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November 28, 2010

Jimbo Fisher

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Jimbo Fisher from Florida State.
THE MODERATOR: Hey, Coach. If we could just go ahead and get started with you. We just finished with Coach Beamer. Just get a brief opening statement, and then we'll go to questions.
COACH FISHER: I'm very excited to bring our team to Charlotte. We're looking forward to this great opportunity to be able to play Virginia Tech. I'm very proud of our kids and what they've persevered through during the year. We had a great win against one of our arch rivals in Florida. It was very good for our seniors to have an emotional win in their last game at Doak Campbell, to play so well against a great rival.
They know to put that behind them because we have such a great opponent ahead of us. We hope to come to Charlotte and play well and represent our division. So we're looking forward to the challenge.
THE MODERATOR: With that, we'll answer questions for Coach Fisher.

Q. Jimbo, I was just curious what the scene was like after your game. I believe it was over with, and you guys -- I mean, did you all sit around in the locker room and watch the end of the Maryland game or what? Just tell me how that went down.
COACH FISHER: We actually didn't. We actually didn't. We were concentrating on the Florida game. When someone informed me of the score with two minutes to go, I think Maryland was up 14, but NC State was driving. They said, they may score. I told the kids, there's an opportunity we may be playing in the next game. We'll have to wait and see. We'll worry about that later.
We went on with our press conferences, and right at the end, there was a bunch of guys sitting around in the players locker room. I was on the radio show, and maybe 20 or 30 of them were sitting and watching the end of the game. They were all very excited about the Florida game. I told them our motto is control what you can control. That was something they couldn't control. They watched as much as they could anyway.

Q. I'm curious, in a situation like that, do you call Ralph or text him? Do you tell him thanks for helping us out?
COACH FISHER: I was going to. I didn't have a chance today. We had a bunch of recruits this morning. I'm going to definitely have to tell Ralph thank you. They played a great ball game. Ralph's done a great job this year.

Q. Thanks a lot.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

Q. Coach, congratulations on a good finish yesterday.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

Q. This is kind of a follow-up to the question I was going to ask you before that. I was going to ask you, you guys are going to vote Ralph coach of the year award for the ACC. Seriously, Virginia Tech's had a hard time over the years with Florida State. Although they were favored five years ago, they were ranked fifth in the nation, and Florida State beat them. Is there a psychology that gets involved sometimes in these kinds of ball games?
COACH FISHER: I think for each team it can if you let it. Each team has its own way of handling things. I know Frank's been around a long time, and he's a heck of a football coach. He'll handle his well, and hopefully we'll handle ours.
With some of those yards, we're going to have to establish them on our own. I think that's up to each individual team. Those guys on our team, except for Christian, a couple years ago I remember playing against Virginia Tech, but not a lot of guys on our team have played against them. I don't know if it will carry on or not.

Q. You did beat them here. Was that two years ago?
COACH FISHER: I think it was three years ago. Think it was Christian's sophomore year. I can't remember. It had to be. I think it was. Oh, wait. I think you are right. Some of our seniors did play on that game. That was a great ball game, by the way, that was decided late. We played very well in that ball game, toward the end.
That's always been a great rivalry, though. The games have always been close, I know that.

Q. Jimbo, obviously taking over for Bobby Bowden is not an easy task, but you seem to have managed it pretty well. How has this season gone, according to your expectations and the realistic goals that you had set coming into it? Did you exceed them? Have you surprised yourself?
COACH FISHER: No, I don't think we've exceeded them. I think this goal here is very attainable. We felt that going into the season.
But the goal that I'm the most happy about is the way our kids have dealt with all the things that come with being a new program, new schedule, the attitude. Our attitude has been wonderful. Our practice habits have been super. And our kids' ability to deal with adversity and now deal with success have been better.
I think maybe you have to learn to deal with both, but I like how our kids have kept a great even keel and learned to move on to the next week and play one game at a time. Their attitude and work ethic is the big thing I'm extremely happy about. I was hoping we could get it done this year, and sometimes takes a couple years. For the most part, I think that's the biggest goal I'm most excited about.

