November 25, 2019 - by
Odell Haggins Press Conference: November 25

ODELL HAGGINS: We had a great weekend, recruiting this past week. Kids focused on the academics, and that was a great thing for our young men.

Also, our preparation for Florida, it’s a big game, a one-game series. Florida is a very good football team, excellent defense, excellent skill position on offense, extremely good quarterback, so we’ve got our hands full.

Q. Getting the bye week and then also you were able to rest some guys the week before to try to get them healthy. How healthy are you? Did you guys practice Sunday? How close to full strength are you with at least guys that aren’t out for the season?
ODELL HAGGINS: Well, some of the guys that we had out during the game, they’ll be right for the game. They kind of mended up, and we let them know, hey, you guys get healthy, get your treatment, and get back to playing. Yesterday was a good practice, very good practice.

Q. Coach, you’ve been around this rivalry for a long time. Just what are your memories of it? What do you remember most about it?
ODELL HAGGINS: You’re going to laugh when I say this. Back in the day, I used to love seeing Coach Bowden and the Old Ball Coach go shake hands at midfield. That’s one of my favorite memories of this rivalry. In this game, Florida-Florida State, it’s a great rivalry throughout the nation because you have kids on both teams that played against each other in high school and played with each other. So they’re going out there to play great football to show who’s the best. It’s just a great rivalry.

Q. Coach, while you guys were out recruiting, what was the response from the kids as you guys were talking to them with you guys obviously being in a state of transition?
ODELL HAGGINS: First of all, we can’t talk to the kids. We were talking to the coaches and going to football games. When kids called on Sunday, they had a very good response.

Q. Last time both quarterbacks were healthy, both Alex Hornibrook and James Blackman were healthy, was before the Miami game and Alex started out. What sort of conversations are you having with Kendal (Briles) about what you guys are looking for in practice for your quarterbacks?
ODELL HAGGINS: Every day we practice, we compete. We’re going to find out who’s playing the best in practice, that’s who’s going to play. Kendal and myself, we get together and talk about the situations on offense that we need to talk about, like quarterback, running back, whomever, and we discuss that as a staff.

Going back to your memories of the rivalry, what was it like playing in this game? It’s a special game for players from Florida. Just what do you remember about playing in this game?

ODELL HAGGINS: I’ll tell you what, the things I remember, it’s a very intense football game. You’d better be ready to play because both sides are going to be ready. That’s how it is when Florida State and Florida play. Throughout the nation, there’s going to be a lot of people watching this game, but the intensity level, that’s what I remember.

Q. Coach, with the bowl game already locked up, this week in practice, how do you make sure the same level of intensity and detail is there in practice?
ODELL HAGGINS: To answer your question, every week, that’s how we’re going to practice. We’re going to pay attention to details, and that’s the way Florida State should practice every week. Not one week we should go in there thinking about another team, preparing for another team. We need to be thinking about practicing well, preparing well. That’s the thing. That’s what I’m trying to get back at Florida State in a short period of time.

Q. A few more practices under your belt over the last week or so or last little while, are you happy with the way Coach (Jim) Leavitt and Coach (Mario) Edwards have fit in? Are they fitting into their roles a little bit more and defining what they’re doing and able to help out?
ODELL HAGGINS: Yes, I’m extremely happy, a lot of energy from Coach Edwards and Coach Leavitt. Both of them have a lot of experience. Leavitt has been coaching so long and Mario Edwards playing at the next level and being out watching kids, it’s just a lot of excitement out there with those two guys. It’s been great.

Q. Odell, you’ve been down as a player, as a coach several times in Gainesville, how loud and crazy it can get. It’s going to be a night game. What do you tell the guys who haven’t been through an experience like that, and will you do certain preparations — crank up the music, fan noise — during the week to help them prepare for that?
ODELL HAGGINS: It’s not much you can do, play loud music, but the main thing, you’ve got to focus on the now. Focus on your fundamentals and technique and try to block out the rest of it. We’re going to play loud music, but focus on your fundamentals and techniques, and everything else will take care of itself.

Q. Odell, their tight end has had a really good season. What has he — how good is he compared to other tight ends you guys have gone up against?
ODELL HAGGINS: He’s a very good tight end. The kid is 6’5″, 6’6″, 250 pounds, runs well, catches the ball well, and we’ve got to prepare for him. We’ve been preparing for him. He’s an excellent football player.

Q. Is there any difference for you heading into this game? You’ve been a defensive line coach heading into this game, but now you’re the man in charge. Is the feeling any different this time around?
ODELL HAGGINS: No. Football is football. The way you approach the game, you practice hard, you practice on your fundamentals, making sure you cover all the bases, and get ready to play football.

