Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
I got a chance on Tuesday to catch up with Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he was sporting green for St. Patrick's Day instead of one of the many black T-shirts he earned this winter for his efforts during mat drills. He talked about his prizes along with a few other things -- including the recent NCAA sanctions.
Here are the highlights of our interview:
How did winter conditioning go for you and where did that effort come from?
Christian Ponder: It went well for me especially. I thought I needed to gain a few pounds and I did put on some weight. It was good to get away and relax for a little bit, forget about football, but once school started we came back with a good attitude. The whole team worked hard, got in shape through mat drills. It was probably the best mat drills I've been a part of. Everyone came in with the right attitude, no one missed. A lot of people got black shirts. It was great. Everyone is in great condition going into spring ball.
Where do you think that came from? Was it because you guys had success at the end of last season and took a few steps forward last year?
CP: I think that definitely had a part in it. There was a little bit of momentum going into the offseason, and I think it definitely helps when you have a lot of guys coming back. We already have the chemistry together, a lot of guys have experience and they know exactly what they have to do. There are a lot of leaders that have come out of this and a lot of guys that are pushing each other.
Tell me a little bit about the offense. You guys need to find a dependable running back, all of your receivers are wiped out ... who's back besides you and the entire offensive line?
CP: Bert Reed's back. Richard Goodman, who was hurt last year and will be a redshirt senior this year, will probably be one of the top leaders we have on the team. He knows what he's doing and he runs great routes. We're happy to have him back. He's doing a great job. Avis Commack, a freshman last year, played towards the end, caught some balls in the bowl game. He's looking really good. Louis Givens, a walk-on, he's doing real well. And running back-wise, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas, they saw a lot of action, they look good. I think they're finally getting comfortable in what they're doing and knowing exactly what to do. They still make some mistakes, but they're still young. We're trying to work back in Tavares Pressley who got injured in August practice. He's still limited, but he looks good when he gets in some reps.
I'm not sure people realize how banged up you were last year. Can you give the run through of what happened?
CP: It all started at the Wake Forest game. I took a shot in the ribs, had bruised ribs on my back side. That lasted a couple of weeks. I started feeling fine, and then the NC State game, I tore cartilage in the ribs, my front, and that hurt a little bit. And then at the beginning of the Maryland game I took a shot in the back. That tightened up and spazzed out. It hurt pretty bad and lasted through the Florida game. Luckily we had those weeks off after the Florida game before the bowl game.
Are you OK?
CP: Yeah, I'm good now. Two months did me a lot of good.
What kind of improvements has Jimbo Fisher told you you need to make and when you watch film of yourself, what do you see?
CP: I need to make quicker reads. I think sometimes I get caught looking at the rush, and looking down, and not reading coverages. That's something I definitely have to improve on, and just getting more comfortable, relaxing and trusting my instincts. So far this spring I've done pretty well. I'm comfortable will all of the guys we have on the offense. Everything is picking up. That whole year experience helped me out a lot, so things should be a lot better.
Did you get bigger, stronger, faster, slower?
CP: I got a little bigger. I'm at 218 now. I actually grew a half inch, and swear to God, I'm the only person listed shorter than they actually are. They took an inch off.
OK, the other thing is I have to ask you this question: How embarrassing has it been to see your whole athletic department go through all the crap it's gone through?
CP: It's a tough situation. We were kind of put in a bad spot. We've got to accept what we did. We're responsible for what we did and we've got to deal with what happened. It's a tough situation. Hopefully the appeal goes through. We'll see, but we can't change it right now so we've just got to deal with it.
How disheartening was it to hear that your coach -- college football's second-winningest coach -- might lose that? That's such a big thing for Florida State.
CP: Yeah, it would be. It's a pretty big deal to have coach Bowden get
that record, but it's not finalized yet. We'll see what happens.
You're the smart quarterback. What's going on with your classes?
CP: Right now I'm in my second semester of my MBA. It's not too bad right now. I'll finish next spring, so I'll have summer and fall to do something else. I don't know, I have to figure out what I'm going to do.
Is the MBA harder than you thought in terms of juggling football?
CP: No, it's actually easier than I thought. I think so far grad school is easier than undergrad.
CP: Only one of my classes has an actual test. All my other classes are take-home tests. The others are presentations. I'd much rather do a presentation than take a test.
CP: So far it hasn't been bad.
Then again, you're talking to somebody who took "coaching football."
CP: Nice. Awesome. I took coaching over the summer. It was a great class.
Does one of the coaches actually teach it though?
CP: She was the old volleyball coach.
Oh, see, that doesn't count. I had Cam Cameron.
CP: (He laughed). Nice.