Q. When you came in, you were able to win right away. Does that take pressure off of you or set the bar higher moving forward?
COACH FISHER: I think at Florida State the bar is always high. That's what you're expected. That's one of the reasons this is such a great job. I think it takes it off in the part they realize that our staff and the things we're doing do work and we can have success. Hopefully, that will bring in more recruits and more things.
The bottom line is you've got to win anyway. That's the name of the game. And hopefully it will just help us move in the direction and have the confidence and the expectation to win, like our players do.

Q. Jimbo, when somebody says the phrase to you, Virginia Tech football, what comes to mind for you?
COACH FISHER: A hard working toughness. I mean, very, very blue collar, very tough. They carry their lunch pail. They play great defense, great special teams, and now they've got a very dynamic offense with play-makers at quarterback and running back and receiver.
But, you know, very well-coached football team that play extremely hard, and you have to earn everything you get.

Q. Coach, you talked about the attitude, the work ethic, and how good that's been all season. I'm just wondering, what kind of role has Christian Ponder played in that in terms of his leadership?
COACH FISHER: He's the standard what they're measured by. He and Rodney Hudson, Ryan McMahon, and our seniors have done a great job. Christian, he never asks anybody to do anything that he doesn't do and he goes way above and beyond what most of them do. He's played injured all year. He's played banged up. He's bruised. He competes. He gets his butt chewed out just like everybody else and goes right on and handles everything.
I think the standard he's setting not only by talking to him but by his actions, it's amazing. And that's why they have such great respect for him.

Q. He's faced some adversity at the end of that NC State game, and it seems he's taken his game to another level since then. How was he able to respond to that late fumble and kind of bounce back from that?
COACH FISHER: He recovered good because, like we said, you don't expect your own guy to run into you and fumble. Like I said, he was where he was supposed to be, and the other guy should have been wider. But he's a guy who takes the blame for it. He's the guy that takes the bullets, and that's the way he is. He doesn't ever look back. That's what makes him so special. He perseveres. He wants no excuses. That's what great leaders do. He's not afraid to take blame. I think deep down he has extreme confidence in himself.

Q. Yes, good afternoon, Coach. I know that you are probably just starting to get into the film of Virginia Tech, but generally speaking, what are the kinds of things that you'll have to do defensively to contain Tyrod Taylor?
COACH FISHER: Can we play 13? That's what we need to do. Because, I mean, what Tyrod's done is really brought his game around. We saw him as a freshman and a young guy. He emerged as the guy that can set in the pocket and read and not only run -- he doesn't run now because he wants to. He runs when he thinks it's the right time.
He can read down the field. He makes great decisions. He's accurate with the ball. He's become a complete quarterback. And those legs make him special. His ability when you flush him or create plays with those legs is dynamic. He's really emerged as a player. You have to be very disciplined, but at the same time, you've got to pressure. You can't sit there and hold back because he can throw it and kill you too. So he creates a ton of problems.

Q. Does playing against a quarterback like a Russell Wilson give you any kind of ways to go in defensing him?
COACH FISHER: I think they're similar type players. It depends on what the other -- you've got to defense their offense. You've got to defense him, but you've got to defense their offense too. You have to look at what they do and how they do things and make sure you do that.
They're not only limited to Tyrod. They have dynamic tailbacks. They have big fast receivers. I mean, you get so locked in on him, he can throw. They get it off the backs. You've got to defense the whole offense. So I mean, then make -- sometimes you've got to pick and choose. Sometimes you may have to worry more about the run, more about the pass, and sometimes the backs, sometimes the receivers. But you pick your moments and hope to keep them confused. But they have a lot of weapons. That's for sure.

