9:59 PM EDT, August 29, 2012
TALLAHASSEE — Jimbo Fisher is done with the gimmicks. He’s finished with the tricks.T-shirts, posters, mottos — pack them all away. Send them somewhere else. He’s through trying to create inspiration for his players and the team’s fans.
This year, he just wants his team to go out and play.
“Ain’t no words, ain’t no motto,” said Fisher, who is entering his third year as FSU’s head coach. “The T-shirts ain’t going to say nothing. It’s going to be a big helmet, right here,” he continued, forming a circle with his hand and placing it in the center of his chest. “When people look at that helmet, what do you want them to think?”
When most college football writers, pollsters and fans have looked this preseason at FSU’s iconic gold helmet with the white-and garnet-colored spear on its sides, they have thought about the glory days of old.
Their minds have taken them to points in time when conference championships and national title runs were as regular here as mid-afternoon, summertime rain showers. All offseason people outside the Seminoles’ locker room have been transported to the days when Bobby Bowden was Tallahassee’s king, his wife Ann its queen, and the Deions and Charlies and Dannys and Warricks and Chrises and Peters were among its many princes.
Just like they were back then, expectations are once again high in the capital city.
One publication has gone on record predicting the Seminoles will win their third national title since 1993. FSU placed seventh in both the USA Today coaches’ poll Associated Press Top 25 poll preseason rankings.
So with the hype swirling around them once again, and with many believing this really is the year the Seminoles truly return to glory, the big question remains: just how well will they handle it all?
“We feel a sense of urgency,” senior kicker Dustin Hopkins said.
According to starting quarterback E.J. Manuel, such insistent thoughts are calmed by the players’ understanding of their roles and responsibilities in Fisher’s system.
“The best thing is that we know what we’re doing and that’s where Jimbo feels confident in us,” Manuel said. “The top guys not only know what they’re doing, but their substitutes do as well.”Even though he is anti-motto this season, for the past month, Fisher has repeated a two-word phrase so often it may as well be the defining moniker of his 2012 squad: “Quiet confidence.”
Whenever he’s asked to elaborate, Fisher has said his team’s approach this preseason has been so calculated and focused that it appears to him his players are patiently preparing for the year with thoughts of grandeur already stamped on their minds. Consequently, the FSU players seem to be positively responding to his belief in them.
“If he believes in us like that, then we think to ourselves, `Maybe we can be that team that Coach Fisher sees in his head,’” junior safety Lamarcus Joyner said. “It’s so hard to get credit sometimes from Coach Fisher because he’s so honest. ... We’ve just got to work toward building all of that confidence and have it within ourselves.”
FSU’s receivers appear to already have that confidence.
With up to nine wideouts who could be thrown to often this season, the unit is one of the deepest on the team.
Due in large part to efforts on the recruiting trail, the Seminoles have built solid depth at defensive back, quarterback and on the offensive and defensive lines. With it, an argument could be made that FSU has the best assembled talent of any team in the country.
Still, none of that matters if they don’t handle business and live up to the great expectations preceding them.
When he looks at the gold helmets strategically placed around the football offices, Fisher contemplates how successful his team can be. But that doesn’t matter, either, he said.“I know what I want, [but] it’s not up to me, it’s up to them,” Fisher said. “Every day when they see that helmet, what does it stand for? That’s a symbol of you.”
Sometime in the next four months, the Seminoles hope to provide the right answer.
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