Once upon a time there was a collegiate football program so feared that most coaches or players would have nightmares just thinking about playing them on Saturdays. Most of the coaches thanked them for traveling to their own home field so they wouldn’t have to travel to theirs for an embarrassment.
Teams and coaches knew they were just merely a stepping stone for them to make another charge at a national championship. They figured that their only chance of winning is if more than half the team ended up coming down with the flu and was unable to play. Whether they were playing them at home or on the road, not many teams had the confidence it needed to dethrone the dynasty that was Florida State.
The dynasty started in 1987 where they began their 14 consecutive 10 win seasons and top 5 finishes. They compiled a gaudy 152-19-1 record along with 11 bowl wins, 9 ACC championships, 2 Heisman Trophy winners and 2 National Championships.
Remember those days with Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Dexter Carter, Deion Sanders, Peter Warrick, Chris Weinke, Peter Boulware, Leroy Butler and the list can go on and on. Hard hitting, smash mouth football and high scoring offensive shows were what we saw for well over a decade.
Lately we haven’t seen any of that. No ooh’s and aww’s from a tackle on defense or a big play from the offense. It has simpling been missing from Florida State football for a decade now.
Since 2000, the wheels seemed to have fallen off the wagon. They’ve only managed to record one 10 win season since 2000.
Grant it there were some ACC Championships and Bowl wins in there but it wasn’t the same team that once made opponents tremble when they saw that Florida State was on their schedule. Not to mention the academic scandal or the other off the field issues this program has dealt with. It also didn’t help that they had to kick four and five star prospects off the team due to misconducts and criminal charges.
So when are the tides going to change and point them back in the right direction of prominence in the college football ranks again you may ask? Well, I am here to tell you that it starts now, this year, this decade, things will begin to return to the old ways but with a new flavor.
There may not be a Bobby Bowden or Mickey Andrews on the sideline anymore, but there is a Jimbo Fisher, Mark Stoops, Lawrence Dawsey, Rick Trickett and James Coley. A team of coaches that will steer the ship and get this program headed back in the right direction.
Jimbo has essentially changed the face of the program since officially taking over. He is running a much tighter ship, with more structure and disciplined practices. No more toying around with guys making mistakes or violating team and school policies. That was clearly shown when he kicked two starters, Jarmon Fortson and Nigel Carr off the team for violating team rules. These actions shown by Jimbo are just the beginning of rebuilding this program and bringing it back to the top once again.
This team may not be there yet, but they are on their way. The offense this year has a chance to be one of the best Florida State has ever seen. This year they have a Heisman candidate in quarterback Christian Ponder, a plethora of highly talented running backs and wide receivers, along with five starting returners on the offensive line that may just be the best offensive line in the country.
Now let’s not forget the x-factor, sophomore cornerback and return specialist Greg Reid. Last year he led the country averaging 18.4 yards per punt return. Not only can he change the field position in a hurry but he can also with one quick cut and a burst through the hole change the outcome of an entire game. Most teams will probably try to avoid kicking to him at all cost but according to him, “that’s just not football.”
The biggest question mark is and has been how the defense will perform. Will the defensive line produce more, how will the young and inexperienced secondary fair and will the linebackers live up to the hype?
Since Mark Stoops has set foot on campus the defense has been beating to a different tune. Minus kicking Nigel Carr off the team, the defense showed up to camp bigger, faster and a tighter group than in years past. Expect to see an improvement from the defensive line as they have been working hard to improve from their pathetic numbers in the sack department last year. Jacobbi McDaniel who will be looked at as a huge anchor to the front four should have a solid season since gaining strength and much needed foot speed this off-season.
With Stoops implementing a new defensive scheme and one that will pressure you at all times should help the defense. They have been missing that aggressiveness and smash mouth football for a while and it is about time that it comes back. The defense in every area has gotten faster and is hitting much harder, not to mention they are having fun again.
“We have a huge chip on our shoulder this season after a pour performance last year but I feel we are ready to step up to the plate and prove the doubters wrong,” Nigel Bradham said. “The defense this year seems more dedicated and we are a closer group of guys, like a family just having fun and going out there taking care of business. We have missed that here.”
Let’s not just think about this year, lets think about the future and the recruits we have coming next season and the other potential recruits that could be following the others. As a good friend of mine said, “I have a few words for you, James Wilder Jr.” He is a five star recruit and ranked the number one athlete in the country. He will be coming in as a running back even with knowing that there is going to be some tough competition there. Then Karlos Williams another five star recruit is the number two defensive back in the country and will be able to contribute right off the bat with a 6’2, 210 pound frame while running a 4.5 forty. The future looks bright for the Seminoles, already ranked sixth in the nation in the latest recruiting rankings.
When Christian Ponder was asked how different things are from when Bobby was coaching to Jimbo now he said, “Night and day.”
This team has changed and changed for the better. It is like a new program and though I am a huge Bobby Bowden fan, sad that he is gone and disgusted by the way his termination was handled, this team needed a change. A fresh breath of air you could say, changing this team for the better and reemerging to greatness as this team, in a new decade will again rise to the top of the rankings and the college football nation. This will be the beginning of yet another dynasty with shades of the old one. The Noles are back and here to stay.