During his annual visit to the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital this past spring, doctors found Ethan's levels have dropped only minimally and remains in mild bone marrow failure.

The Fishers, who have raised more than $2 million to date through Kidz1stFund for research at Amplatz, hope the funds they have contributed will improve the statistics and quality of life by the time Ethan needs a transplant, which will have to come outside of the family. According to the Kidz1stFund website, two decades ago only one out of seven Fanconi anemia patients survived an unrelated bone marrow donor transplant. That number has since jumped to six out seven.

"He's holding strong and our prayer and hope is we can keep doing what we are doing with Kidz1st and raise awareness and money and help the University of Minnesota find some breakthroughs," Candi said, "so when it's time for a transplant, maybe it's a different treatment plan from what it would have been."

Asked if he would have created an FSU chapter and organized the program's first Lift for Life if he did not originally lose his senior season, Haplea is honest. There just would not have been enough time.

Now, he is working on mentoring the Seminoles' underclassmen in hopes to find the next chapter leader.

"It's a family atmosphere here and Ethan and [older brother Trey] are always hanging around the stadium, always at the games, in the cafeteria for dinner," Haplea said. "We treat them like they're our very own brothers."

Said Candi: "They're family to us and the fact they want to give back and promote a cause that's near and dear to us is very special."

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 27, 2014
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NFL.com put together a list of the 14 hottest names among coordinators in college football, with two ACC coaches making the cut.

Of course, seeing Bud Foster and Chad Morris on the list is no surprise. They have established themselves as among the most consistently good coordinators in the country. What is perhaps more interesting is who isn’t on the list: Namely, no one from the defending national champion. In fact, ex-Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (now at Georgia) does make the cut, but that is as close as the Seminoles got to landing a name on the list.

Given that Jimbo Fisher doesn’t employ an offensive coordinator and is on his third defensive coordinator in as many years, it is probably not a surprise, but as our Travis Haney noted during a recent trip to a Texas coaching clinic, FSU’s Charles Kelly has made a really good early impression since taking over for Pruitt.

Pruitt, quite fairly, received a lot of credit for last year’s championship defense, so now there are concerns about what his loss will mean for Florida State. Those concerns, however, are probably a bit misplaced.

First off, remember the chaos that followed the 2012 season at FSU? Seven assistants left the staff for other jobs, including both coordinators. Mark Stoops had engineered a defense that ranked in the top three nationally in consecutive years and was widely regarded as one of the best assistants in the country. Fisher couldn’t possibly replace all that, right?

Even in the wake of Stoops’ departure, fans clamored for a big name -- Foster, perhaps, or someone with NFL experience -- but he hired an obscure secondary coach from Alabama with just three years of college coaching on his resume. But he knew Pruitt, knew what he was capable of doing, knew the system he wanted to run, and the hire proved a stroke of genius.

So now, it’s a lot easier to believe Fisher knew what he was doing when he promoted Kelly from linebackers coach to DC, and the transition promises to be much smoother this time. Pruitt’s biggest impact on the team last season was the scheme he put in place, but that doesn’t figure to change much under Kelly. The players already know what they are doing, there is no change in vocabulary and virtually no change in the Xs and Os. Moreover, Kelly is as well-liked and respected as any coach on the staff. He will do just fine.

But that doesn’t mean there is no room for worries for Florida State’s defense. It’s just that losing Pruitt probably shouldn’t be the primary concern. The biggest void is the leadership lost with the departures of Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks, Timmy Jernigan and Telvin Smith. That was a rare breed of leaders that had been through the battles and suffered the losses that taught tough lessons -- lessons they continually reminded their younger teammates about during last season’s championship run. Finding voices on defense that carry as much weight in the locker room this year won’t be easy.

“I think it’s feeling comfortable taking on the roles of the guys who have left, that you feel comfortable stepping up and taking that responsibility,” Fisher told me this month. “All of them play hard, but what you have to have is guys stepping up and taking on the leadership. There’s a responsibility of how you have to conduct yourself as a teammate to affect the other guys on the team. That’s where teams grow, and summer and fall camp is so important.”

Fisher reeled off a bunch of names on the offensive side of the ball who will fill that role -- Rashad Greene, Cameron Erving, Karlos Williams, Tre Jackson, Josue Matias and, of course, Jameis Winston -- but the candidates on defense weren’t quite so established.

