TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The change in energy and tone at Florida State’s football practices might not be easily seen, but it can certainly be heard loud and clear.
The Seminoles are back on the practice fields in preparation for their Independence Bowl clash with Southern Mississippi on Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m., ESPN), and, thanks to a playlist of hip-hop and rock music curated by quarterback Deondre Francois, they’re working with an extra bounce in their steps.
The Seminoles will wrap up the Tallahassee portion of their bowl practices later this week and head to Shreveport, La., on Saturday.
“It’s been a real good vibe,” junior receiver Nyqwan Murray said. “A lot of good music. It just brings the spirts up, so we have an energetic practice.”
While nothing in Francois’ music collection can guarantee that the Seminoles will run, block or tackle better, the new beats at practice further underscore a point that’s become very apparent over the last month:
Things are a little different around here.
It’s been two weeks since coach Willie Taggart took over for the departed Jimbo Fisher, and while Taggart has yet to fully take the reins, the Seminoles have all said that the atmosphere within the program has taken a major turn.
Murray said that practices are more laid back and smooth, and center Alec Eberle has noticed that coaches are trying to make drills more fun for the players.
Patrick, meanwhile, said that the team’s practices under interim coach Odell Haggins have been “a joy.”
“We’ve got a lot of young guys on the team,” Patrick said. “When that music comes on, they can’t help but dance. …
“It’s a joy to be out there. Any time playing football for me is a joy. But it’s a little different with the music aspect.”
That’s a radical departure from Fisher, whose fiery personality set the tone for the Seminoles’ intense, professional-style practices.
Fisher often used artificial crowd noise to simulate hostile environments, and actually did allow for some music to be played during preseason camp. But, otherwise, he was all business.
“You go from one extreme to the other,” Eberle said. “It’s just different. But change is always good. I think a lot of the guys on this team needed change. … I think a lot of the guys are excited for a new way, a different style.”
That’s not to say that the Seminoles are taking a relaxed approach toward their matchup with the Golden Eagles.
Reaching bowl eligibility was a rallying point for FSU, which won four of its last five games to finish the regular season 6-6 and extend its streak of bowl appearances to 36 straight years.
That, however, was only step 1 of the Seminoles’ plan. Step 2 is to beat Southern Mississippi and secure a winning record for a 41st straight season.
Given everything that they’ve gone through to reach this point, the Seminoles said that they have no intentions of falling short in Shreveport.
Besides, the Independence Bowl provides the Seminoles an opportunity to give Haggins one more win as the team’s interim coach, as well as a chance to make a strong first impression with Taggart.
“After being in what we’ve been through this year – ups and downs, losing people, losing our coach – I think this game gives us a chance to have one more time together and show what we’re capable of doing and enjoy each other’s presence,” Eberle said.
“We’re determined to win this game and finish the season 7-6. We want to have a winning record.”
It’s a unique situation for the Seminoles, who in a way are being pulled in two different directions – the excitement of moving forward with Taggart and the obligation to finish the current season on a high note.
But maybe that’s why the music at practice means more than just beats and energy. In a sense, it could be a bridge between eras that allows the players to close the book on what was, while getting a small taste of what’s to come.
Now if only they could expand that playlist a little bit.
“(Francois) needs to play some more Drake,” Patrick said. “That’d be my preference. But that’s the only thing he’s lacking on.”“I’d like to hear more country next time, or rock and roll,” Eberle added with a smile. “It’s different nowadays. Everything.”