Q. Hey, Jimbo, can you talk about having the game in Charlotte for the first time, and I guess out of the state of Florida for the first time. Does that matter to the teams that aren't as close to the central part of the league? And with the fans coming in from all over, do you think having it in a more centrally located place is better for the league?
COACH FISHER: I mean, we'll have to wait and see. I mean, it's great. It will be a great venue where we're at, if the weather's good. I think that's the thing you've got to concern yourself with. But you can have rain down here and cold weather too. Wish we could find an indoor place for it. I don't know if we can do that. Charlotte's a great city. It's a great place to have a game. They have a great facility there in that stadium. We'll find out when we get there.
Like I said, we haven't had it there. We'll have to find out how it goes on, but it should be interesting.

Q. Congratulations on yesterday's win.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

Q. Wanted to ask you about Florida obviously let -- not only did you break the streak yesterday with Florida, but it seems like in merely one year Florida State has closed the gap significantly on Florida with Florida having a bad year. How important is it for Florida State to have -- again sort of be at -- be on equal footing with Florida just as far as the development of your program?
COACH FISHER: I think it's huge. I think it's huge because, you know, Florida -- usually Florida is at the top of the country right in the last few years, and that's the standard we're trying to get back to and where we want to be. But it's also your arch rival. So you have to keep up with the guy who's your neighbor and your rival. That's how you measure Florida State, not only with the ACC and your divisional championships and all that within the conference, but you have two great state rivals in Florida and Miami. So you have to keep up with them because the Florida State fan base, that's what you're measured by.
That was one of our huge goals, and we're still in the process. We still have a lot of work to do, but we're headed in the right direction.

Q. One quick follow-up. I know you're obviously not happy to see what happened at Miami. But, again, Miami now goes into a period of instability where it looks like Florida State, among all the three schools in the state, is the most stable of the three programs. It just seems to happen so fast in college football. Could you maybe comment a little bit about how these things sort of swing back and forth.
COACH FISHER: That's what I say. The dynamics of teams and programs, the way the organizations are run is the key. It is so hard to get to the top, and then it's even harder to stay there because everybody's trying to bring you down. And one slip-up by somebody else doing something good or you not doing what you're supposed to do, and you could slide very easily. Still have great players, great organization, great everything.
You can never let up, and you have to keep your finger on the pulse of everything all the time. It's hard to do it over a significant amount of time. Like I say, there's so many teams trying to get there. You know, hopefully, we can keep going in the right direction.

Q. Thank you, Jimbo.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

Q. Hey, Coach, a couple of my questions were already asked. Let me ask you about Christian Ponder. He was touted for the Heisman coming into this season. Can you just talk broadly about the season he's had.
COACH FISHER: I actually think he's played better this year than he has last year. He's played through a lot of adversity. Played around a group of guys that early in the receiver group weren't as mature and didn't play as well as they needed to be. He's been banged and injured all year, and the toughness he's exemplified to our team and the way he fought through the injuries and still found ways to win and compete in games, I think has really made him grow as a quarterback because numbers don't always measure a quarterback.
There's a lot of things that measure them, and he's a winner. He's a competitor. I think he's grown as a player this year tremendously, and I'm actually very happy and pleased with the year he's had.

Q. I'll also ask, after the NC State loss, was there a concern that that was going to sort of sink you guys? How did you rebound from that?
COACH FISHER: We never worried about that because, like I tell them, don't control what you can't control. No matter what everybody else does, we have to get better. Our goal is to keep playing good football. The next week, we had a heartbreaking loss, missed a field goal. Our kids still fought and persevered. Made a big field goal against Clemson on the last play, beat Maryland on the last play.
I think our kids, that's what I was most happy about. The way they've matured, the way they've handled adversity, and the way they've come to work every day and not let bad circumstances keep them down.