Fisher said sophomore Jalen Ramsey has been perhaps the most vocal leader throughout the spring and early summer, and fellow defensive backs P.J. Williams and Tyler Hunter have shouldered some of the leadership burden, too. The rest of the unit, though, is still developing.

“Last year’s team wasn’t on a journey. They were on a mission,” Fisher said. “They understood what they really wanted. The trial-and-error they had, they learned from their mistakes over time.”

Terrance Smith learned under Telvin Smith last season, but he’s not nearly as vocal as his predecessor. Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman “are growing into the role,” Fisher said, but they haven’t proven they are as good at galvanizing a group around them as Jernigan did last year.

FSU has ample talent on defense, and it should again have an exceptional coordinator calling the shots, but it’s just really difficult to replace the battle scars and lessons learned that Joyner, Brooks, Smith and Co. used to such great effect in 2013.

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A little over a year ago, Florida State went into spring practice with four quarterbacks competing to win the starting job.

Fast forward to today, and three of those players are in line to be starters -- further proof that Jimbo Fisher knows how to pick and develop his quarterbacks.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJameis Winston could be the fourth quarterback under the guidance of Jimbo Fisher to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft.
While Jameis Winston emerged as the star of the group, it is pretty clear now that Fisher was not exaggerating when he said he had four very talented guys competing to win the starting job in April 2013. Jacob Coker and Clint Trickett may not have done enough to beat out Winston, but that should reflect more on the rare skill-set Winston possesses and less on Coker and Trickett themselves.

Especially when you consider what has happened over the past 16 months.

Trickett transferred out of Florida State following spring practice and landed at West Virginia, starting seven games last season. Dana Holgorsen announced Tuesday that Trickett is his starter heading into the season.

And who do the Mountaineers play to open 2014? None other than Alabama, where Jacob Coker recently transferred and is immediately eligible to play. Though Coker has yet to participate in a practice at Alabama, many believe he has the inside track to win the starting job.

During a news conference previewing the BCS National Championship, Florida State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders reflected on the competition both in the spring and fall.

"People look back on it and they don't believe us, but it was a very, very competitive situation," Sanders said. "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 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."

Fisher had a similar situation when he was offensive coordinator at LSU. Back in 1999 and 2000, Josh Booty, Craig Nall and Rohan Davey all were on the roster and battling for the starting job. All three eventually were drafted.

So when you include his seven years at LSU, Fisher has had eight quarterbacks drafted -- three in the first round. Winston is sure to be next in line whenever he decides to enter the NFL draft.

When that time comes, it is nearly guaranteed the Seminoles will have a player talented enough to step right in and start.

Who knows? There could even be two or three players talented enough to start.

Here is a look at where quarterbacks Fisher coached were drafted:

at LSU

  • Josh Booty, sixth round, 2001
  • Rohan Davey, fourth round, 2002
  • Craig Nall, fifth round, 2002
  • Matt Mauck, seventh round, 2004
  • JaMarcus Russell, first overall, 2007
  • Matt Flynn, seventh round, 2008
at Florida State

  • Christian Ponder, first round, 2011
  • EJ Manuel, first round, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was hot and it was muggy and it was a Friday in the middle of summer, all of which should've been enough to strangle any enthusiasm from a group of Florida State's skill-position players running through offseason drills with the team's strength-and-conditioning staff last week. But as freshman tailback Dalvin Cook eased to a stop after an obviously impressive 40-yard sprint, a mad scientist on the sideline with his face buried in a laptop had everyone's attention.

The man is Chris Jacobs, an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist tasked with monitoring every movement the Seminoles make in practice and in the weight room. Jacobs had worked as a propulsion engineer with the space program before government cutbacks forced him out of the job, but a timely meeting with a member of Florida State's booster club brought him here.

The players call him "Rocket Man." Jacobs' computer is fueled by data that arrive in real time, courtesy of GPS monitors the players wear in specially designed straps across their chests -- sports bras the team has renamed "bros" -- that track everything from acceleration rates to heart rates and, most important to the dozens of Seminoles patiently waiting for official results, speed.

Twenty-two point eight, Jacobs confirms, and history is made. Cook's top speed during his 40-yard dash -- 22.8 mph -- pushed him past veteran receiver Rashad Greene for the team's best mark, and the other players quickly offered congratulations to the rookie. Greene, too, was impressed, but also inspired.

