Sept. 15, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Fifth-ranked Florida State put the finishing touches on its final on-field preparations Thursday evening for its national spotlight game against No. 1 Oklahoma, Saturday at 8 p.m. on ABC.
“I really liked today; good effort, good focus,” Fisher said, moments after putting the `Noles through their traditional, post-practice Thursday skull session. “The scout team gave us good looks; were bouncing around. I liked what we saw. We executed well. It was one of the best Thursdays we’ve had.”
With ESPN College GameDay’s crew descending on Langford Green, the build-up is nearing a crescendo.
Fisher knows the game many have marked on their calendar is getting close, but that has not altered the way the Seminoles have prepared for the Sooners.
“I want them to feel like it’s a normal game,” he said. “That’s the thing they’ve got to realize. Everybody says you’re going to go above and beyond. You’re not. You’re going to get what you’re capable of. Do what you’re capable of; what you’ve prepared for. That’s why we practice and do what we do year-round. That’s why we drive them so hard, so that they’ll create great habits and come out and perform in games like this.”
At this point, it’s not what Fisher and his staff have installed for the game that’s most important. It’s handling the moment and relying on those practice habits that will make the difference as the Seminoles prepare to put last season’s 47-17 loss at Oklahoma behind them for good.
“The key is not what you’ve got in, it’s what you’re capable of executing,” Fisher said.
Throughout the week the Seminoles have carried themselves with a quiet confidence, focusing their attention on the task at hand more than what FSU fans see as a monumental occasion.
When asked if he was comfortable heading into the game, Fisher offered a confidently, measured response.
“There’s a comfort level in that you believe in yourself and what you’ve done and your kids and your program,” Fisher said. “You have to go out and execute. You’re never comfortable until the game is over, I don’t care how good you are. I like the way we’ve prepared. We’ve done the things we’ve needed to do, we’ve practiced well and we feel sound; we feel good.”
FSU’s ’08 signing class looms large in contest
Florida State’s 2008 signing class, 33-strong on when the dust settled that February, will play a significant role in the outcome of Saturday’s game. Of the 20 players who are still with the Seminoles, 10 will be in the starting lineup, while five others can be found on the two-deep. The remaining four medically cleared to participate, should see action on special teams.
It was quite a haul for the first class that was heavily influenced by Fisher, who arrived in January 2007 without an opportunity to make a major impact on head coach Bobby Bowden’s class that year.
Three starting senior offensive linemen – Andrew Datko, Zebrie Sanders and David Spurlock – have combined for 107 career starts; easily the segment that has had the greatest impact. They provide running lanes for senior tailbacks Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas. Then there’s redshirt junior EJ Manuel, who was hand-picked by Fisher to be the quarterback of the future, directing the group.
On defense, senior linebacker Terrance Parks and Nick Moody split time.
Collectively, the group is largely responsible for setting the tone for what has been expected under Fisher and getting the `Noles “into these moments.”
“It’s a good time to see how we’re doing and the guys in the classes behind them have got to support them,” Fisher said of the ’08 group. “Those guys have done a good job of getting us to this position of where we’re at in the program – winning 10 games, pushing us to this level right now – and it would be great for them to push us over the top.”
Offensive line shuffle working out
One move made midway through last week’s win over Charleston Southern – flipping starting center Jason Fahrenkrug and left guard Bryan Stork – has led to a lineup change against the Sooners. Fahrenkrug will start at left guard, the position he was initially recruited to fill after All-American Rodney Hudson’s graduation. Stork, who was originally recruited as a center, will make his first start at that position.
Fisher said he’s been extremely happy with the way Stork as performed this week handling all of the snaps. Likewise, he believes Fahrenkrug’s 315-pound big frame, will provide the `Noles a lift from the left guard spot.
“Playing all of those 3-technique (interior lineman), with those big those big 310, 315 (pound) guys – [Fahrenkrug is] a big guy and it takes girth inside to move people,” Fisher said. “There are weight classes in boxing for a reason.”
Senior wide receiver Bert Reed practiced with the team Thursday for the first time since suffering an ankle sprain against Charleston Southern. Fisher said he expects the Seminoles most experienced wideout to be ready for Saturday with two more days of rest.
Junior wide receiver Willie Haulstead will not play. Haulstead, who suffered a concussion in FSU’s final preseason scrimmage, has not practiced all week, nor played in either of the first two games.
The only other player out for Saturday’s contest is offensive guard Henry Orelus (concussion). Safety Nick Moody (quad contusion) and Reed are listed as questionable on the report filed with the ACC.