Q. Seems like a lot of the success you had two years ago and this season has been kind of appealing to the emotions of the players, making them play hard and rallying them around what this university means. Is that something that you can kind of keep going to, especially in a rivalry game, appealing to the emotions and then pushing those buttons to get the best out of your players?
ODELL HAGGINS: First of all, being a Florida State player, you should play with those emotions all the time. A coach shouldn’t have to rally you around. Once you’re a Seminole, you’re always a Seminole. You play for Florida State University. Pride.

Q. You’ve already talked about just kind of focusing on the fundamentals to get ready for Florida this week, but what’s different about a rivalry week? Is there a little bit more juice at practice?
ODELL HAGGINS: Oh, yes, it’s a lot more juice at practice. Kids know what’s at stake. I always say this. It’s a one-game series. Throw out the record book and just get ready to play ball because both teams are going to come to play.

Q. I wanted to ask you, in 1987, you were on a team that went down there, and Florida State hadn’t beat Florida in a while, and they were able to get a win down there. What are your memories from that game and that time of getting over and beating Florida down there?
ODELL HAGGINS: My memory, they jumped up 14-3, and we had to come back and win that football game, and that was an intense, hard-hitting game. They had one of the all-time great running backs at the time. We didn’t know it back then, Emmitt Smith, and that was a battle. I’ll never forget that. They jumped up 14-3, and we had to come back and win the game. It was a battle.

Q. Coach, Thanksgiving this week, just what are your plans for the team? Do you plan to get together with them?
ODELL HAGGINS: Well, we’re going to practice on Tuesday. We’re going to practice Wednesday, and we’re going to practice Thursday morning. After that, each player — each coach segment, they’re going out to their house, and we’re going to have Thanksgiving with our segment. Myself as a coach, I think that’s very important. The guys can go out to the house, relax, eat, sleep, then eat some more and sleep some more.

Like I say, Florida State is built on a family, and that’s what I wanted our kids to do, go out and have fun with their coaches and their wives and their kids and things. We just want to have a good time.

Q. With Marvin Wilson being out, what kind of role has Cory Durden played as far as being a leader up front on the defense now?
ODELL HAGGINS: Cory Durden is playing a big role. He’s being himself. That’s what I want him to play. Play hard, play disciplined, and play 100 miles per hour.

Q. Now Florida’s quarterback Trask had an excellent season even though he came off the bench. What does he do so well that makes him so difficult to defend?
ODELL HAGGINS: First of all, the kid, you can tell he’s an intelligent quarterback. He makes the right reads. He puts them in great plays. He don’t make many mistakes, and he’s a kid who’s mobile. He’s a lot more mobile than you think he is. Seems like he has a knack for the game.

Q. Odell, you guys, I think you only had (two) sacks against Alabama State. Were you disappointed you guys didn’t create more pressure, and what kind of things can you guys do at this point in the season to get more pressure on the quarterback?
ODELL HAGGINS: Well, you always want to get 10 sacks a game if you can, but a lot of people, they’re getting rid of the ball. What we’ve got to do is start batting balls down. Getting our hands up, matching hands, batting balls down.

The kids, they’re working hard this week focused on, like I say, fundamentals. That’s part of it, being fundamentally sound. You have a guy like Marvin leave, a guy that pressured the quarterback, knocked the quarterback down five times a game. But Cory, (Cedric Wood) and Janarius Robinson, they’ve been working hard this week in those things.

Q. You talked about recruiting earlier. How have you been able to not lose some of the commitments you guys have? For the most part, the class is still intact.
ODELL HAGGINS: It’s staff recruiting, staff recruiting. Everybody is working hard — the recruiting department, the football staff, the coaches, everybody working on communicating, communicating our message, and all together. Like I say, not one man can do it. Myself and when I get a chance, I try to talk to them every other night, get them to call me back or text them, but it’s all about the Florida State brand. Florida State brand is powerful.

Q. If I could ask about injury stuff specifically. Andrew Boselli, has he been practicing for you this week? Do you hope to have him available for Saturday?
ODELL HAGGINS: He’s alright. He’s going to be there. His ankle, and he’s going to be okay.

Q. Cam (Akers) looking back to what he’s been for you guys?
ODELL HAGGINS: He’ll be back.

Q. Pokey? Ontaria Wilson?
ODELL HAGGINS: No.

Q. And I guess also from just a big picture sort of standpoint, this is the first game you’ll be coaching where you’re a double digit underdog as the coach. Does that affect you at all? Do you change your mentality or the way you’re going to approach this game?
ODELL HAGGINS: Man, I didn’t know anything about that. Where did you find that at?

Q. The Internet.
ODELL HAGGINS: Well, I don’t look at the Internet much. I don’t know anything about that.

Q. Has Jordan Travis continued to progress at practice, has he been making strides and growing in this offense week over week?
ODELL HAGGINS: He’s been Jordan, practicing hard, giving good looks, and being himself. Every day at practice, that’s Jordan Travis, steady Eddie.

See you all later. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. No, early Thanksgiving.

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