For players who just won a national championship by setting offensive records and winning every game by an average of nearly 40 points, this is the value of those GPS devices. They provide the benchmark for a juggernaut for which the biggest challenge comes by competing against itself.

"He beat my record," Greene said. "So I've got to go get him on Monday."

If the players see the monitoring system mostly as a souped-up speedometer, Florida State's coaching staff knows better. For the coaches, it's the technology that has undercut conventional wisdom by providing immediate feedback on every facet of a player's exertion on the field, opening the door to a new way of running practice and designing a program.

"It's not the reason you win," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "But it takes a lot of the guesswork out of how your team is feeling, how individuals are performing and how you moderate practice."

To read the complete story, click here.
Only three ACC schools kept their entire coaching staffs intact this past offseason, the clearest way to show how transient the profession is on a year-to-year basis.

[+] EnlargeBud Foster
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsDefensive coordinator Bud Foster has been Frank Beamer's right-hand man at Virginia Tech since 1987.
That is why a select group of coaches deserve a hand. Chris Vannini of Coachingsearch.com compiled a list of FBS assistants who have stayed at their respective schools for at least 10 years.

It is not a very long list.

Only 37 of 1,152 full-time assistants meet that standard. Four are from the ACC. Three are from one school: Virginia Tech.

  • Bud Foster, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator, 1987
  • Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, 1990
  • Charley Wiles, Virginia Tech defensive line/run game coordinator, 1996
  • Odell Haggins, Florida State defensive tackles, 1994

Stinespring and Haggins break the typical assistants mold, making their stories especially remarkable. Neither has ever worked for another FBS school. Haggins played at Florida State from 1986-89, then began his coaching career there in 1994. He was recently promoted to associate head coach and is going into his 21st season with the Seminoles.

Stinespring started at Virginia Tech as a graduate assistant, working his way up to offensive coordinator. After the 2012 season, he remained on staff as recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach despite losing his offensive coordinator duties.

Foster and Wiles both played for Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer; Foster has spent his entire coaching career with Beamer, turning down opportunities to become defensive coordinator elsewhere. His name has been linked to head coach openings in the past, and there is no doubt he would love the opportunity to run his own program one day. But until that day comes, Foster remains committed to both Beamer and Virginia Tech. The reverse is true as well.

What is clear about all four: they have gotten on-the-field results and have benefited from being at programs with long-tenured head coaches. Beamer has been at Virginia Tech since 1987. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher worked with Haggins under Bobby Bowden, and Fisher decided to retain him on staff. Fisher also retained two other assistants who remain in Tallahassee: offensive line coach Rick Trickett and receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey. Both are going into their eighth seasons at Florida State -- not quite a decade but quite a solid tenure at one place.

Analysis of ACC awards polls

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In a series last week, the ACC blog broke down some of the early preseason candidates for several of the conference’s top postseason awards. Colleague Matt Fortuna gave a short brief on each of the candidates, listed a few honorable mentions and a SportsNation poll asked readers to vote on which candidate, if any, would win.

We asked for your prediction on who would be the conference offensive and defensive players of the year, offensive and defensive rookies of the year and coach of the year. With just about a week for fans to vote, here are the results from the polls.

ACC offensive player of the year

Results: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State (52 percent), RB Duke Johnson, Miami (19), Other (14), WR DeVante Parker, Louisville (12), WR Jamison Crowder, Duke (3).
Analysis: Winston is the overwhelming favorite in the poll, and his 33-percentage point lead over second-place Johnson is the widest gap among the five SportsNation polls. That is hardly a surprise, considering the Heisman winner returns and has yet to lose a game as a starter in his college career. Johnson is a reasonable second option, as the Miami running back will play a pivotal role for the Canes as they break in a new quarterback. If Miami can achieve double-digit wins this season, Johnson will be tough to beat.
Write-in votes: Gauging from the comments section, it seems as if readers had Seminoles running back Karlos Williams in mind when voting “other” for the most part. A third-string running back last season, the former five-star recruit will start as a senior in 2014. Many FSU fans are expecting Williams to easily surpass 1,000 yards.

