Florida State Seminoles: Jimbo Fisher

FSU No. 1 in coaches' poll

July, 31, 2014
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Surprise, surprise -- Florida State is the preseason No. 1 team in the Amway Coaches Poll.

The Seminoles received 56 of the 62 first-place votes as they enter 2014 looking to repeat as national champions.

Clemson and North Carolina were the only other ACC teams to be ranked, coming in at Nos. 16 and 23, respectively. For those keeping track, that means UNC is the only team from the Coastal Division to be ranked in the poll. This comes after Miami was chosen by the media in Greensboro, North Carolina, last week as the preseason Coastal favorite, in the same poll that saw Duke receive the most first-place Coastal votes. It is worth repeating again: This division race is wide open.

Notre Dame, which begins its football affiliation with the ACC this fall, checks in at No. 17 in the coaches' poll.

Miami leads the ACC contingent in the "others receiving votes" category of the coaches' poll, coming in at No. 34 overall. Right behind the Hurricanes? Duke and Louisville, at Nos. 35 and 36, respectively. Virginia Tech comes in at No. 40 while Georgia Tech is No. 48.

Half of the ACC's coaches vote in the poll: Frank Beamer, David Cutcliffe, Larry Fedora, Jimbo Fisher, Al Golden, Paul Johnson and Dabo Swinney. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly votes as well. Shockingly, all eight of those coaches saw their teams receive votes.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jameis Winston's dad and his coach have said this season won’t be the reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s last at Florida State, but the Seminoles’ star quarterback isn’t willing to go that far.

Winston, a redshirt sophomore and eligible for the 2015 draft, dodged the question when asked at the ACC Kickoff.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreJameis Winston is focused on the 2014 season, not any decisions he'll face after it.
"Well you know, four years, I can't really focus on that right now. I can't tell you about the past, I can't tell you about the future, but I can tell you about right now,” he said. “Right now it's about us developing as a team, us having another successful season, us getting the young guys regrouped, watching film, getting them doing their thing because I can't predict the future."

Throughout the spring, Fisher cautioned that it was not a foregone conclusion Winston would depart for the NFL following the 2014 season. Winston’s dad, Antonor, told AL.com last month that Winston will play two more seasons of football and remain in school “until he gets that degree.”

A talented baseball player, Winston closed for the Seminoles’ baseball team this past spring. At the ACC Kickoff, Winston was asked if he would prefer to go to the NFL straight out of high school. High school players are eligible for the MLB draft. Winston was the No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2012, although he acknowledges he would not have been prepared for the NFL without spending a few seasons in college.

"With baseball, they have so many leagues that develop them into being that players that they want, the minor leagues. There aren't that many Bryce Harpers in the world that can go at 17 and play in the [minor leagues],” Winston said. “Football, it's a team-oriented sport. This game is so strategic. I respect that we can't leap into the NFL. … We know before you go up there, you have to be truly ready. Baseball is more individual based.”

The movement to compensate college student-athletes in revenue sports is reaching a tipping point with the conference autonomy and the O’Bannon trial, but Winston isn’t interested in profiting off his likeness just yet. Florida State recently made its redesigned jerseys for sale, and Winston’s No. 5 jersey is on the front page of the athletic department’s official online store.

The No. 1 player on Mel Kiper’s 2015 Big Board, Winston said he is fine waiting for his payday.

"One thing about college is we're blessed to get a free education. That's the most important thing college gives you,” Winston said. “… My job as a Florida State Seminole is to be a good student first and an athlete second. So that scholarship we get every year, that's enough money for me. My love is for the game and one day, hopefully, god willing, I will have the opportunity to have football as my job and baseball being my job."
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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.”
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.

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
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

June, 17, 2014
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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?

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    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.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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Enjoy the holiday weekend!
Spring football has come and gone, commencement exercises are taking place across the country and, soon enough, we'll enter the darkest of all periods for college football fans: The summer, where the only good news surrounding most programs is no news at all.

So let's have some fun and start dreaming about all of the sites we want to take in this fall. We've done this road trip series before, but as a refresher, here's what we're going for: We take a look at the ACC's schedule week-by-week, throwing monetary concerns in the air and letting our imaginations run wild with all of the different campuses and atmospheres we would like to take in come the 2014 season.

This is how we would kick things off:

Week 1 schedule

Thursday, Aug. 28
  • Wake Forest at Louisiana-Monroe, ESPNU, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 29
  • Villanova at Syracuse
Saturday, Aug. 30
  • Wofford at Georgia Tech
  • Clemson at Georgia
  • Boston College at UMass
  • Elon at Duke
  • Georgia Southern at NC State
  • Liberty at North Carolina
  • Delaware at Pitt
  • UCLA at Virginia
  • William & Mary at Virginia Tech
  • Florida State vs. Oklahoma State, ABC, 8 p.m., Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas
Monday, Sept. 1
  • Miami at Louisville, ESPN, 8 p.m.
Our pick(s): Florida State vs. Oklahoma State AND Miami at Louisville

Why you should come along: Hey, we said this is our choice, right? That means that we can pick two games if we'd like, and what better way could we open the season than to take in the Cowboys Classic featuring the defending national champs before heading to Louisville for the Cardinals' ACC debut?

