Again, I'd like to say a special thanks to the BCS committee from our
team and our whole Florida State family. Vizio and our hosts have been great,
providing us – this whole experience has been nothing but first class
from the minute we got off the plane until right now it's been a first class
experience. Like I said, we don't get to experience this part of the country
very often and to be able to come from the south and come out here, this
is one of the great games I used to watch as a child and envisioned myself
being able to coach in that game one day. It was a tremendous experience
for us and our organization.
This has been a four year developmental process for our program and every
step has been important. We've learned from everything we've done.
All the players have sacrificed and fought through and helped prepare
for yesterday and that opportunity, I talk about the Christian Ponders,
the Rodney Hudsons, the E.J. Manuels, the Dustin Hopkins, the Nigel Bradhams,
and so many more – Xavier Rhodes, Bjoern Werner, they were all a part
of what happened yesterday and we can't thank them enough for laying a foundation
for our organization and our program.
I'd like to thank Coach Bowden for his relationship which I have with
him, and like I say, that's one special man that I learned a lot from for
many, many years. I hope my relationship with him will stay strong. I'm
glad he was able to be here and be a part of it, because he branded Florida
State University to be able to do the things we're able to do right now.
The goal was to play our best game on Monday, and you're going to hear
me say something that may sound funny to you. I think we did, because you
never know – like I say, just like I thought our quarterback and our
team, and overall – we all played the best game because it wasn't
necessarily our 'A' game. We felt jitters, we felt guys wanting to win too
much, become outcome oriented and just didn't do some things they did. Auburn
did a great job of preparing and keeping great poise. But our kids, to me,
it was the epitome of what we believe in our program. We never doubt, we
play the next play, and the total focus of toughness, effort, discipline
and pride, finding crumbs, going higher, keep competing, not feeling sorry
for yourself, not pouting, it's kind of how life is, and to me it epitomized
what our football program is all about and to me it was our greatest game
because it didn't come easy. It was very hard. That was a great opponent
and a great venue, and to do it on the stage in which we were able to do
it on, to me just solidifies what we're building in Tallahassee. Like I
say, we're not interested in being a great team, we're interested in being
a great program, and we want to be around for a long time. We got to continue.
I want to say a special thanks to our players, how fun they were to coach,
how they allowed us to coach them. Our assistant coaches, how great a job
those guys have done this year meshing with six new guys to come in on this
staff and be able to function and do the things they do and for them, keeping
those players together during that game last night when things weren't going
well, and to keep the belief, that to me epitomizes again what we're about.
It shows the trust that we have in each other that the players have in
the coaches and the coaches have in the players and our whole organization.
I can't be more pleased and happy for those guys and those coaches for what
they achieved last night. Very proud just to be a part of that.
You touched on this last night in the postgame, but as you sort
of look ahead, ACC football looks pretty bright moving forward. You won
two BCS games, certainly had some very competitive games like Duke against
Texas A & M, Louisville comes on board, Notre Dame is in there as a
limited partner. If you could talk about the future of ACC football.
Like I said, I've been in both leagues. The ACC is an unbelievably competitive
league, great players, the second most NFL players of any conference in
the country, top to bottom. Great coaches. Great commissioner. We had 11
teams bowl eligible. Clemson won a BCS. We won a BCS. Duke played tremendous.
Other guys won games, had big wins. It's a great group of coaches and players,
and hopefully now we get a little more respect, which I think it definitely
deserves because when you go through it from players and the number of NFL
players, Pro Bowlers, the whole thing, we're right behind the SEC in everything
we do, and it's a great league, and I'm very proud to be in it and happy
to be in it.
Kind of a three part question here. Can you talk about your growth
from the days when you were a quarterback at Samford to being the coach
of a national champion, whether or not you heard from Terry Bowden since
the time you won the National Championship, and did you share any kind of
private moment with Coach Saban other than what we saw on the set with ESPN?
Hopefully my growth – I was always the guy when I played, I wanted
to know the whys. I wanted to understand the game. I was a film junkie as
a player, I lived it, thought it, breathed it. It was what I wanted to be
and I always envisioned, play as long as I can and then be a coach. I mean,
that was the ultimate goal, to be a coach at a major college program and
win a National Championship.