ACC defensive player of the year

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThere are big expectations for Florida State's Mario Edwards, the No. 1 recruit in the 2012 class.
Results: DE Mario Edwards, Florida State (35), DE Vic Beasley, Clemson (34), Other (15), LB Denzel Perryman, Miami (13), S Anthony Harris, Virginia (3).
Analysis: Edwards narrowly edged Beasley, who could have been a first-round pick in last month’s NFL draft. Edwards, a junior and former No. 1 high school recruit, could be the first defensive lineman taken in next year’s draft. However, Edwards’ statistics could keep him from winning defensive player of the year. While he certainly could be the most dominant league defensive player, he likely won’t have the same sack numbers as Beasley, who had 13 a season ago, or 2013 winner Aaron Donald, who registered 11 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss as an interior lineman.
Write-in votes: Once again, the FSU voices were heard in the comment section, offering their thoughts on why sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey is the favorite on the Seminoles’ defense. Ramsey is going to fill the void in the backfield left by the departed Lamarcus Joyner, a Thorpe Award finalist in 2013.

ACC offensive rookie of the year

Results: Other (31), QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson (26), QB Kevin Olsen, Miami (24), RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina (16), QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina (3).
Analysis: This is definitely a difficult one to predict as there is an inherent unpredictability in the award, much more than any other postseason trophy. Other is probably the safe choice and I tend to agree with the readers. Olsen is a good pick if he is the Canes’ starter for the entire season. Watson, who was injured during spring camp, was the top quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class nationally. North Carolina could not afford to miss on Hood, who enrolled early and figures to be featured extensively in the UNC offense.
Write-in votes: With so many departures on the Clemson offense, one reader suggests redshirt freshman running back Wayne Gallman will win the award. He was a four-star recruit in the 2013 class.

ACC defensive rookie of the year

Results: CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson (36), DT Keith Bryant (33), Other (20), DT Andrew Brown (6), S Quin Blanding, Virginia (5).
Analysis: Alexander is a smart pick for rookie of the year on defense considering the reputation he had coming to Clemson before the 2013 season. The No. 4 player nationally in the 2013 recruiting class, Alexander redshirted as a freshman. He should get extensive playing time this upcoming season, though, and he has arguably the best defensive line in the ACC in front of him, which could force rushed and errant throws in his direction that are prime for interceptions. With the loss of Timmy Jernigan at defensive tackle for FSU, the Noles certainly will need someone at the position to step up. It remains to be seen if Bryant will be that person, and a strong summer would definitely help his cause as the Noles open up preseason camp in a little more than a month. Both Blanding and Brown are sleepers, especially if the Cavaliers can reach bowl eligibility.
Write-in votes: One commenter agrees with Fortuna that Florida State redshirt freshman linebacker Matthew Thomas could win this award. Thomas was spectacular in spring drills and could be a starter for the Noles this season.

ACC coach of the year

Results: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (40), Dabo Swinney, Clemson (26), Other (22), Larry Fedora, North Carolina (7), Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (5).
Analysis: The safe bet in the conference is to go with Fisher or Swinney. The two have Clemson and Florida State in a league of their own within the ACC. Both are coming off BCS bowl wins but have holes to fill on their 2014 teams. Swinney needs to overcome the losses of his starting quarterback, running back and star receiver. Fisher loses defensive leaders Jernigan, Joyner and Telvin Smith. I thought Fedora would receive more votes, considering the Heels are one of the favorites to win the division.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 17, 2014
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R.I.P Tony Gwynn.

Poll: ACC coach of the year

June, 13, 2014
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It is never too early to make predictions, and with the season less than three months away, we are seeking your input on who you think will take home some of the ACC's top honors at season's end.

We continue today with coach of the year.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: So often, this award goes to the coach who does more with less. And while no one would suggest that Clemson does not have a talented roster, the fact is that the Discover Orange Bowl winners lose their top skill players from last year in quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins, among others. Fair or not, outside expectations for Clemson aren't what they were going into 2013. The Tigers also face a brutally tough schedule early on, so if Swinney can have this group competing for the ACC title, he is sure to receive a lot of credit for keeping his program at an elite level.

SportsNation

Who will be the ACC's Coach of the Year?

