By this point, Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher has solidified himself as one of the top coaches in the nation. With a potential Heisman candidate in Dalvin Cook and a roster packed with talent, Fisher remains optimistic leading up to the 2016 season.
Fisher spoke with the media during last week’s ACC Media Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C.
Here is part of the conversation:
To take a look at where you're going with the future, what you've been able to build on already, what can you say about the quarterback situation? A couple years ago you were in a different place. What do you see out of the four guys you have right now?
FISHER: "I'm very happy with Sean. As we know, he came in and played great in the Syracuse game. When he came in, had a great Clemson game. It was a tough game. We lost it, but he did his part of it. Played at Florida and won. Played on a broken bone under his foot, basically an ankle. Our guys have tremendous respect for him. Can make all the throws. A leader. Means a lot. A very tough guy.
"Then you have our younger guys, Francois, very talented, makes all the throws. Had a great spring. Very happy in the spring game, the development he made. The progress he seems to be making in the summer from everything we're hearing. Very excited to see him, how he takes it from the spring into the fall camp, what he's doing there.
"J.J. Consentino, we've seen play. Had a good spring. Malik Henry, came in one semester, he really flashed, did some great things with the limited knowledge he had coming into the game. This guy can play, too.
"We're in great shape. The future looks really good. Anxious to see how these first guys battle in fall camp, see where we're at."
Talk about the third and fourth down for defense. Seems like last year the defense was on the field too many third downs, fourth downs, extra plays. What do you have to do this year to stop having the extra plays?
FISHER: "I think win first down. I think the first thing you want to do to be good on third downs is win first downs. You can put them in third-and-long, third- and-medium, you usually come out more on top.
"On the offensive part of that, too, is we got to convert. Last year was one of the first years we didn't convert at a high rate as we normally do on offense. The more plays you make there, you keep your defense off the field. That's always a huge emphasis for us.
"You hear me say it all the time, red zone, third-down turnovers are very critical parts of the game that are very important. We practice those a lot. We're going to have to do a great job.
"If you really want to win third down, you have to do a great job on first down, defense, make it second-and- long, to get them in those situations. On offense, if you're successful on first down, it's hard not to get a first down, converting on that end of it. It's something we have to work on. I'm hoping with the experience we have we're going to be able to do that."
This is the second year in a row you got the top player out of Virginia. Also the second year you got the top player out of Virginia Beach. Talk about what you like out of that area, also about Josh's improvements going into the season.
FISHER: "First of all, that area to me is one of the top areas in this country. If you research it over time, the number of players and athletes that have come out of that Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton area, that whole area, you're not just talking about football players, Lawrence Taylor, Dwight Stephenson, all the way back, some of the greatest ones ever. You go into basketball, Alonzo Mourning, all the guys, Allen Iverson. In baseball, the Upton brothers. I mean, it's every sport.
"That area has always been a productive area. We've had some success. Our recent success started with EJ Manual. He came down, was a highly ranked guy, one of the greatest quarterbacks in Florida State history. I think a lot of people had a lot of respect for him.
"We were winning. That's a natural avenue for us. We go back that way to play. That's in the ACC territory. We're having a lot of success. The guys we've gotten out of there, Derrick Nnadi, Levonta Taylor. Of course, Josh I think is a very special guy.
"We weren't thinking we were going to have him play last year. He came in, played almost every game, played all the snaps. Right now about 250 pounds, running strong. I think he can be one of the elite players out there, I really do. I look for him to have a big year.
"That area has always been productive. It's in our realm of where we go play and recruit. Great coaching in that area, great player development, great competition. In the history of the United States, if you want to look at it for athletes, that's been one of the top areas, can match up with anybody."
There aren't many schools in the country that reach the status that you have reached. A school aspires to that level of achievement, what do they have to do to get there?
FISHER: "I think consistency. Everybody says it's about players. No, it's not. Players are a key ingredient. But we have to build the culture of the university, to have consistency. Player development is a person, how they develop with community service, relationships, understanding the role who they are, role models to young kids, all those types of things, academic development, making sure they have success in school as far as giving them academic support, make sure they understand the importance of having an education.
"We so focus on the athletic part of it, if those kids aren't having success as people and students, you don't play well as a player. That's just a fact. People don't believe that. I've been in coaching 27 years. The guys that develop as people and develop as students, have success in other areas that they never thought were important or actually thought could never have great success in. It's amazing when they do well in those areas, how they develop in ball.
"I think it's a coach's responsibility and a school's responsibility to keep developing the culture, stay on the cutting edge of all the peripheral programs that help these kids with behavioral issues, all the things that will give them all the tools in hand to be successful.
"I'll tell you what, being an athlete today in the college game I think is harder than it's ever been in the world because of the issues they face, the situations, the way things are done, the social media world. Everyone knows what these kids do all the time. The pressure for these guys to play so early in their careers, I think it's critical."
You and Clemson have been toward the top of the league for the last few years. Do you feel the rest of the league is catching up? Is the gap closing at all?
FISHER: "Oh, I think it definitely has. Us and Clemson have had great success. We've been here six years, played in the championship four out of six years, they played the other two. We've won a national championship. They've played for one. We're playing at a very high level, two of the elite programs.
"We've had some success against Miami, but all those games have been nail-biters right down to one- possession games right to the end. Georgia Tech upset us last year and plays very good. Pitt, NC State. North Carolina is an on-side kick away from having a chance to beat Clemson last year going into that.
"There's so many teams. Virginia Tech when Frank was there was one of the elite teams in college football for a long time. This is a great league. I've coached in the other leagues. I know what they are. This is a great football. Great football players.
"You name me a league that has bigger stars than Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya. There's other guys in our league that are great players. We have other great players. Miami has other great players. Clemson has other great players, so does Georgia Tech, NC State. All across the board, everybody has them. Big running back in James Conner, big runningback at Pitt, having him back in the league. You're talking about the Player of the Year from two years ago. We have star-studded players. This is a great league of football."
When you first came into the league, it was in a defensive phase. One year when there were six first-round draft choices. Now it's clearly an offensive phase. 90% of the offensive stars are back. You just said some names. Talk about the offense.
FISHER: "There's a lot of dynamic players now. There really are. But it goes in cycles, offense, defense. You still have to play great defense to win. But there's a lot of dynamic players. Don't just get first downs, they change the numbers on the scoreboard. They can finish plays.
"Our guys are as dynamic as anybody. Deshaun with his legs, with his arms. Brad Kaaya throws the football around. So many guys, speedy receivers. You have to have your A game on defense.
"The multiplicity of things. People say this all the time. It's much easier, as crazy as this sounds, to be a defensive coordinator in pro football than it is in college football. Because first and second down in pro football are all about the same. Third down, creativity on the blitzes. College football, just in our league, you play us, a traditional pro offense. You go play a wishbone, play Georgia Tech. Then you play no-huddle at Clemson. Then you play North Carolina's no-huddle. Then you play Syracuse's no-huddle.
"The diversity of these defenses, the multiplicity of what these kids have to learn and play, it's a huge disadvantage on defense. In pro football, your offenses are basically the same. You put those dynamic players out there in space, it's tough. Our defensive staff is going to have their hands full.
"One of your goals on offense is you make sure you score your points and keep the ball away from the other guy. Like I was saying a minute ago, third down situations, make sure you're converting. If you convert two third downs and don't score any points or kick a field goal, it's better than giving it back to them there. It's tough on these coordinators."