The first game is another prime nonconference clash, this time featuring the Big 12. We know the Seminoles will enter as heavy favorites, but this is our first look at them since their finale last season in Pasadena, Calif. Can Jimbo Fisher get this group to keep its eye on the prize and avoid complacency with what will likely be a preseason No. 1 ranking attached to it? I'd personally love to check out JerryWorld as well, as I have heard nothing but good things about that place (at least for football games). Clemson and Georgia offer plenty of intrigue, too, but let's remember that this is a rematch from last season, one we had taken in. While both teams could perhaps make strong runs for their conference titles and maybe even more, the matchup, at least this early, lacks the luster that the 2013 one had, as both teams lose so much star power (Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Aaron Murray).

As for Labor Day night, you can bet the atmosphere will be electric for the Cardinals' first game in their new league -- and for their first game (again) under coach Bobby Petrino, as well. It will have been just more than nine months since these two teams closed last season at the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and you can bet Miami hasn't forgotten about the way Louisville ran it off the field in a humiliating 36-9 defeat. The national spotlight will be on these two teams again as they close out Week 1.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 14, 2014
May 14
12:00
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If you’re going to get food poisoning, it might as well come from Shake Shack. (Though, if you're at Citi Field, Mama's of Corona is an excellent alternative that hasn't made anyone sick.)
  • Speaking of food, the Orlando Sentinel has a good piece on changes to the NCAA’s meal policy and how it affects Florida State, where sophomore Marquez White recently criticized the current program.
  • Jimbo Fisher’s success rate on the recruiting trail is awfully impressive, and Tomahawk Nation has the numbers to prove it.
  • Local readers offer their takes on Jameis Winston’s saga to the Tallahassee Democrat.
  • Louisville tops the list to land another transfer from Georgia -- and maybe another from Texas A&M, writes The Courier-Journal.
  • BC Interruption looks at the weighted draft results for each ACC school and notices they look awfully close to the conference’s typical recruiting rankings.
  • The Roanoke Times has some more details on Virginia Tech’s new indoor practice facility.
  • Former Syracuse center Macky MacPherson earned a mini-camp invite from the Philadelphia Eagles, writes The Post-Standard.
  • Former Pitt defender Aaron Donald is eager to get his pro career under way, writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Georgia Tech added an offensive line transfer from TCU, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • After some behind-the-scenes drama, Clemson landed a commitment on the defensive line, writes The State.
  • Sports Illustrated looks at the reasons the ACC and SEC want to stick with an eight-game conference schedule.
  • Some ACC teams may bolster their schedule with extra games against conference foes. Yahoo!’s Dr. Saturday isn’t a fan.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 13, 2014
May 13
12:00
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Twitter has debuted a “mute” function, which allows you to silence users without unfollowing them. By the way, you can follow, then mute me at @DavidHaleESPN.
  • The ACC is sticking with an eight-game schedule, but it wants teams to schedule big-name opponents outside the conference, too. BC Interruption has a great look at who’s on the docket for the 10 programs without annual SEC rivalry games.
  • Athlon is rolling out its preseason top 25 in reverse order, and the first ACC entrant is Clemson at No. 21.
  • The Roanoke Times takes a deeper look at the X-receiver position at Virginia Tech, where sophomore Joshua Stanford is atop the depth chart.
  • Sean Hickey figures to be Syracuse’s top prospect in the 2015 NFL draft, The Post-Standard writes.
  • Georgia Tech’s Jabari Hunt-Days, currently ineligible academically, could be pulled from school by his parents, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Former Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro is excited for a chance to earn a roster spot with the Arizona Cardinals, writes Tiger Net.
  • Charlie Strong can take credit for bolstering the NFL stock of Louisville’s roster, but he’s got a big job ahead at Texas, writes SB Nation.
  • Jimbo Fisher has an interesting idea on how to keep players healthy, writes the USA Today.
  • Jameis Winston’s dad says his son should have security 24/7 at Florida State to keep him out of trouble, writes Yahoo!.
  • Not specific to the ACC, but here’s a beautiful bit of math smarts from Tomahawk Nation that illustrates the fallacy employed by so many writers who think 2- and 3-star recruits are just as likely as 5-stars to be drafted in Round 1.
  • A local barbershop that has served Florida State's elite for years will remain in business, at least for now, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.

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