TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The spring game is complete at Florida State. There isn’t anything on the Seminoles’ 2017 schedule separating them from the Alabama game now.
Florida State fans fixated on the Crimson Tide months ago, and with spring camp in the books, the Seminoles players are joining them. The focus in Tallahassee over the weekend spun forward to Sept. 2 for one of the most anticipated season openers in recent history.
“It’s a great challenge,” Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois said. “Right off the bat, we’re going to see what type of team we have. We don’t want to waste time. We don’t want to wait until the fourth game to see what type of players we have.”
The Seminoles said they wouldn’t look ahead while spring practice was going on, and they did a good job of selling the company line. They followed the lead of coach Jimbo Fisher, who in March was short when asked if he would designate any spring practice time for Alabama preparations.
“No,” said Fisher, who has built a reputation for rambling, dizzying answers.
Now camp has closed and Fisher said he expects playing Alabama in Week 1 will guide the Seminoles throughout the summer. How could it not? Alabama is the only team to make all three installments of the College Football Playoff, and that will help prevent his players from becoming lackadaisical over the next three months, Fisher said.
Francois’ early evaluation is that the Crimson Tide are good -- at everything. It wasn’t a case of the taciturn Francois offering little. He said little because he felt five national championship appearances and a 112-13 record over the past nine seasons says more.
“They’re Alabama. I don’t know what else there is to say,” said Francois, who will be a redshirt sophomore come fall.
Alabama will likely be anointed as preseason No. 1 for a second consecutive season this summer, but there’s a solid chance that Florida State, with its 17 returning starters, will be situated right below the Tide at No. 2. Fisher isn’t going to get into where Florida State should be ranked, but he feels good about his team exiting camp.
The spring game ended with 24 total points and two offensive touchdowns, but Fisher witnessed the physicality he tried instilling in the team over the past month. He wanted this spring to be more taxing than those past, because it’s harder to build toughness in a team during fall camp with the season on the horizon, he said.
“I was hell this spring. I was never happy, was pushing, because you got to get across what you’re trying to sell right now,” Fisher said. “I’d walk off the field some days and feel bad about practice because how hard I got on them or how hard I challenged or how hard I pushed them.”
A seemingly shaky performance on Saturday along the offensive line and in the passing game weren’t enough to faze Fisher, either. Those are the two areas where Florida State is most vulnerable, but the coach spoke confidently about both groups after the game.
Injuries and a spring game with drafted rosters prevented the Seminoles from playing their first-team offensive line on Saturday, but Fisher liked what he saw from the top linemen who could participate. A staggering 12 sacks were credited in the box score, but many were the result of All-America candidates on the defensive line and at cornerback bullying the passing offense’s backups and walk-ons.
“The guys that needed to block, they blocked pretty good for the most part,” he said. “That was not a big issue on the day.”
Francois was 13-of-28 for 133 yards through the air, but Fisher saw enough in practice behind closed doors to feel confident in the passing game once health is restored to the receiving corps. In the spring game, there were two healthy scholarship receivers, and No. 1 target Nyqwan Murray wasn’t teamed with Francois. Fisher said Francois’ interception was because of a receiver’s poor route.
“We’re far from a finished product -- we got a lot of things to do -- but there’s a lot to work with there,” Fisher said. “The attitude is going in the right direction, so I’m pleased.”