TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher met with the media Monday to look back at an unusual couple weeks and look ahead to Saturday’s home opener against North Carolina State. Here are highlights from that conversation.
When Florida State kicks off against NC State on Saturday, it will mark the end of three of the strangest weeks that Fisher is ever likely to experience as a coach.
The Seminoles practiced a full week thinking they’d be playing a home game against ULM, then had that game cancelled due to Hurricane Irma less than 48 hours before its scheduled kickoff. A few days later, FSU learned its Sept. 16 game against Miami had been moved, too. So while the rest of the country is rounding into form as the season nears the end of its first month, Florida State is preparing to play just its second game.
How that affects things come Saturday – or if it has any affect at all – is anyone’s guess.
“We’ll find out,” Fisher said. “I’ve never had to do this. It’s new on me, too. Listen, all you can do is control what you can control. Practice well, prepare well, know what you’re going to do and go play. Nobody knows anything after that. I think we practiced well. I think we know what we’re doing, and we’ve just got to go play well.”
James Blackman is officially listed at 6-foot-5 and 169 pounds, numbers that aren’t fully illustrated until he’s seen in person. The freshman quarterback is tall, and he’s slender, which has led some fans and media to wonder whether his body could handle the physical demands of the position.
Fisher, however, believes that those fears are unwarranted. Blackman, he said, played the position at Belle Glade High School in some of the toughest competition that Florida high school football has to offer. And he emerged just fine.
“He’s been hit,” Fisher said. “He’s been knocked around. He’s been beat up. He’s a tough guy. He can play at a high level.”
Fisher even compared Blackman to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner who played at a relatively slight 6-3, 185 pounds as a high-school senior. While Jackson has since added weight, his slim frame didn’t prevent him from starting as a freshman for the Cardinals.
“Sometimes guys like that are the guys you can’t ever hurt,” Fisher said. “Sometimes they are. He’s played at a high level. If I thought that (Blackman was an injury risk), I wouldn’t have thought that he could play here.”
That said, there will be no easing into the season when Blackman steps under center for the first time on Saturday. Led by senior defensive end Bradley Chubb, NC State’s front seven is among the most experienced and talented in the nation.
In fact, the Wolfpack’s starting defensive linemen and linebackers could hardly be more experienced. All seven are seniors.
“They’ve been there forever,” Fisher said with a laugh. “I go back over film from two, three, four years (ago), it’s the same dudes.”
Those dudes have already asserted themselves this season, especially in run defense, where NC State allows just 88.3 rushing yards per game.
NC State’s Jaylen Samuels is a tight end, but to only call him a tight end would severely undersell everything that he does. Like Derwin James on FSU’s defense, Samuels does a little bit of everything for the Wolfpack: He can play tight end, receiver, or running back, and he can do them all equally well.
So well that FSUs James last week said Samuels reminds James a little bit of himself.
“That’s a great analogy,” Fisher said. “It really is. … Because to do the things that Samuels does, it’s not only great physical skills there, there’s great mental skills, great intelligence to be able to play to different positions, understand how to play them and play them so effectively and run different route combinations and touch the ball so many different ways and block. That’s a great analogy by Derwin.”
A senior, Samuels already has five touchdowns this season, and he has a chance to finish as the school’s all-time leader in career receptions and total touchdowns.
“Jaylen Samuels is the epitome of a football player,” Fisher said. “He can play everywhere, do everything — catch, run, block, throw. There’s nothing he can’t do.”
While most college football fans probably spent Saturday watching marquee matchups between Florida and Tennessee and Louisville and Clemson, Fisher opted to head outdoors with his youngest son, Ethan.
“I was with my kids,” he said. “Took Ethan fishing on Saturday. Spent time with him and went out on a little boat, little john boat, spent all day in the sun and let him fish.”
Fisher’s only extended exposure to football actually came on Friday, when he went to see oldest son Trey play quarterback for Tallahassee’s North Florida Christian School.
The two later went over film from the game, but Fisher insists he looked at it from the perspective of a dad and not a coach.
“I’ll keep my nose out of it,” Fisher said, “but I’ll watch film and maybe tell him something technique-wise or something like that every now and then.”
While he’s more than ready to resume his season with the Seminoles, Fisher said that getting an unexpected weekend to spend with his family was a welcome reprieve from the rigors of his usual schedule.
“We have good conversations,” he said. “It’s just fun to be a dad and get to watch (Trey). Don’t get to do that very often. It’s a shame to get to do it with all these other kids and not your own. Got to find as much time as you can.”