Today is another first for Florida State's Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles begin spring practice with Fisher as coach, not merely as coach-in-waiting, and the next few weeks loom large in the process of reshaping the program. "There'll be some ups and some downs," he said. "There'll be some things you didn't expect, good and bad. But I'm … really looking forward to it because I think our kids have worked pretty hard so far, so I'm anxious to see how it pays off on the field."
What's the most important thing you'll be looking for this spring?
The demeanor which we're going to play with. The attitude which we're going to play with and the consistency which we're going to play with. … There's an execution part of it, but the total buy-in of what we're doing and how we're doing it (is vital). You can make a mistake and how you make it is okay and you make a mistake that looks very similar but how you made it tells you the guy is not with you.
You changed the offseason conditioning program, put a new emphasis on nutrition and mental conditioning. Is spring the acid test for all of that?
We've had the best one (offseason) we've had since I've been here. I tell them, 'Now show it on the field. That's where it matters.' We have to take it to the field and how to do it every day and create great habits. Habits are what stick with you when pressure comes. From January to August is when your team is made.
Christian Ponder is coming off surgery to his right (throwing) shoulder. How much can we expect to see him this spring?
He's up to 125, 130 throws a day. Once he loosens up and warms up, you're talking about getting through most of the whole practice. … We'll gauge it. What we'll have to gauge too is the days in a row when we're back-to-back days.
What are the prospects for a young defense that struggled last year?
The first thing we need to help them with is great special teams. Our kicking game can be very strong with the kickers we have, with the distance and the ability to cover because I think we're a very athletic team. Field position can really help a defense. (Then) we have to improve the turnovers. It's the first thing we talk about every day, turnover emphasis and tackling emphasis. That's the big thing.
The annual spring game will, for the first time in years, be an actual game instead of a scrimmage. Why the change?
If you have a three-and-out (before), you'd back up and start again. You don't get to do that in a game. You see that team score points, you have to understand the urgency of a game and the way a game goes. It's important to work all the situations in practice and you simulate it, but there's got to be a time when you apply it. There's always situations that come up in a game you don't coach. You coach them to a point, but there's always something new that comes up in a game and the more they're in that atmosphere (the better). Hopefully it'll be a great crowd here and some of these guys will get some of the jitters out before a great crowd in a game-type situation.
You weren't shy about challenging fans to come out en masse like fans do at Alabama or Florida:
Oh, no. It's important for the kids. It's important for recruiting. It's important for the program. It's important that we all understand that everybody's behind this thing. When people have support and they see the support, it's easier for people to keep doing things and it's easier for people to want to keep coming here because they know it's special.
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347.