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ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: GEORGIA TECH v FLORIDA STATE


December 5, 2014


Jimbo Fisher


CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

JIMBO FISHER:  Very excited to be here.  Again, this is always one of your ultimate goals to get to this conference championship, very pleased with our team winning our side and our division.  This game is always a great game.  It has been.  They do a great job of hosting it.  It's a great venue to have it at, the facilities, everything that goes on, it looks like the weather is going to be pretty nice, pretty good weather for the day.  But our kids are very excited to be here.  Again, you never take these things for granted, you never get tired of them.  You've got to keep playing every year and your goal is always to be a champion.  First goal, our ultimate goal is always National Championship, but we have to be an ACC champion to do that and you have to be a division champion before that.  Going through our league this year, extremely tough conference.  Again, 11 teams eligible for bowl games plus Notre Dame.  We had some great venues, we had some great games, very exciting.  I thought the league was tremendous this year.  I thought the coaching, the competition, everything puts us up there with any league in the country, and very excited about that and very excited that our team was able to persevere through that season.  A very tough, hard season.  Any time you go through a conference schedule, and looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow against Georgia Tech, going to be a great opponent.  Georgia Tech is probably playing as well now as they have been all season, all three phases, offense, defense, special teams.  They do a great job, very multiple on offense, how they play.  Defense, doing a great job of mixing up different blitzes and coverages.  Ted and those guys on defense do a great job, and they are very dynamic on special teams.  Ought to be a great game, and we're looking forward to it.

Q.  Given the fact that they're in the other division and you don't play Georgia Tech as much, the last five or six games have still been very close and competitive.  Do you almost wish they were in the same division?
JIMBO FISHER:  Well, they'll get crossed over and we'll play them a bunch.  But it is, it's a great rivalry.  Again, them being in Atlanta, us being in Tallahassee, not very far apart.  The fan bases both have easy travel.  It's always a great game.  But the conference schedule will be what it is, and just the way it is.

Q.  This is the second straight year you've come into this game with issues dealing with Jameis Winston.  How have you dealt with those, and is it a distraction?
JIMBO FISHER:  No, it's not a distraction at all.  We've dealt with them very well and our team has handled them very well and I think everything in time will work itself out.  We're very pleased to be here and he's probably had one of the best weeks of practice he's had all year.

Q.  Talk about your defense.  I was looking on the notes today.  You guys are very good here at the stadium, defensive wise.  Why do you guys get pumped up for this game here?
JIMBO FISHER:  I think championships are on the line and I think all championship teams start on defense.  You've got to be very good and we're definitely going to have our hands full with Georgia Tech.  They're very dynamic with all three phases and what they do, and with the dive, the quarterback, the pitch, and then they throw the football, so we're going to have to play great defense, there's no doubt about that.  But we've had great defensive players since we've been here.  We've recruited well on that side, and our coaches do a heck of a job developing them.

Q.  I know you just mentioned Jameis had a good week of practice.  I know you had to change practice around because of the hearing.  Did it affect anything with is prep or meetings or availability or anything?
JIMBO FISHER:  No, and actually we may go to a night practice from now on.  We found out as coaches we like it better and we may change full time to a night practice.  We may have fallen into something here for our team that is very beneficial.  Our kids actually had the best week of practice we've had all year.  We got more rest during the day and more prep time, so it ended up working out pretty good.

Q.  Do you expect that Jameis will be eligible, enrolled in school for a bowl game?
JIMBO FISHER:  Yes, yes.

Q.¬† Undefeated, defending national champions, you get leapfrogged in the standings by a one‑loss team.¬† What's your reaction to that?
JIMBO FISHER:  I don't.  I can't control what other people think.  All I can control is how we play and what we do and we just keep putting W's on the board.  If we keep handling our business, everything will work it out.  I don't spend time or waste time worrying about opinions.  We've just got to play football and put the scores on the board, and we'd better be ready this week because Georgia Tech has got a heck of a team.

