WATCH: Odell Haggins press conference, Nov. 11
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins met with the media Monday to talk about last week’s 38-31 win at Boston College and preview Saturday’s home finale against Alabama State. Here are highlights from that conversation.
Staff emphasizes communication, situational awareness: Perhaps the most obvious question of the day came midway through, when a reporter asked Haggins how the FSU coaching staff might have changed its approach leading up the Boston College.
Haggins indicated that Saturday’s success was a collaborative effort between himself, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett and special teams coordinator Mark Snyder.
The four got together on Thursday and went over strategy for all the different situations that might arise. For example, say, a third-and-one play call or when and where to go for it on fourth down.
The goal was to take any guesswork out of the equation once the Seminoles were in the heat of the moment.
“We sat in that room for an hour and discussed it,” Haggins said. “…Communication, timeouts, you know, different situations. And a lot of the situations didn’t come up that we talked about, but we were ready for it. I’ll tell you that.”
Haggins gave one more interesting example of the dynamic at work.
Snyder, Haggins said, noticed that Boston College’s kick return unit liked to “squeeze in” when opponents set up for a sideline return.
But FSU returner Isaiah Bolden runs the 100-meter dash in about 10.4 seconds – fast enough to set up for a sideline return and then change course and outrun the coverage unit into the open field.
Bolden then totaled 80 yards on three return attempts, including a 41-yarder that set up D.J. Matthews’ go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.
“Situations like that,” Haggins said. “Situational football. That’s what we talked about.”
Once work is over, it’s time to play: Haggins made sure the Seminoles got their usual Sunday work in – film review, a brief practice and time spent correcting mistakes. After that, though, he told his team to focus their efforts toward other priorities.
“I’m big on being with your family,” he said.
And so he instructed FSU’s assistant coaches to have their players over for Sunday dinner, where they could eat together, enjoy each other’s company and step away from the grind of a football season for a brief time.
After a difficult week, it made for a welcome reprieve.
— Coach KB (@kendalbriles) November 10, 2019
— Donte' Pimpleton (@coach_pimp) November 10, 2019
“I said you know what, these kids, they have gone through a lot,” Haggins said. “And (to) the coaches, the staff, I said … ‘Sunday when we get back, we’re going to go home, after the game I want each coach to go in and grade his film, dissect that film, make sure we correct our mistakes and go out and practice and run, and (then) the coaches take their players out and enjoy them.’”
The mandate applied to support staffers, too. Haggins, with affection, told everyone else with the program to “get lost and don’t come back until 7:30 on Monday morning.”
Then, a funny thing happened when Haggins showed up for work on Monday. He found a group of players, coaches and everyone else energized and ready to tackle the week ahead.
“You can see it,” he said. “Everybody jumped into it Monday.”
A special Marvin moment: As if the Seminoles didn’t already have enough to smile about, they got one more boost when they got home on Saturday night.
As the team’s busses made their way into the Moore Athletic Center, a familiar face was there to greet them.
Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who missed the game after having hand surgery, was waiting. And he was fired up.
“That means a lot,” Haggins said. “As his position coach, it brought tears to my eyes.”
Losing Wilson, the team’s top defender, was considered a big blow to the Seminoles’ chances at Boston College, and that they slowed down the Eagles’ vaunted rushing attack enough to win without him made the victory that much more impressive.
Haggins indicated that Wilson, who suffered a hand injury two weeks ago against Miami, insisted that he could continue to play and help the team throughout the rest of the season. When the FSU medical staff told him that wasn’t an option, Wilson then did the next best thing – he let his teammates know that he would be their No. 1 supporter for the rest of the way.
“Just think about this,” Haggins said. “…He can’t play, he wants to be there, he’s sacrificing – ‘Coach, I’ll wrap it up and I’ll play this game to make sure we get bowl eligible.’
“That speaks a lot. He’s a big-time leader. Great kid. I love him.”
Seniors deserve their moment: Florida State’s seniors arrived in 2015 and 2016 expecting to contend for conference and national championships.
It hasn’t worked out that way, and FSU’s fourth- and fifth-year seniors will play their last home game on Saturday having played for two head coaches, in some cases three position coaches, and in two stints with an interim head coach.
They’ve been through some tumultuous times but, through it all, have stuck with the program. And, in Haggins’ eyes, that makes them a special group.
“You love these kids because they stayed here, they fought together and all the kids that are here that have been through this twice, man you just got to love them,” he said. “Love and show them that, hey, Florida State is always going to be here for you. Even though we haven’t won an ACC championship, we haven’t won a national championship, (there’s) something special about this place right here. We’re always going to support you.”
Haggins then had a message for the FSU community:
“I would like to say too to our fans, our boosters, everybody: let’s come out and pack Doak Campbell Stadium for those fourth- and fifth-year seniors,” he said. “That’s extremely important. We need it. It’s Nole pride.”
Noles will build up to game day: Haggins’ three games as interim head coach have been some of the most emotional and momentous in the program’s recent history – the Seminoles’ first game after coach Jimbo Fisher departed, a bowl game teeming with optimism at the dawn of the Willie Taggart era, and then a road trip after a difficult week in the wake of Taggart’s firing.
This week will be a little different.
Yes, it’s Senior Day, and the Seminoles can clinch bowl eligibility for the 37th time in 38 seasons. But they’ll also be doing it against Alabama State, an FCS opponent from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Anything can happen, but FCS opponents have won only three games against the FBS in 2019, and only one of those – The Citadel over Georgia Tech – came at the expense of a Power Five program.
So Haggins said the Seminoles plan to spend the week bettering themselves and focusing their gaze inward.
“’We’re going to go day-by-day and we’re going to build up to Saturday,” he said. “We’re not going to look so far ahead and say, ‘Oh, we’ve got Alabama State here.’
“No, we’re going to attack tomorrow, Tuesday practice, and work on the fundamentals and just build up to it.”