TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The fourth-ranked Florida State football team, off to its best start since 2005, returned to the practice field Tuesday with every intention of maintaining that momentum Saturday against USF at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
The Seminoles (4-0), who became just the third team since 1946 to open the season by scoring 49 or more points in their first four games, square off against Skip Holtz’s Bulls (2-2) in a 6 p.m. game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. It is not only the first meeting between the programs since USF stunned the ‘Noles 17-7 in 2009 at Doak Campbell Stadium, but also the first time an FSU team has faced an in-state opponent – other than annual rivals Florida and Miami – on the road since defeating the University of Tampa in 1959.
After Saturday’s late night win over No. 10 Clemson, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher decided to give his team some recovery time on Monday and limited the Seminoles to meetings and walk-throughs. Tuesday marked a return to the normal routine for a game that he considers very important.
“We were a little stiff in the beginning, but really got going and I thought had a really good practice,” Fisher said. “They were very attentive to detail; a very efficient practice.”
Fisher was the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator the last time the two teams met and said both programs have undergone changes. Jim Leavitt was replaced as the Bulls’ coach by Holtz and Fisher took over the following season for legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden.
“It’s a totally different situation as far as where we’re at,” Fisher said. “I don’t know enough about them. They’ve still got great players. [USF] had six or seven of those guys on that defense that are in the NFL. They had some high draft picks. … Our program is in a different situation. We’re in a different culture and mentality. I like where we’re at.”
He also expects his Seminoles to be tested in their first road game of the season, in front of an in-state crowd he hopes will include quite a few garnet & gold-clad fans.
“It is good because we have a lot of fans and hopefully we get a lot of Florida State people in there,” Fisher said. “For some of kids, they get a chance to player closer to home, and that’s not a bad thing. Still, the people on the other side are going to be just as mean. It’s going to be a very tough environment.”
· Junior wide receiver Jarred Haggins, who missed Saturday’s game against Clemson, was back at practice Tuesday and is expected to play at USF, which is near his hometown of Lakeland.
· Running back Devonta Freeman, who played sparingly and only on special teams against the Tigers following the death of his brother, was praised by Fisher for having one of his strongest practice’s.
· Fisher said the preseason decision to move quarterbacks coach/recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig from the press box to the sideline this season has been beneficial to the communication with EJ Manuel and the other quarterbacks, largely because it allows for face-to-face contact.