You have dreams like that and hopefully they were able to come true and
hopefully they'll continue to come true in the future. But I was very blessed
with the folks I was around as a college player to be exposed to doing things
right, and like I say, I was around Coach Bowden a lot as a young guy, as
a young player, and very blessed from that.
No, I haven't heard from Terry since this game.
What was the third part?
Did you share any kind of private moment with Coach Saban?
Yeah, we did. Nick and I talked – Nick to me is a tremendous friend
to me. He always has been. I've learned a lot from him. He's a great guy.
He has a great heart. His wife, Terry, she's reached out to me. I talked
to her this morning. They were happy. They were very influential in myself
and Candi and how we go about our businesses as leaders of an organization.
Nick and Terry do it first class. They're great people. Nick and I talked
about this, a couple of old hillbillies from those coal mines that came
on and became football coaches.
We shared a few moments. Like I say, I have the utmost respect for Nick.
I think he's a tremendous coach and a tremendous guy, and he and I will
always stay close friends.
You don't call a lot of gimmick plays and I'm sure the scores
this year had a lot to do with that, but talk about your philosophy and
when you need to use them, when they're good to use? I don't believe
you win championships with gimmicks. You can win a game, you can pull out
a situation when you need them, but I believe blocking, tackling, lining
up, playing base football is what wins championships, and guys that run
a lot of gimmicks usually don't end up being champions because there's not
enough substance to what you do. Takes too much time to practice them. And
I believe in recruiting and doing those kind of things and being a fundamental
organization and program. We have them. We have as many tricks as anybody
else. I just believe in using them when you think you have to change, but
they're momentum changers, and when you do it they change the game and the
outcomes. We felt we had to go to that. We've got a bunch of fake punts,
trick passes and reverses and we've got all kind of stuff. I can draw them
up with anybody. Like Nick used to say in practice, I had a stick in my
pocket and used to draw them up in the dirt and he used to get mad.
But I just don't believe you win championships that way. I think you
do it with great offense, great defense, great special teams and the tricks
are used to change momentum in the game and the outcomes of games when you
Was there a deep moment that you shared with Jameis after he
started 6 15, or did you just know that he was going to turn it around?
No, you don't ever know because you can say you know, but people who say
that, it's not true. You have to believe in the guy and you have to talk
him through it and you have to coach him through that situation. We had
a moment, we talked about it. You have three quarters, we're still in this
ballgame. Like I told him, I've always believed he was a great player. I
thought there was something special about him. I told him, the great ones
can put those quarters behind them, and when they have a chance to win the
game at the end – I always talk about Michael Jordan. You'd see him
be 5 for 20, last five minutes of the game he hits seven shots in a row.
How does a guy do that? I'm not saying he's Michael Jordan, but those great
guys that have that something, they can put that behind them and know there's
a moment in front of them and go on and play. The Montanas of the world,
the Elways, the Marinos, those guys – Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, those
guys that get the ball at the end. I believed he had that and I said you've
got to go back to your fundamentals, find crumbs, and that's a term we use
to – if the big play is there, take it, if it isn't, just dump it
off. Use the people around you. Don't put the pressure up on yourself, and
he went back to doing it, got himself in a rhythm. And I'm going to tell
you, it's a lot easier for a coach to say than it is for a player to go
do that. To me, it was a tremendous growing point for him and I think it's
the best football game he's played all year.
Could you analyze the concept of a 20 year old who next year
is going to have one foot to the NFL defending a National Championship?
I can't remember that happening too much? No, it hasn't, and I
think it'll be another growing stage for him and all of us, and he'll learn
from it. Again, I think he'll handle it very well. The thing about Jameis,
he's a team oriented guy and he's not worried about the NFL or anything
else. We don't necessarily know he's going to the NFL, do we? (Laughter.)
Don't assume now. Be careful, Dennis. You know what assume stands for.
Putting together a new staff like that, can you share any story
or anecdote from spring or off season or the summer that was developing
chemistry that you knew something was going to work like this and maybe
billed to this conclusion? You know, people are going to say I'm
crazy, but I felt two weeks after I got them here and recruiting ended,
I felt good. And then we were about four or five practices into spring ball,
I felt unbelievably comfortable because I'd been with – I knew Jeremy,
I knew Sal, I new Charles Kelly. I hadn't been around Jay but I knew Randy
for many years. I hadn't been around Brew as much and I had researched.