Q.  Georgia Tech obviously runs the ball a lot with that option offense.  What does your defense or any defense need to do to be able to stop a team like that?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† You've got to be physical first.¬† First you've got to be physical.¬† Everybody says what are you going to do?¬† There's no magical formula.¬† I've played against 4‑3 defenses, I've played against 3‑3 defenses, 3‑4 defenses, teams that blitz, teams that play zone, and they say what defense causes you problems?¬† The one with good players that get coached well and play hard.¬† That's about the base of it, and I think that's what you are going to have to be.¬† You are going to have to play great sound, fundamental football.¬† We're going to have to take on blockers, going to have to defeat blockers, going to have to stay very disciplined in our eyes to be able to react to the things that they do, and we're going to have to tackle well in space and then play the play actions when they come.¬† That's the secret.¬† The secret is there is no secret.¬† You've got to line up and play football.

Q.  What's the update with Terrance Smith, and is Karlos Williams for sure?
JIMBO FISHER:  Yeah Karlos is out and Terrance is questionable, but Matthew will be starting anyway.  Matthew Thomas will be starting anyway, feel very confident, had a great week of practice and playing very well.

Q.  You say you can't control what other people think, but how did your players respond to being ranked No.4 in the rankings?  Is that why the practices were so good?
JIMBO FISHER:  I mean, it may motivate them a little, but our kids don't worry about that.  We persevere.  What people think is none of our business.  We just do what we do and go play.  I'm sure it gives them a little motivation, but at the end of the day, if that motivates you to be a champion then we haven't built this program on the right foundation that I think it's built on.  You have to go play and put teams in front of you.  You've got to play well.

Q.  Another question about the playoff.  In July you talked about the Big 12 not having a championship game, and it looks like that may end up being a factor this time around as you predicted.  What are your thoughts on just that having a role?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† I don't have any.¬† I really don't.¬† I haven't had time to think about it.¬† That's the rules of the game.¬† That's the way we're playing, and everybody‑‑ we knew them going in so that's what we have to deal with.¬† I haven't even really had time to think about it, really.

Q.  O'Leary, I know he's a really good tight end.  Does he see any characteristics like his grandfather, the famous golfer?  Do you see anything in practice?  Does he look like his grandfather?
JIMBO FISHER:  No, Nick is 6'4", his grandpa is shorter than I am.  I'll tell you one characteristic.  Competitiveness.  Nick is an ultimate competitor, and his grandfather was.  See, Nick's dad was a heck of a football player, too, at Georgia.  His mom was a volleyball player at Georgia.  He comes from a competitive family.  They're all very competitive, and the one thing about the O'Learys, they're extremely, extremely competitive.

Q.  Why is your team so good at tuning out all the off the field distractions?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† I just think they understand control what you can control, and that's part of the things that we try to build in our organization in the off‑season.¬† We try to understand and teach these kids.¬† There's only so many things you can focus on and there's only so many things in life you can control, and I think this is a formula for life.¬† This isn't just a formula for winning football games because there's going to be things in your life you can't control, and how you deal with them and how you approach them and you control what you can control, to keep your mind focused on the next task at hand and I think those are life lessons that we try to teach them and I think our team has taken that to heart and I think it's part of the organization which we try to develop in the off‑season to help them deal with issues, because no matter what you say, every year on a football team, there's going to be issues no matter what, in life.¬† Everything in our life, family members are going to be sick, friends are going to be sick, something.¬† There's going to be things all the time, and you have got to learn how to compartmentalize things and control things, because if you don't, you'll never get through the world.
It's not just about winning football games for these guys, and why I'm proud of why they're being able to do that, because I think this will help them down the road in life but they understand it and they believe in what we're teaching.

Q.  I think it was this game against Georgia Tech two years ago that Mario Edwards got his first start, and I'm just kind of curious how have you seen him grow since then and what can a player with his freakish size, speed, dynamic do against an offense like this?
JIMBO FISHER:  Well, he grew for a while.  He grew too much.  We had to get some weight off of him.  But I think it gave him confidence to play in a championship game against a great opponent, and then going in to his sophomore year, he had a very good year.  This year he didn't.  He's really playing extremely well right now, and I think for the future.  But again, it was a springboard, I guess, for confidence of playing in a big time environment and atmosphere that I can do it at this level not only was I supposed to be able to do it and recruited very highly, but I really can do it, and he's been a great leader for us ever since.

