Despite the departure of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden, Florida State football has a lot to look forward to this fall. Much of this optimism starts with new head coach Jimbo Fisher and the talent he has on offense. College FootBlog takes an in-depth look at the Seminole offense, and when analyzing the 2010 FSU offense, it is quite evident that Fisher may be putting a winning formula together that helped LSU win a national championship in 2003.
In this edition of College FootBlog, we take a closer look at four specific areas that Fisher and the FSU staff have focused on, and we compare those areas to the successful season he had in Baton Rouge a few years ago.
For the first time since arriving at Tallahassee, Jimbo Fisher has two things that made his dominant offenses at LSU go, and he has two things he didn’t have in his time as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator for the Tigers. Let’s start with the things he didn’t have while at LSU.
Fisher had a solid QB in 2003 for the National Champions, but Matt Mauck was far from a Heisman hopeful. Fisher is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks, and he has done a fine job so far with Ponder. If Ponder can put up over 300 yards/game with a 4:1 TD/Int ratio (which is what he was doing last season until his injury in week 9), sportswriters will have to take notice. And more importantly, for Fisher and FSU fans, that will likely translate to a solid season.
Christian Ponder enters his third full year as the starting signal-caller for the ‘Noles. If one of two variables worked out in his favor last season, he would be mentioned by all major sports writers as a logical choice for a preseason candidate for the coveted award. Those variables that were out of Ponder’s control were: 1) Ponder separated his shoulder at Clemson last season, ending his season after eight games, missing the final three regular season games and 2) FSU’s defense was downright atrocious last season and was the key contributor to another .500 season. This season, as long as the defense improves, that should translate to more wins, which should keep Ponder on the national radar screen.
At LSU, Fisher had a solid O-line, but he did not have Rick Trickett, who is arguably the best offensive line coach in the country, and he did not have a combined 142 starts from their OL. What was supposed to be a weakness for FSU three years ago, when Trickett was forced to start three true freshmen and two sophomores, not only ended up being a strength of the team, but it also established the base for a deep and battle-tested O-line going into this season. FSU will send two seniors who are on the Outland Trophy watch list and three talented juniors. One of those juniors, left tackle Andrew Datko, is up to 300 lbs now, after starting as a true freshman at a hair under 270.
This kind of talent and experience in the trenches will give Fisher and Trickett a lot to work with and bodes well with a difficult game against Oklahoma in Norman in their second game of the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Fisher finally has this year that he had at LSU, but has not had the luxury of in his short time in Tallahassee:
From the moment he and receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey stepped foot on campus, they have attempted to overhaul the WR corps. Primarily through recruiting, Fisher and Dawsey finally have a similar variety of wide outs that fit Fisher’s scheme. On the 2003 National Championship team, Fisher had a nice blend of size (Michael Clayton, 6’4,” 215lbs., Dwayne Bowe, 6’2′” 221 lbs.) and speed and illusiveness (Devery Henderson, Skyler Green, etc.).
It is no coincidence that FSU’s wide outs are looking very similar these days. Junior receiver Jarmon Fortson checks in at 6’3,” 221 lbs., and sophomores Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith are 6’3,” 215 lbs. and 6”6,” 220 lbs., respectively. At the other end of the spectrum are 5’11″ junior Bert Reed, who is the fastest player on the roster and newcomer De’Joshua Johnson who is known for his quickness in the open field.
In LSU’s championship season, Fisher showed had the luxury of a deep and diverse stable of running backs. It was very common to see four or more different backs carry the ball in a game that year. Justin Vincent and Joseph Addai were the main two backs, but there were two other running backs who had 78 or more carries that year.
Last year because of depth issues and a nagging injury to starting RB Jermaine Thomas, Fisher had to rely heavily on a pair of true freshmen–the smaller, quicker Chris Thompson and the versatile RB Lonnie Pryor. Along with the other three backs, FSU has Ty Jones, who has shown some flashes, but more importantly, the ‘Noles have the big, physical back that has been lacking in their offense since the departure of Greg Jones. Juco transfer Debrale Smiley checks in at 5’11″ and 237 lbs, giving Fisher a legitimate power back. The combination and diversity of running backs, in addition to the experienced offensive line should produce a solid running game for FSU this fall.
These additions and improvements should result in an explosive offense in 2010 and ultimately put FSU back in the ACC Championship hunt. Big non-conference games against Oklahoma, BYU and Florida give the Seminoles a legitimate shot at getting back into the national picture, after several years of underachieving. Only time will tell, but it appears that Fisher has successfully replicated a winning formula, at least on offense.