Q. Coach, you guys are having almost 14 points a game fewer off on defense -- allowing 14 fewer points per game on defense. I'm just wondering what achieved that turnaround from last season.
COACH FISHER: I think we're pounding the runs. We're not giving up as many big plays, and our special teams are having a huge effect. Our kicking game, our return game, we're winning field position more, keeping teams backed up. On offense, we're keeping the football and scoring points on our end, not always just throwing it around and getting off the field. We're shortening the games, and I think we're playing as a team very well.
I think our defense has done a great job of just understanding the defense. And Coach Stoops has done a great job on defense of coaching our guys, and we're playing better.

Q. Earlier, you made reference to just how quickly things can turn in college football. Florida State obviously had a dynasty that many don't think will be matched. But how remarkable is it what Virginia Tech has done, seven consecutive ten-win seasons, 18 consecutive bowls.
COACH FISHER: My hats off to them. Virginia Tech -- Frank is one of the best coaches in all of college football, and he's also one of the best guys, a tremendous person. To accomplish what he's accomplished, what he's done there, it's amazing.
So to have seven straight ten-win seasons in a league as competitive as this one and play a good nonconference schedule and in their bowl games, he's done one of the best jobs in all America.

Q. Coach, you didn't have much time, if any, to really celebrate your big win yesterday. Have you already started looking at Virginia Tech a little bit?
COACH FISHER: Oh, yeah, most definitely. We've got to because, when you keep playing games longer and longer into November and December, those teams get tougher and tougher. So you'd better get ready.

Q. How long did you -- did you get to celebrate a little bit last night?
COACH FISHER: For a little bit. We had some recruits afterwards we had to talk to and went home and relaxed an hour or two. Went to bed and was up this morning for recruiting, and it was on. We haven't had much time to think about that win. It's behind us, and we've got to get ready for Virginia Tech.

Q. One other thing, Virginia Tech also went through the league undefeated for the first time since 2000.
COACH FISHER: Since Florida State did it, I believe.

Q. Today with the type of parity that this league has kind of found itself in the midst of in recent years, how difficult is that to do in this day and age?
COACH FISHER: It's hard. Here's what people don't understand. There's more kids playing football now than ever have before. More teams spreading it out and making it fun. More athletes are playing. It's America's game. It's America's passion. Everybody's got players, and everybody has the ability to beat you because they have skill guys.
You know, that's the thing. When you have the consistency level of winning, I mean, you have to be doing a lot of little things right. What they're doing is amazing.

Q. Jimbo, obviously, you weren't here in the '90s, but I know you've been a fan of Florida State back then. Can you imagine last night being what it was? What do you recall of those scenes in the '90s when they were dominant? Do you envision last night kind of being what it was back then?
COACH FISHER: I do. I think the atmosphere and the environment here, hearing from some of the old players, they don't remember it being as electric as it was. It's been a while since they've had success against them. Some of those great moments -- and I hope our fans and players get used to those, and we'll be able to repeat them and create the environments and atmospheres where we can play this well. When they're here like that, it's easy for our players to play good.

Q. Is that something that helps bring back the perception of a program to what it was?
COACH FISHER: There's no doubt. Your support, players, wins and losses, you can have the booster support, the money support, the infrastructure that you're building -- I mean, it has to be everything that affects these kids has to be involved for you to want to go where you want to go as a program.
The atmosphere and the money and the fans and all that, that's a huge part of what you're doing.

Q. How much sleep did you get last night?
COACH FISHER: I didn't go to sleep till later because I was thinking about the game and all the new things. I probably slept five, six hours.

Q. And also, I just wanted your reaction on Randy Shannon's firing.
COACH FISHER: I was disappointed. I think Randy's done a great job. I think he's a great guy and a good football coach. It's just funny that -- I mean, I don't know all the intricacies of their program, but I think Randy does a great job. I hate it for him and his family and the players and coaches on that staff because Randy had done a great job. He's a very good football coach.

Q. In regards to Tech, what they've gotten done since they've come into the ACC, they won in 2004, then they win the division. This is going to be their fourth title game appearance. I mean, are they the premiere program in the league right now?
COACH FISHER: They're the team that everybody's measuring. Right now they've had the most consistency over such a long period of time, since they came in. That's when Florida State started to slip a little bit. Before that, it was Florida State was dominating, even more so than ever. Tech's done a great job of taking that role. They've been the most consistent. There's no doubt about that.

