TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Minus 40 pounds and looking almost as fit as some of his players these days, Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher stepped to the podium earlier this week with a whole new outlook.
A new outlook on his health, on the 2014 season and on just how the Seminoles plan to handle all the additional “clutter” that’s sure to follow No. 1 Florida State as it gets set to defend its national championship.
“Here we go again, huh?” Fisher began with a smile.
Here we go again, indeed.
Except this time, the stakes for Florida State have never been higher, the pressure never greater — or the target on its back never bigger.
The Seminoles, who beat Auburn for the final BCS title last season before college football moves to a playoff system this year, kicked off their first practice of the season a few hours later, sporting new white practice uniforms, new locker rooms, a new championship banner in their indoor practice facility and brand new dorms that just opened Sunday.
The state-of-the-art players-only apartments — fittingly called, “Champions Hall” — sits just a block from Doak Campbell Stadium. And listening to Fisher talk Monday, the new $250-million lodging might just be one of the keys to success of this year’s team.
“The convenience and all the things that go (with the new dorms) being so close (to the field and the school), some of the guys who moved out (before they were done) have actually seen them — and now they want to move back in,” said the fifth-year head coach. He added that the lure of the new fully furnished facilities has already proven to be an effective recruiting tool, and he believes those facilities could be the biggest building block en route to another season of “amazing” team chemistry.
“We’ve got all our freshmen and sophomores there now, and I want them to stay there together because I think they’re going to enjoy it. Undoubtedly, (our new recruits like it),” Fisher added. “No matter what you say, where do you spend your most time at? Where you live. It’s got to be convenient. It needs to be nice. It’s got to be somewhere that you can relax and take your mind off things. And I think it was a very critical point (in the building of this program) and the mindset and culture. I’ve always felt that. And it’s not just the recruiting part of it. It’s about team dynamic, team chemistry. You’ve got to continually update and keep it modern. If you don’t, someone’s passing you up.”
Fisher didn’t talk much about his reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston on opening day.
Other than to say — at times last year — Winston was “lying.”
But before the rumor mill runs wild, the comment had nothing to do with any of Winston’s off-the-field troubles that he’s since been cleared of or served a suspension for.
Fisher was referring to whether Winston was worried — as a freshman — if he was stepping on the toes of the veterans at times by being too aggressive of a leader as a rookie.
“If he told you that, he was lying,” Fisher said with a laugh. “Believe me, he was lying. He sets the standard for competition. Our 7-on-7s over the summer? I mean, there was blood left (on that field). And I will tell you is this: It’s never done disrespectively. It’s never done with malice. And afterwards they’re all buddies.
“(Jameis) is demanding. And he knows what’s expected. And he teaches the others what’s expected and about our culture.”
Fisher added that Winston, who also played baseball for Florida State football’s offseason, looked very “rested,” ready and in great shape when he reported. Winston, who led the Seminoles to the highest scoring output in NCAA history a season ago, threw for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 picks, becoming just the second freshman to win the Heisman.