But a lot of the philosophies of the main guys that we had in charge of
everything were very similar to mine, and they come from very similar backgrounds,
very similar beliefs, and it gelled – it was like, it was a glove.
It fit the first day because we jumped right in recruiting and we were able
to save the class and be able to have a tremendous class. We went into the
off season, they had been through the exact off season that we'd been through.
They took the bull by the horns, jumped right in, and actually it was easier,
and that has nothing to do with our past coaches. Our past coaches Mark
Stoops and those guys did a tremendous job tremendous job. All those coach
we had are tremendous coaches and they got great opportunities and I'm extremely
happy for them, but these guys come in and had been in this system and been
in this philosophy before and we had some conversations, and it fit from
day one. My hats off to them. To make the get the trust of our players that
quickly, my hats off to our assistant coaches.
A couple of things: How did you celebrate last night? I imagine
you gave yourself a little time to enjoy it before you started getting on
recruiting like your buddy Nick does. And the other part of it is there
was some talk going around that you may have hurt yourself trying to keep
up with Whitfield down the sideline. Actually it wasn't Whitfield
I got hurt on. I did pull a hamstring. You know what it was? It was when
Rashad Greene caught the pass and got horse collared and it wasn't called,
badly, and I was running down yelling at the referee. I did pull a hamstring.
I was hopping on that one. I was running on the other one. I did, that hurt.
It wasn't on the Whitfield one. I was happy on that one. I was alright on
it. That was a horse collar call, that was a major call in the game that
I thought was a big moment but we didn't have time to argue about it, but
I was sprinting down there trying to get on him. That's when I got hurt.
We enjoyed it a little bit last night, mainly just come back and had
family, and we didn't leave the room, and my mom and my family, my brothers,
my friends, and my wife and my kids, and just all the – we just hung
out right there and basically I sat there in the chair and about half fell
asleep, to be honest with you. You feel like you want to sleep for about
a week after these seasons. We'll get back tomorrow and give the staff a
day or so and then we'll get back recruiting and we got to get going. It's
time for another one.
How important was it that Bobby Bowden gave you the freedom to
develop your program without constantly getting in the way? Tremendous,
tremendous, and to me it speaks to who the man is. Like I say, he's as quality
of a person that's ever walked the sideline in college football, the winningest
coach ever, but the class which he exemplifies himself with and what he
represents is tremendous. It's funny, I say this story all the time, back
in the late 80s when I was a GA and learning to coach, and I used to sit
around at the Bowden Academy, I was a senior advisor for the quarterbacks
at that academy. Sitting out back, and just talking by the pool at night
and whatever, and every word they would say I would stand on just to try
and learn and get a grasp of something. He'd always say, you know, whenever
he left he was going to get out of town and leave whoever the head coach –
he had he said this 25 years ago, because it happened to him one time in
his career, and he saw what happened to Terry a little bit at Auburn, when
the old coaches hang around, and they're always doubting and questioning,
and he said, no matter who it was, and it just happened to be me, it was
unbelievable, but to me it shows the class of the man and who he is and
what he is, and like I say, he's as good a man as has ever walked the sideline
in college football.