Q. How big would it be to win this game and sort of tug that thing back the other way a little bit?
COACH FISHER: I think it's huge. You want to win an ACC championship. You want to make yourself relevant. As soon as you do that, you're in a BCS Bowl. Now you make yourself relevant nationally. That's the whole key for every program, where we all want to go. It's a big game for both programs.

Q. Hey, Jimbo, obviously, when it comes to recruiting, you know, you've had success already. But having tangible wins proves the point, like wins against Miami and Florida. Just talk about the response you're starting to hear and feedback you're getting.
COACH FISHER: I think a lot. Kids are very excited because they see the direction -- what people want to see, the place I'm going is heading in a direction where I want to go and have success. Everybody wants to be part of a winner, and everybody wants to have an opportunity to be successful.
The high school kids, from the coaches, from the players, and I know the number of kids that were here and the kids that were excited saw the environment in Doak Campbell last night, it's been great. You know, it's a good thing because we're getting great response back, and a lot of people are very interested.

Q. And then also, could you just talk about Christian's arm. He said it did tighten up on him again last night.
COACH FISHER: It did. He got hit on again last night. They x-rayed him this morning. It was fine. He got a doctor's report, and he'll be good to go. That's the way it's been every week. I'm serious. If he keeps playing like he's playing, I'm happy.

Q. I just wanted to ask you about Hudson. You mentioned him earlier. What makes him so good? And do you think that, even though he's an offensive lineman, he should be considered for the ACC player of the year?
COACH FISHER: I don't think there's any doubt. He's been as consistent a player as has been in this league in a long time. What Rodney does, why he's so good, he truly loves football. What I mean is all parts of it -- working out, practicing. If he has to go over and be the scout team guy. They'll say go grab a bag, he'll run and grab the bag and hold it, be a scout team guy for somebody else. He's a two time All-American.
This guy loves everything about ball. His work ethic and attitude are unbelievable, and he's such a joy to be around. I don't think he ever looks at practice as practice. I think he looks at it as fun, and he truly loves what he's doing.

Q. Coach, great win yesterday there.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the defense. I know that in some of those closer games of late, they've given up some pretty big plays. Yesterday they seemed to have a really great bend but don't break attitude and take away some really key drives that Florida seemed to be building.
COACH FISHER: They did. They had the big interception before the half that was huge, created some turnovers down in the red zone. Our guys are learning to play situational football and play situations. Not only play, but play situations and understand what people are going to do to you and what you think they're going to do and eliminate problems, and become much smarter football players which allow them to execute better. They've done a great job about that.

Q. Do you think the game against NC State this year is a great prep game to go against another quarterback in Tyrod Taylor?
COACH FISHER: No doubt. Russell Wilson is a great player. He and Tyrod Taylor are great players. You don't get many guys that dynamic to play against. Russell was a handful, and we know Tyrod will be a handful.
THE MODERATOR: Are there any more questions for Coach Fisher?

Q. Jimbo, just curious. Yesterday, is that ranked in your top five days of your life or what? Your team routs Florida and then get in this game. I'm just curious where it rated.
COACH FISHER: It was one of the great days since I've been a coach because of, not what it meant for me, but what it meant for our seniors. Our players and seniors, what they've been through the last couple of years with the turmoil in the program, as far as coaching change and academic thing. These seniors went through a lot. For those seniors to walk off the field and the emotion I saw in their eyes, it does rank in the top things I've been associated with because of what they've been through.
And to get the chance to play in a conference championship, which they all were dreaming of, it is for me, but it's more so for them. That's what I'm happy about.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for being with us. We'll look forward to talking to you this Friday in Charlotte at the press conference.
COACH FISHER: All right. Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: This concludes today's ACC coaches championship conference.

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