Q.  What would it mean just to get another championship here, and then to be able to assuming the committee puts you guys in the top four to be able to play?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† Well, I think it's in your ultimate goals where you want to go.¬† Our goals at Florida State are always a National Championship every year, and to be included in that and to have the honor of winning another ACC Championship and the consistency of the organization and the program is what you talk about when you talk about great programs and legacies and things you do.¬† You've got to have consistency in your performance.¬† And us being here four out of five years ‑‑¬† we've won the last two, having an opportunity go against a great opponent like Georgia Tech and win three, I think signifies that and then to be in that national playoff ‑‑ and I think the great respect of the quality of football that's going on in the ACC, I think that is very critical, and hopefully we can keep carrying that.

Q.  Last year you guys were sort of seen as a pretty popular champion because a lot of people were sick of the SEC winning every year.  Do you get the feeling this year that that's sort of shifted and you guys have become sort of the bad guys for whatever reason?
JIMBO FISHER:  I don't.  I don't pay attention to it.  I don't read much of it.  I don't.  Again, everybody has opinions and we just have to do what we do and we have to continue to do the right things and play well and play hard.

Q.  Did the injury to DeAndre Smelter change the defensive game plan at all to focus on the run even more?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† No, I think they're still going to throw the football.¬† They're going to make their throws and Paul is not going to change.¬† He never has changed over the years of what he does as far as his aggression and what he does.¬† But I mean it's definitely one less tremendous player but they'll have somebody else like we had Mario Edwards start in this game.¬† Maybe somebody for them has their first start and emerges.¬† They have a bunch of good players, and Paul will coach them very well.¬† We have to play like‑‑ it doesn't change it that much at all.

Q.  Question about Florida, picking the new coach.  What do you think about him?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† I know him‑‑ I don't know him personally very well, but we have an acquaintance and know each other.¬† I think he's a heck of a coach.¬† I think he's a very good guy.¬† I think he'll do a great job, I really do.¬† He's been really successful turning around Colorado State and was at Alabama and had a lot of success there as the offensive coordinator.¬† I think Jim will do a really good job.

Q.¬† I found it interesting that earlier this week you said you pulled your kids aside and had them‑‑ stressed them to appreciate their accomplishment with all these wins in a row and whatnot.¬† Why was it important for you to send that message to them this week?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† Because I think you don't smell the roses enough.¬† We're in a world of what have you done for me lately and I wanted them to understand what they had accomplished, because all the great teams that played at Florida State, all the great players:¬† Charlie Ward, Derrick Brooks, Marvin Jones, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Warrick Dunn, Peter Boulware, Corey Simon, you go through it all.¬† None of those guys every went undefeated two years in a row.¬† None of them.¬† Ever.¬† And it's not that we're trying to brag, but I want them to sit back and‑‑ sometimes these rides of success, you never enjoy.¬† They become a pain.¬† You know what I'm saying?¬† People are saying, when are you going to do this?¬† I want them to enjoy this.¬† This is a great accomplishment.¬† What they're achieving, what they're doing.¬† It's a magical time in their life.¬† They're going to be able to look back at their time at Florida State when I played there, man, that was a team that you won all those games in a row and you won championships and you did that.¬† I want them to really enjoy it, not later.¬† I want them to enjoy it now with their families.¬† Now, do I want them to be content?¬† No, but I also want them to sometimes see the forest through the trees, and I think I want them to smell the roses just a little bit and enjoy things because now the regular season is over.¬† This is a new season.¬† This is the beginning of the playoff, this is the championship run and your mentality and things have to change and you change your game and you turn it up a notch.¬† We have to understand how to flip those switches, and I've been very proud of the way we've practiced but I just want them to enjoy what they've been able to accomplish and still can accomplish so much more.

Q.  The ACC with the platform, winning the National Championship.  I know you've been very vocal for the league.  What does it mean to have Paul Johnson, he's been vocal as far as seeing you guys as the No.1 so you have another coach still respect the wins and kind of be vocal about that?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† Because you're in the world of coaching.¬† You understand how hard it is to win.¬† If you think winning is easy, you're crazy.¬† It's the hardest thing to do and do it consistently.¬† And I think the respect ‑‑ just like I have the respect for what they've done and the roll that they are on right now.¬† Until you sit in a coach's chair or a player's chair, you can never understand how hard it is.¬† No matter how much you report it, how much you're around it, you can never understand the grind, the sacrifice and the things that go into winning football games or basketball games or baseball games or whatever it may be.¬† And to have‑‑ and to say there's no respect for that, I think it offends coaches and players at times when that happens and it's great to step up, but I think also the quality of our league.¬† This is a heck of a football league.¬† You look every year, we're first or second in the number of NFL players, bowl teams, everything that goes on in the history‑‑ go through our league and see how many teams won National Championships in our history. ¬†You want to talk about history?¬† ACC and SEC are ahead of everybody with numbers of teams in a league that have won National Championships, and you want to talk about being able to get to those levels.¬† In the modern era football, our league matches up with anybody and I think there's a lot of pride in this league and it plays great football.