Rashad said that at halftime you told the team that Kermit was
going to pop one on a kickoff return. What did you see from the first couple
kick returns and how well was that blocked? It was blocked tremendously
well, and we've worked on that and he was close. If you remember there was
one right there in the first half. He got him by a shoe lace getting down
that sideline and we felt very good if we could get a return all week, that
we had an advantage in that department that we get a return, and we felt
very comfortable with it and I said we're going to get one of those, we're
going to get a good return, I said we've just got to believe, and I told
our team at halftime, we are right where we want to be. Things hadn't been
going well, but you're down 21 10, you've got the ball coming out the second
half. You're in a very good position and you'll remember this because the
things you remember are the things that are hard. You don't remember the
things that come easy to you. You put them away, because you don't appreciate
them. Last night's win, you had to dig down and find out who you were and
that was going to be a win for our program, and I thought we were right
where we wanted to be if we just take the bull by the horns and go compete
in the game, and we did. But we felt we had a chance to pop one of those
With so much NFL talent on your roster, can you give us any insight
as to what next year's team might look like and how many of those conversations
you might have and what that process is? I think it's going to
look very similar to who you're seeing right now. I think there may be one
or two I've got to have serious conversations with, because we have to get
the right information, maybe three, but this team will be – this is
an extremely young football team. We only have three seniors on offense,
Chad Abrams, Bryan Stork and Kenny Shaw. That's the only seniors we have
there. Got a couple guys there that possibly could leave, maybe one, but
on defense you may have one, maybe two. Could be maybe three guys max, I
think, in the end of it when it really gets down to it. Those guys are having
a good time here and we have some great young players coming in behind those
guys. So I think this team will look very, very similar to the one you just
We've seen in other sports, particularly in baseball, that adding
another tier of playoffs adds to the uncertainty of a postseason. You having
been a part of some one versus two games and having won it last night, do
you see the two versus three and the one versus four semifinals as adding
more uncertainty and just opening it up even wider? I definitely
do, but here's the thing I think about this playoff we'd better be real
careful about. When I was a child, I remember who won the Sugar Bowl, who
won the Orange Bowl, who won the Cotton Bowl, who won the Rose Bowl. It
was a big deal to go. We act like that's not a big deal now. That's one
of the great things you have in college football. We're so involved in winning
a championship that we're forgetting the tradition and history of doing
things. And how many times was the BCS ever wrong? How many times did they
ever get it wrong at the end? And I'm all for – we've still got the
same problem. You're going to argue over who's four and five or who's two
and three. What's the difference? And you keep building these games. Now
you're playing 15 games. Now you're playing 16 games and then you want to
go play 17 games. Well, how many scholarships you got? You need to start
letting freshmen play, five for fives so you can have bodies for the attrition.
These guys don't get to go play in an NFL season. They don't get to go rehab
all day. They got school. They got study halls. They got things to do. Those
bodies at that age aren't developed like a man is, and they say, well, the
lower divisions do it. Well, I'm going to tell you something, just like
the NFL is a much more physical game than Division I football, Division
I football is significantly different than the 1 AA, Division II and Division
III. Those collisions aren't the same in size, speed guys that matter and
you'd better be careful what you're doing to these kids and how you're doing
things, and then how are we going to recruit? You keep putting playoff games
in there when are we going to ever recruit. If you start in December and
finish in the middle of January, when does recruiting season go? You've
got a lot of things that we'd better be careful in this playoff system before
we go crazy on it. I'm for it. Hey, playoffs if that's what you're going
to do we're going to line up and play them. But I just don't want to take
the true history and tradition of those bowl games – maybe you're
11 2, dadgum, that's a pretty good year. Now anymore, you act like somebody
should get fired. It's a little bit ridiculous.
Following up on that, I asked you Sunday about playing an extra
game after this one. What kind of shape, physical shape, are you in right
now? Could you go play? Actually we are very healthy. We came out
of that game, as physical as it was, we came out healthy. But again, you're
flying back, rehab, bodies, now they're going to school, now you've got
to fly back, start another semester, start the new semester, which is extremely
tough going in for a group of guys now the freshmen got to do that twice
in one year, whole new classroom, whole new thing. It's significant. There's
a lot going into this that is going to be factored to winning this thing.
It's going to be survival of the fittest, there's no doubt.
The punt decision, to actually do the reverse, not just the punt
call, what led to that particular call, because it looked like they were
actually in punt safe and you still managed to get it. And then secondly,
we noticed it in the second half, you brought the towels back out. Was that
a situation where you felt like maybe they were stealing signals?
They had a couple of our signals a couple times and were getting to them.
That happens, people do it, and that's our fault. You've got to change them,
constantly rotate them, being able to get them in different ways. That's
part of the game. I don't have a problem with that. But the reverse, we
though the misdirection they could get the flow and we thought the angle
on the backside and how they played the backside we could definitely get
the edge, especially with Carlos' speed and ability, and you put the ball
in his hands of one of your best playmakers in that situation, and we had
to change the momentum in the game. We were down 21 3. We had to get momentum.
