This time of the year teams around the nation are trying to fill roster spots and work out the kinks for this upcoming season.
There seems to be a different feel and energy around this Florida State program this year. Derwin James returns to help fortify a defense that finished 5th overall in the ACC. Reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Deondre Francois returns under center for his second year as the starting quarterback for the ‘Noles. Florida State returned 18 starters from last year’s ( 9-Def 7-Off 2-ST) squad and looked poised to make a run at an ACC title and quite possibly a National Championship.
Though they may look like contenders on paper, the ‘Noles must remain focused on the task at hand; putting in the work, competing every day to get better. Defensive Coordinator Charles Kelly believes there’s no substitute for experience “There’s no substitute for learning how to play this game but to play the game; you don’t learn it from sitting on the sidelines.”
Florida State may have multiple players returning, but make no mistake about it, the holes left by Dalvin Cook and Demarcus Walker are enormous, and the ‘Noles will be looking for players to step up and fill the void. With the loss of Cook and playmakers on the outside such as Travis Rudolph, Francois will have his hands full trying to replicate and build on last year’s success. Statistically, Florida State loses a lot of production on the offensive side of the ball, but coach Fisher sees it differently “I don’t feel we’ve lost that much fire power I think we’ll be as dynamic as we’ve been.” Running back Jacques Patrick showed flashes of his running ability in times he spelled Cook in the backfield.
“I think there’s some urgency. I think it’s some great toughness to this team as far as competitiveness. I like the way they get after each other.” said Fisher. This team will be built on competition and physicality on all three phases. Florida State had its first open practice of fall camp and allowed us to get a glimpse of just how physical this team will be. Derwin James led the charge as he and wide receiver Nyqwan Murray competed in 1 on 1 drills.
The physicality shown must transfer to the field when the games start to actually count. The Seminoles play the 8th toughest schedule in the country. It gets no easier as the Noles prepare to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. “I think as a team, we’re very focused on right now getting better. There’s no doubt our first opponent, very good football team, got very good players, very good coaches. It’s a challenge, but Jimbo talks about it all the time, it’s not about the team you play it’s about the team you are.” Said Kelly
Though it’s not about Alabama, you still can’t overlook the caliber of the Crimson Tide. Year after year the Tide finish at or near the top of the standings, and return a tough defense and one of the most dynamic players in the country, quarterback Jalen Hurts. Over the past 7 seasons, both FSU and Alabama have been the most winningest programs in the country. Coach Fisher isn’t one to shy away from competition and kept it simple stating “We’re the two winningest teams in America in the last 7 years, and I’ve been the head coach, that’s the two winningest programs bar none, that’s what you want to see; the best plays the best and right now we’re both considered the best.”
The best will play the best September 2nd at 8 P.M. when these two powerhouses meet in Atlanta. This has been a much-hyped game, but most of the attention has been given to Nick Saban and his vaunted Alabama defense. When asked how it feels playing the preseason #1 team Fisher said it best “They have to play us too.”