Q.  You talked about the night practices and how well those have gone.  You talked about in the past you like getting into habits and routines.  Are you curious to see how they respond?
JIMBO FISHER:  It was, but I liked it.  As coaches we did.  We travel on Thursdays, and we came up here on Thursday night, but we travel every week now on Thursdays.  We're one of the few teams in the country that do that.  We think it helps us on the road to focus, concentrate, get rest and recuperate, and we may have stumbled into something right here that we want to investigate in the future, and I think that's what you are always trying to do, maximize what you have and not to do it because that's what they always did before.  And I think you've got to be willing to take those chances, but I'm anxious to see how it is.  We practiced extremely well, felt very good about it and helped our preparation for our time as coaches during the week.

Q.  I wanted to ask you something similar about the winning streak.  There's a lot of people who dismiss being able to win 28 and look at the schedule and say if they played in another league maybe they wouldn't win 28.  What's your message to people who say that?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† They don't understand ball.¬† Our league is a great league.¬† They play non‑conference games, we played SEC people, Big 12 people, we've played everybody.¬† We've won bowl games, won championships, won everything you can win.¬† People that are covering ball don't understand ball.¬† Feel sorry for them.

Q.  I know you have plenty of other things going on.  How much have you been able to watch Kelvin Benjamin this year?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† A bunch.¬† I just tried to text him.¬† I was just trying to get a hold of him, big knucklehead.¬† Him and my youngest son are very‑‑ Ethan, that's his hero.¬† My youngest always sat with him and loved him.¬† Trey does, too, but Ethan and him were very, very close.¬† I've kept up with him every week.¬† Texted him.¬† Called him.¬† Tried to keep up with him.¬† I mean, that guy, he's got a chance for rookie of the year, doesn't he?¬† He does.¬† He's got eight or nine touchdowns on the year and maybe a 1,000‑yard season.¬† I've said that guy is a dynamic guy.¬† Can I have him this week?¬† I'll keep him this week.¬† But no, I'm proud of him and very happy for him.¬† He's worked very hard.

Q.¬† Can you speak to the growth that he had.¬† Two years ago he was trying to find his way, and now as you mentioned‑‑
JIMBO FISHER:¬† He stepped up, and I think the organization, a lot of things we did off the field and I think his teammates and him ‑‑ he never played much football, even through high school.¬† He was very new to the game.¬† He was always bigger, faster, stronger than everybody.¬† And then he understood work ethic and the thing about KB is that he's very intelligence.¬† He learns extremely well, and once he learned that work ethic and how to push himself and challenge himself, he's physically as gifted as anybody I've ever coached.¬† He can do things in that size and that frame that you just‑‑ the 5'10", 180 guy can do, but he can do it in a 6'6", 235‑pound frame.¬† He has top‑end speed, ball skills.¬† I think he'll be a great player in this league for a long time, I really do.¬† I'm very proud of him.¬† Happy for him.

Q.  A few weeks ago you guys played Boston College where the quarterback threw the ball 10 times, they had 240 rushing yards.  Is their offense at all similar to what you're going to expect from Georgia Tech?
JIMBO FISHER:  It's the same style in a different way.  I mean, they didn't run the same kind of plays, but they run the quarterback options, quarterback runs, spread, empty, edge plays.  I mean, they're similar to Georgia Tech but they're not Georgia Tech because it's just a totally different way to do it, but that philosophy is very similar, how to control the ball and not throw it as much and take possessions away and eat the clock and manage the game.

Q.  Were there things that your defense could learn from watching the film of that game that take into this game?
JIMBO FISHER:  Well, I don't think because the schemes are different.  I don't know from that point, but understanding patience and learning how important it is to get off the field on a third down so you don't give one up and give another five minutes of possession time or even if they do get a drive, holding them to a field goal in the red zone or tight zone and those situations so you don't give up touchdowns and things like that and then don't get frustrated, and to play.

