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Q&A with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher

I had a chance to catch up with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher to talk about the state of football in Florida. Here is a little of what he had to say:

Where do you think football is in the state of Florida?

Jimbo Fisher: Wonderful. I think it’s getting better and better. Florida’s recruited well, Miami had a lot better class. We’ve recruited really well the last two years, in the first two years we’re here. And I think you’re seeing us keep all the better players here in Florida.

Has there been any impact with the number of schools outside the state recruiting Florida talent?

JF: It’s always been that way. When I was at Auburn and LSU, I used to sign two to seven out of this state. Great players, first round draft picks. The thing about here, you’ve got 160 or 170 players that are going to sign. We each can only take 25. I don’t think that’s changed. [Michigan], go back to AC Carter in 1980, he’s from Palm Beach. It’s always been that way.

But you think more kids are staying in state right now?

JF: We’re doing a better job of identifying them and working, and trying to get the right ones to stay. We’ll find out if they’re the right ones in time.

How much does it hurt when you have a couple misses on players?

JF: Any misses because of the limit of scholarships can hurt you. That miss just depends on what other depth you’ve recruited with it. That’s why I say you’ve got to be careful putting all your eggs in one basket. If he’s a great player, you tell him, ‘We’re going to recruit three others that can play, too,' because you have to have the competition and be prepared if somebody gets hurt, or if something happens.

When you are recruiting, what are you looking for out of players, to get the right guys?

JF: You have to have a high level of athleticism. That’s the first thing that gets your attention. Then you start doing the checks. What kind of person is he? Is he a high-character guy? Is he a good student? Is he an intelligent guy? Then you start learning about the home life situations, and the choices he’s made in his life. History’s the greatest teacher. And just because a guy makes a mistake doesn’t mean he’s going to be a bad guy, either. You have to find out why he made the mistake. Just like I say with fans. Why didn’t we win a game? As a recruiter, you have to look at why did he get into trouble? Was it circumstances that were tough and he’s gotten better? Or whatever it may be.

How much do you emphasize the tradition here when you are recruiting?

JF: If you live in the past, you stay in the past. You have to make your own history. We talk to our kids about … a great tradition. But I’m not interested in that. We’re going to respect that, but we’re going to make our own tradition. Because kids today, [it's] "What are you going to do for me? What am I going to do?" So we talk about the past history, that it can be done here, but we can make new history.

How do you win those recruiting battles against Miami and Florida?

JF: It’s a secret. Hard work. You just have to be honest, be truthful, sell your program. Don’t worry about them. Don’t talk negative. And work your tail off, and build relationships.

Going back to the ‘80s and ‘90s, why did Miami, Florida and Florida State rise at the same time?

JF: Consistency in head coaching and staffs. Miami had the most rotation, but Steve (Spurrier) and Bobby (Bowden) were here forever, and their staffs very rarely changed, just a guy or two every blue moon. They got ahead and got that momentum. It’s like [when] we went to LSU in 2000. LSU was 3-8, 2-9, and all of a sudden we got it flipped and it’s back. But I think it’s a matter of teams establishing winning back and keeping the local players home. We’ve got a good advantage, because we’re so close to Georgia, too, and Alabama and everyone else.

Why was it the right time for them to rise?

JF: Georgia was having a lot of coaching changes, Alabama had a bunch of them, Auburn had three of them, LSU had three of them. If you look at the history of the surrounding states, they were all in transition in coaching.

So how does the recent success of those programs play into the fact that the Big Three from Florida want to rise up again?

JF: If the Big Three rise back up and do what they’re supposed to, it won’t affect us at all. They’ll have a harder time coming here, because we have that appeal. You look at recruiting the last two years, kids are staying here.

How do you either deal with the heightened expectations, or think about wanting to get this program back into the Top 10 consistently?

JF: Their expectations aren’t close to my expectations. The pressure people put on me isn’t close to the pressure I put on myself. If you don’t have higher expectations than the people around you, then you probably shouldn’t be the coach. And from that standpoint, it doesn’t bother me. It excites me, because I know we have the ability to do that.

When do you see return to Top 10 for all three?

