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Florida State gives quarterbacks a say in offense

FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher often consults with his quarterbacks about which plays they feel comfortable with.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher often consults with his quarterbacks about which plays they feel comfortable with.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher will spend hours in front of a monitor studying film in solitude each week and then more hours with the staff to spitball ideas.

But his clock doesn't stop there.

Before he crafts the game plan for an opponent, he taps another resource — his quarterbacks.

"I'm always looking for (their) input," Fisher said recently.

"I've always tried to give them ownership."

So he asked redshirt sophomores Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson and fifth-year senior Drew Weatherford which plays they felt most comfortable with in the days before tonight's nationally televised game against ACC Atlantic Division rival North Carolina State.

Fisher has them write down their favorites, in order, so he can mix and match specific calls with a specific player in a specific situation.

"We definitely have some say in things," Ponder said.

It just makes good sense.

"I'm not the one making that play when it's third and 4 and we're in the red zone and we've got to throw it to win the game," Fisher said. "(I'll say to them), 'Do you really feel comfortable with it?' If they say, 'Yes,' then we'll do it. If they don't and it's something we can do another way, I'll throw it out.

"(I can say), 'Why don't you try it for a day, give me a day working on it and we'll see.' But it still gets back to when you call that play, that young man's got to feel comfortable that he can execute what needs to be executed. A little bit's on them."

Fisher, himself a former college quarterback (and a pretty good one at that playing for Terry Bowden at Salem College then Samford), understands a quarterback's comfort level with a certain call equates to the confidence level he possesses.

The rest of the offense picks up on that. Heck, the rest of the team does. It's that palpable.

"It's definitely helped me learn the playbook," Ponder said. "It puts pressure on us to make sure we know everything, every little detail."

"If the kid feels real strong about something," echoed coach Bobby Bowden, who was also a college quarterback back in the day, "the coach is real wise to listen. Now how common that is I don't know."

That depends on the coach and the player.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, a renowned offensive guru, said he sought input from his quarterbacks a lot when he was the San Diego Chargers' offensive coordinator from 1994-96.

"When I had Stan Humphries, if he didn't like something, he wouldn't do it," Friedgen said with a laugh. "You might have the greatest idea in the world, but if Stan wasn't okay with it, you might as well throw it out. There would be nights I'd actually call his house and say, 'This is what we're thinking, what do you think?' Stan was pretty good that way."

At Georgia Tech, he asked Joe Hamilton, a one-time Tampa Bay Buc, and ex-Jesuit star George Godsey, now UCF's quarterbacks coach, for their likes and dislikes. Their play and his trust in them merited that.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he, too, has asked his guys each week what plays they like and, more important, what plays they "feel like they can hit."

"You don't ask him to get a deep comeback if that's not what he throws very well," said the former Florida coach and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback as a Gator star. "You try to do what all coaches do and play to the strength of your players."

Occasionally, he has even received a suggestion for a play or two.

"But normally, we had so much stuff going on," Spurrier said, "they'd get a good picture of it and away we'd go."

Fisher, in fact, actively solicits ideas for plays from his quarterbacks, something that livens up their meetings and, again, provides a tangible sign that the players have an investment beyond their sweat and tears in what will be called on any given Saturday. Or Thursday as the case may be.

"I enjoy doing that," said Weatherford, the former Land O'Lakes High standout. "I enjoy watching film and bouncing ideas off Jimbo, and he's doing the same for me. The bottom line is if it's a good idea, it's maybe something he'll consider and if it's a bad idea, he disregards it. And that's fine."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com.

Florida State gives quarterbacks a say in offense 10/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 8:22pm]

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