Q.  Back at the North Carolina State game you said TV loves you guys.  You're in another primetime spot.  What has made Jameis in particular so good in primetime?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† That's the way he is all the time.¬† He's good all the time.¬† The way he prepares‑‑ you're talking about a guy‑‑ this guy's success is not based on his ability.¬† You see Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights he's sitting up in the office in a room, three‑and‑a‑half hours of film every night after practice and he has his iPad and he's texting you constantly and he gives you his opinion.¬† This guy's work ethic and his ability to prepare and learn and his intelligence are off the charts.¬† I mean, I think he prepares for those moments and he relishes them because he's prepared for them and then you see the ability come out on the field.

Q.¬† You mentioned Tech's ability to control the clock.¬† You know you don't go into hoping to fall behind, but is it more problematic to fall behind to a team like them that has that potential to go on eight‑minute drives?
JIMBO FISHER:¬† Yeah, I mean, I guess, but at the same time, if they go on eight‑minute drives you're just limiting your number of possessions.¬† You have to maximize your possessions.¬† That's what you have to do.¬† If they give you six, eight, nine, that's the key.¬† You just maximize them and try to get off on third down.¬† But it can be harder, but depends, again, at the end of the day how many points and how far ahead they get.

Q.  How beneficial is it to have a guy that's worked with them in Charles Kelly?
JIMBO FISHER:  I think it helps.  Again, everybody says that because when we played Auburn in the championship game, Dameyune Craig being with me my whole life, James Coley being at Miami.  It gives you ideas of what they think, but at the end of the day, Paul has got a wrinkle for every wrinkle you think you know about him, and you've still got to line up and stop it.  Everybody says, well, knowing what to do is one thing but you've got to go out and execute what to do, and that's the thing about sports I think that we all miss, even as coaches sometimes.  We're in proper positions, but it's still about human beings executing and making plays and doing things in critical times, and I think it gives you ideas about what they think that may bother them, but you still got to go out and execute, but I don't think it's as significant as people make it out to be.

Q.¬† You talked about players having to focus while dealing with off‑the‑field issues.¬† I was wondering what has the last year been like for you having to balance your on‑the‑field stuff but also dealing with situations that aren't in the normal college football job describing.
JIMBO FISHER:  I think it makes us all grow.  I think we all have to grow in this job, and as I say, a coach is very much like a parent.  I think there's jobs that a parent has sometimes that you never expected things to come from your own kids and scenarios that go.  People say how do you deal them?  I said very simple.  If those were my children, what would I do?  How would I handle them?  Good, bad, indifferent?  If they're right, they're wrong, if we think injustice is wrong or we think they're wrong, whatever it be, and then you have to grow as a human being and you have to make decisions on what you think is right for them and their future, but what is fair and everything.  Hopefully it's let us grow, let me grow as a coach, let our assistants grow and even our university grow, because I think scenarios that come up now, because of so much media and the access to so many scenarios and the pressure that's on these kids today, not saying our kids, I'm talking about kids in general across the board that are athletes in this country, I think there's always going to be situations that are so much different than years ago, I do.  I think we have to really have plans for those things and be willing to adapt and help these young men through it.

Q.  You talked about Jameis texting you during the week and after practice watching that film.  Do you ever have conversations like that and how did those conversations go between you guys?
JIMBO FISHER:  Well, it can be on something he wants to talk about.  Randy has them with him, too.  Is it an X and O thing, is it a decision thing, things he likes, he doesn't like or he's asking a question how to attack something, just normal questions, just things that help us be successful.  There are sometimes he'll wait until he comes in the next day, but he's always prepared and he's always put his time in, and he understands the game at a tremendous level.  It's amazing.

Q.  You've been behind in a number of games this year in the first half.  Have you ever gotten nervous, or is it just a confidence that you're going to come back?
JIMBO FISHER:  No, we have confidence to come back because when you're in it you don't have time to get nervous.  You're trying to figure out what to do.  I think as a coach, as I say, when you're in the arena, on the field, if you're getting nervous you're not focusing on what you've got to do to come out of those situations, and that's kind of what we try to focus on there.  And as a coach, that's something you have to work on, too.  You can't worry about scoreboard, how can we fix this, how can we do this, how can we move here, and that's what you've got to do.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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