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FSU's Fisher: I'm gonna do it my way

Photo by Phil Coale

Photo by Phil Coale

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Outgoing Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has some parting advice for his successor, Jimbo Fisher: "Do it your way."

And that's exactly what he plans to do.

Although, at first, Fisher's way could look very similar to Bowden's way on the surface.

"A lot of my principles and values and the way I do things came from coach Bowden. And I've learned from him over time," Fisher said Monday during his first news conference since Bowden, 80, announced plans to retire after Florida State plays West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

One thing could be different -- Fisher says he wants intelligence in his players, not just talent. He addressed an ESPN report that some recent FSU players had IQs as low as 60 and read at a second or third grade level, if at all.

"Why would I want a guy who's not going to be good in the classroom, because I've got to teach him the same things on the field. Today's football's a different animal. You can't play with guys who can't learn," Fisher said.

The NCAA earlier this year investigated Florida State over an academic cheating scandal that included 25 football players. The university is appealing the punishment, which could include Bowden losing 14 career victories.

Fisher strongly said his goal is to make sure players have brains as well as skill.

"Guys have to have intelligence, they have to have the ability to learn," Fisher said. "We're going to recruit the right guys with character and with intelligence and we're going to do it the right way. We'll win games with talent, we'll win championships with character. And that's the way we've got to go about it -- character and intelligence."

Fisher, 44, said there will also be an influence from Alabama coach Nick Saban when he takes over the Seminoles next season. He was Saban's offensive coordinator when LSU won the national championship in 2003.

Fisher said Saban "has great structure and organization of a program and builds support systems around his players probably as well as anybody in college football. ... Some of that will be implemented along with some of the same core values as Bobby Bowden."

For now, though, the focus is on the Gator Bowl, and Fisher said he isn't trying to take over the team early.

"This is coach Bowden's game. Always will be coach Bowden's game. He's the head coach of this game, he makes all the decisions and I'm the offensive coordinator. Just like it always has been. The Jimbo Fisher era will start when coach Bowden has had his time and had his games and did everything he wants to do," Fisher said.

Fisher is making decisions on staff changes and recruiting, but the Jan. 1 game plan will be Bowden's. The transition hasn't been awkward or a distraction to the players, Fisher said.

"Kids are amazing. They put things away and go about it and we're being very professional about the thing and we all know it's not a personal thing," he said. "The kids have been very good, they had a great practice today."

Fisher grew up in West Virginia and the first college football game he attended as a fan was the school he's facing in the Gator Bowl. West Virginia's coach that year was Bowden. Fisher knows from history that the 6-6 Seminoles will have a tough challenge in No. 18 West Virginia (9-3).

"They'll back themselves up and say 'It's us against the world' and everyone will come at you full force and full go," Fisher said. "They're going to be tough, hard-nosed, very well-coached, fundamentally sound and will have more skill than you'll anticipate."