Momentum is critical in football games. We talk about Xs and Os and all
that, but momentum, when you're 18 22, momentum and the whole psyche of
the whole situation is critical, and we had to change the momentum, and
we weren't doing it an offense, we weren't doing it on defense, so we had
to do it on special teams.
You've been a part of some great games as an assistant and as
a head coach. Would you say that was the best game you've been a part of?
It definitely ranks right there at the top, especially with the significance
of what it meant and the stage it was on. It definitely ranks right there
at the top, there's no doubt. That was a tremendous game by both teams.
Both teams competed very hard in the game and we were very fortunate and
very happy to come out on top.
What lessons will you take from being at LSU in '04 because it
seemed like Nick ended up that season so unhappy and he left. He
did. I mean, just that you've got to go back to ground zero and you can't
worry about expectations. You've got to play it. At that time we were breaking
in a new quarterback, too. That was part of the issue, too, you had a new
quarterback coming in that year. But I think that's the thing – once
expectations get so high, is to not let complacency set in. I'm going to
tell you, what kids do and what fans do, fans do, writers do, players do.
It's human nature, you take winning for granted. You take success for granted.
And how hard it is to grind and win football games. You can't lose that
edge. If you ever lose that edge, that chip on your shoulder, you're just
another team. I don't care how talented you are. This team has to go back,
get its own identity, get it's own leadership and develop that, and that's
going to be our challenge now. It's how hungry can you stay to be able to
do it over and over again, and that's going to be the challenge and our
mindset and that's going to be my temperament going in, to be able to set
that stage so we can do that and stay on top and be very competitive at
the top. Again, it's human nature to get complacent. Like I say, the relief
syndrome. I made an A on the test, I probably make an F on the next one
and I get a C, it's no big – if I get a D, I get a B. That's our nature
as humans, it's not too grind, it's not to push. That's why there is only
one champion at the end. And to me, I think it's another stepping stone
for our program and our organization and we have to take that next step
and I've got to set the tone for that from day one.
With the history of that FSU had to start the BCS making the
first three championship games, what does it mean to you to finish out the
BCS? It's kind of fitting to me because Florida State was –
like I say, I remember the SEC dominance for so long. The SEC couldn't get
in. I was in the SEC. They said we wasn't good enough. It was Miami and
Florida State every year. They had the teams. They were in it, the Nebraskas,
the Oklahomas. The SEC couldn't get in it. But I think it's very fitting
that Florida State come full circle back and like I say, maybe we don't
play in the SEC but we play in the south and we've got good football, and
Florida State, it's like the reckoning. Things are getting back in order
Jameis made a comment last night that you had thrown him out
of a recent practice during two minute drill you were so frustrated with
the way he was playing. It was the one right before we came here.
What was going on? I'm assuming you didn't really throw him out
of practice? Yes, I did. (Laughter.)
I did. I sent him to the locker room.
But the mindset which he had and the situation, understanding the gravity
of how important two minute is and the decisions you make and how you go
about your process, and the thing about two minute that you've got to be
careful of, it's not about you. You can get so involved that you're going
to win the game in two minutes. To me, the key to those is using all the
weapons around you and I think he did that in that game, and I think how
you manage the clock, how you manage the situation, you're not always playing
your opponent, you're playing the clock at the same time. It's number one,
the opponent is number two and the mindset you have to have going in, which
he had all year. I just saw it drifting. We had some points and he had some
points, so it's good to be the king. (Laughter.)
He'll be the king one day. When he's in pro ball he might have thrown
the coach out.
But the thing about it, though, and I say this, he waited for me to get
off the field and we had a long discussion and we had it out. He's an unbelievable
guy to be able to process and transition and go right back.
It was not – it was his passion for wanting to do something, it
was just a point I thought I needed to make to him at the present time as
a young guy, and like I say, sometimes you have to be their coach. You can't
be their friend. We'll be friends and respect later on, just like when you're
a parent sometimes. It's not your job to be your kid's friend, and that's
part of the problem in the world today. We want to be our kids' friends
and not be their parents and make them do what's right, because in the end,
so he can be on a stage like this and be able to do what he did in that
situation. He learned from it, he grew from it, and I grew from it. I grow
from those situations how I handle it every time with those guys, too. Wish
you didn't have to do it, but I think it just made our relationship that
much stronger and we understand each other that much more.