  •  
    26%
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    39%
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    7%
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    5%
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    23%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,708)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: The other side of the "more with less" argument can be seen in coaches like Fisher, who is coming off a national title season but will probably never receive too much credit given the location and prestige of his program. That, of course, is not really fair, but if Fisher didn't win it in either of his last two conference title-winning years, it would probably take nothing less than an undefeated season this year — his second in a row — to truly wow the voters and win this honor in 2014. Just look at Jim Tressel, who won seven Big Ten titles and a national title in his 10 years at Ohio State — but had zero league Coach of the Year awards.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: If North Carolina can emerge as the Coastal Division champion, Fedora will have a legitimate argument for this honor. For one, he has himself a very big decision to make at the most important position on the field, as Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky battle it out for the starting quarterback job. How Fedora handles what could be a delicate situation will undoubtedly have an impact on the kind of season UNC has. And if things work out for the Tar Heels in 2014, that would be a very nice answer to rival Duke's recent success, not to mention an impressive turnaround for Fedora in just his third year in charge.

Paul Chryst, Pitt: Chryst is also in his third year. And he also coaches a team considered to be a darkhorse Coastal Division title contender. (Hey, at this point, who isn't?) The schedule breaks right for the Panthers to have a chance at a strong season. And if that happens — in just their second year in the ACC, after losing key players like Aaron Donald, Tom Savage and Devin Street — you can bet Chryst will receive a ton of credit.

Others: No David Cutcliffe, you say? Well, he did win this award the past two seasons, so the chances of him pulling off a three-peat have to be very slim. (It's never been done before in the ACC.) If Louisville can contend for a league title during its first year in the ACC, Bobby Petrino will receive plenty of votes. Of course, teams that come out of nowhere tend to be pretty popular with voters, so NC State's Dave Doeren and Virginia's Mike London could be in play if either of their squads make huge turnarounds after winless league campaigns in 2013.

The video is making the rounds across message boards and blogs. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher on camera expressing his desire to have played Alabama in the national championship game this past January.

Wait a minute. Does he know tired banalities are the only accepted language for coaches? A coach actually admitted he preferred one opponent over another?

Possibly.

Late last week, the school posted a YouTube video of Fisher addressing the Seminoles softball team as it began preparations for a Women’s College World Series run. During the nine-minute recording, Fisher said he was “begging” to play an SEC team in the title game. Toward the end, he went even further, saying the hope was it was Alabama.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsJimbo Fisher told the FSU softball team he not only wanted to play an SEC team for the national title but that he hoped it would be Alabama.
“History has no bearing on me. Create your own history. Be the first. I’m glad. I didn’t want to be in the SEC and win the championship. I want to be in the ACC and win one. I wanted to break that mold. We were begging to play an SEC team and we were hoping it was Alabama,” Fisher said on the video.

Before this becomes bulletin board material in Tuscaloosa (and Auburn), let’s pump the brakes some. It is interesting -- groundbreaking? -- Fisher would openly wish for a particular opponent, but it isn’t known whether Fisher knew he was being videotaped with the intention it would later be posted on YouTube. Although he hardly said anything inflammatory, it’s not in Fisher’s nature or best interest to be so candid as to openly admit he was a little let down as Auburn’s Chris Davis marched 100 yards from his own end zone.

He was also trying to motivate the softball team, which has been to seven Women’s College World Series but has yet to win one. It sounds as if Fisher was trying to make the connection of doing something that has not been done in a while -- i.e. beat the SEC, which won seven straight championships -- and to make history by beating the best -- i.e. Alabama, which won three titles between 2009 and 2012.

Regardless of what Fisher’s true intention was, how many of us were thinking the same thing last November? Alabama and Nick Saban’s defensive prowess against Florida State and Fisher’s complex offense run by Heisman winner Jameis Winston. Let’s not forget Fisher orchestrated Saban’s offense at LSU, where the two teamed for a national championship in 2003. That chess match would have been a treat for the true football fanatic.

It probably would have been a showcase of the two most talented teams in college football, as well. The only program able to keep pace with Alabama on the recruiting trail the last four cycles is Florida State. The Noles are the only program not named Alabama since 2011 to finish with RecruitingNation’s No. 1 class, and they finished No. 2 in 2012.

The good news is ESPN.com’s panel of experts projects the Tide and Seminoles to square off in the first College Football Playoff final next January, which means you might as well write that in stone.

And if it doesn’t, at least we’ll be able to count Fisher among the rest of us who will be disappointed.

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