JF: Relatively quick. All three teams are getting better. I would expect very, very soon.

Where do you think football is in the state of Florida?

JF: Wonderful. I think it’s getting better and better. Florida’s recruited well, Miami had a lot better class. We’ve recruited really well the last two years, in the first two years we’re here. And I think you’re seeing us keep all the better players here in Florida.

Has there been any impact with the number of schools outside the state recruiting Florida talent?

JF: It’s always been that way. When I was at Auburn and LSU, I used to sign 2 to 7 out of this state. Great players, first round draft picks.

The thing about here, you’ve got 160 or 170 players that are going to sign. We each can only take 25. I don’t think that’s changed. Ohio State, go back to AC Carter in 1980, he’s from Palm Beach. It’s always been that way.

But you think more kids are staying in state right now?

JF: We’re doing a better job of identifying them and working, and trying to get the right ones to stay. We’ll find out if they’re the right ones in time.

How much does it hurt when you have a couple misses on players?

JF: Any misses because of the limit of scholarships can hurt you. That miss just depends on what other depth you’ve recruited with it. That’s why I say you’ve got to be careful putting all your eggs in one basket. If he’s a great player, you tell him, ‘We’re going to recruit three others that can play, too, because you have to have the competition and be prepared if somebody gets hurt, or if something happens.

When you are recruiting, what are you looking for out of players to get the right guys?

JF: You have to have a high level of athleticism. That’s the first thing that gets your attention. Then you start doing the checks. What kind of person is he? Is he a high character guy? Is he a good student? Is he an intelligent guy? Then you start learning about the home life situations and the choices he’s made in his life. History’s the greatest teacher. And just because a guy makes a mistake doesn’t mean he’s going to be a bad guy, either. You have to find out why he made the mistake. Just like I say with fans. Why didn’t we win a game?

As a recruiter, you have to look at why did he get into trouble? Was it circumstances that were tough and he’s gotten better? Or whatever it may be.

How much do you emphasize the tradition here when you are recruiting?

If you live in the past, you stay in the past. You have to make your own history. We talk to our kids about … a great tradition. But I’m not interested in that. We’re going to respect that, but we’re going to make our own tradition. Because kids today, what are you going to do for me? What am I going to do? So we talk about the past history, that it can be done here, but we can make new history.

How do you win those recruiting battles against Miami and Florida?

It’s a secret. Hard work. You just have to be honest, be truthful, sell your program. Don’t worry about them. Don’t talk negative. And work your tail off and build relationships.

Going back to the ‘80s and ‘90s, why did Miami, Florida and Florida State rise at the same time?

JF: Consistency in head coaching and staffs. Miami had the most rotation, but Steve (Spurrier) and Bobby (Bowden) were here forever, and their staffs very rarely changed, just a guy or two every blue moon. They got ahead and got that momentum. It’s like we went to LSU in 2000. LSU was 3-8, 2-9 and all of a sudden we got it flipped and it’s back. But I think it’s a matter of teams establishing winning back and keeping the local players home. We’ve got a good advantage because we’re so close to Georgia, too, and Alabama and everyone else.

Why was it the right time for them to rise?

JF: Georgia was having a lot of coaching changes, Alabama had a bunch of them, Auburn had three of them, LSU had three of them. If you look at the history of the surrounding states, they were all in transition in coaching.

So how does the recent success of those program play into the fact that the Big Three from Florida want to rise up again?

JF: If the Big Three rise back up and do what they’re supposed to, it won’t affect us at all. They’ll have a harder time coming here because we have that appeal. You look at recruiting the last two years, kids are staying here.

How do you either deal with the heightened expectations or think about wanting to get this program back into the Top 10 consistently?

JF: Their expectations aren’t close to my expectations. The pressure people put on me isn’t close to the pressure I put on myself. If you don’t have higher expectations than the people around you, then you probably shouldn’t be the coach. And from that standpoint, it doesn’t bother me. It excites me because I know we have the ability to do that.

When do you see return to Top 10 for all three?

JF: Relatively quick. All three teams are getting better. I would expect very, very soon.