Chatting with John Lilly

Florida State recruiting coordinator John Lilly has been pleased with the Seminoles' spring effort thus far. In the first installment of this two-part series, Lilly hits on a number of subjects, from team chemistry, to the play of his tight ends to changes in recruiting with the addition of coach Kevin Steele. "I think he is an excellent recruiter. His track record speaks for itself on that," Lilly said of Steele. Click here for much, much more.

Editor's Note: John Lilly was a guest on The Sports Authorities Monday afternoon. The weekly radio show on WTAL 1450 AM is co-hosted by Jim Henry of the Territory and Steve Ellis of the Tallahassee Democrat.

It seems everyone is upbeat about what's happening this spring.

"I think so. Obviously, we feel like we got an awful lot done probably the first nine practices or so and then we kind of got down in bodies just a little bit the last couple of times out, which has probably restricted the number of plays we've been able to get in and the number of things we've been able to do. I think we are very excited about the progress we've made."

Talk about the tight ends.

"The key thing is they all want to be good. They all want to get better, and that has been a lot of fun to work with those guys this spring. Obviously, with the position open with Patrick Hughes graduating, they are out there competing and trying to see who is gonna be the starter. The one thing with that is they all do different things well right now and you are kind of looking for who is going to be the guy who does the most things well as far as who is going to get the majority of the playing time. But it has been nice to see them get the opportunity to catch the football and to see themselves involved a little bit in that aspect of the offense and I have been very encouraged with what they've done."

Coach Bowden really seems to be set on the idea of wanting the tight ends a part of the offense.

"I think so. I don't know we've talked as much about it but I think we are even trying to get the fullbacks involved a little bit more in the passing game. I think anytime when all of your weapons are viable options in the passing game, it just makes you that much more difficult to defend. And certainly been very guilty of times throwing only to the wideouts, only to the tailbacks, whatever the case may be, and you want to be able to throw to everybody. I have even seen a lot of B.J. Dean, who may have as high as a percentage as far as catching the ball as anybody we've got that we've thrown it to this spring. Of course, you have Torrance Washington and James Coleman, guys like that at fullback, who have caught some passes. They may have caught more than the tight end, to be honest with you. But I think we are really trying to get everyone involved in that aspect of it."

James Coleman is a walk-on from Florida High who has had a lot of opportunities this spring.

"We laugh about it a little bit - and I don't know the story has kind of gotten lost at times. I think James' first play ever at Florida State University may have been against Miami last year in the Orange Bowl as a true freshman who had walked on. He ended up in a set where we split him out - he looked like a wide receiver in terms of his alignment - and they sent a linebacker out there to cover him. To put a guy in a game like that and that being his first action obviously tells you a little bit about of what we think of him and his potential. He has been really.... I don't want to say a surprise of the spring but a guy that has stood out this spring with the job description of the fullback has, he has answered the bell everytime we've asked him to, be it as a receiver or a ball carrier or certainly his No. 1 job, as a blocker."

Talk about the offensive line, which obviously is a huge spring question mark.

"It probably became more of a question mark when you start looking at. ... Ray Willis I don't think has played a scrimmage play this spring and won't but he's a little bit more of a proven commodity if there is such a thing on our offensive line right now. Alex Barron has been banged up a little bit. Those are the two that would probably be penciled in as starters if we were playing tomorrow and they really have missed a lot of the spring. And you have guys who got some experience last year in Bobby Meeks, Matt Heinz and David Castillo. They've missed a little time, Bobby especially this spring. That has created a situation where we've had to move some other guys around. A guy like Cory Niblock who had played guard in the fall when he redshirted. He has played tackle for us most of the spring. Matt Meinrod has been our split guard throughout the spring. Matt Heinz has actually played some center and also some split guard though he had played on the tight side. Eric Broe had always been a tackle and he has had to play tight guard. We've had to move some guys around and right now we basically have five offensive linemen, give or take one substitute or two substitutes every day depending upon the schedule and who's healthy. So, the ones who have been out there have certainly gotten a lot of work. Now has that answered any questions? I don't know if we will really know how strong the unit is until we get them all out there healthy and that may not be, in full, until that first ballgame."

Going back to the involvement of the tight ends and the fullback, does this also reflect on the progress Chris Rix is making?

"I think that's a good question. I almost said something about that a minute ago. You don't want to go too overboard about anything like that but I think the biggest thing on Chris right now is he's at that stage of his career where so many other great Florida State quarterbacks actually made their first start. He's already been through so much more than most of those guys had when it came time for them to answer the bell that you hope he has gotten to that point. I feel there have been a couple of scrimmages this spring where it certainly looks like he has. He has used all of his options. He has been smart about when to throw the ball, when to tuck it and run. He has gotten us in the right plays at times when we've put that on his shoulders. You certainly hope that's the case and I think there is something to that probably in terms of understanding the whole offense well enough to be able not to have to lock on one guy or just have a play called where it's this guy or nobody. Where we give him a chance to survey the field a little bit."

Talk about this team's chemistry.

"It's something you are always monitoring and always trying to keep an eye on it and it's probably as important as anything that we are doing right now just because the way we look at maybe the way some thins have broken down the last couple of years in that department. That's sometimes (happens) when you are not winning as much as you had. I think we've seen some real positive things. I am going to be very hesitant to name names even though I have several in mind at the risk of leaving somebody out. I think there have been some tremendous leaders. As far as our team, I think our team has come together in trying to be just that - a team. That's going to continue to develop. I personally feel like that it's probably as important as a time than any a team goes through all year - from your spring game until you report in two-a-days in August. That's a four-month period usually where you are either getting better or worse. You probably not going to stay the same. And that's not only in an individual abilities, that's coming together as a team and as a unit and everybody doing the things you have to do to accomplish your goals."

Kevin Steele has been a key addition to the staff. Talk about the recruiting aspect surrounding his hire.

"I think he is an excellent recruiter. His track record speaks for itself on that. He replaces somebody who we thought was an excellent recruiter in Joe Kines, and he replaced somebody who was a great recruiter in Chuck Amato. We have been very fortunate in that position to obviously get guys in who have been able to do the things out on the road that need to be done. To form those relationships that you have to have in order to get great players because regardless of how well you coach, if you don't have the right guys to coach you are probably not going to win a lot of games or have a lot of fun doing it. I think his track record speaks for itself and I know he's looking forward to getting out on the road when we go out in about three weeks."

Talk about the recruiting areas now that coach Steele has been added. Have there been any changes?

"A little bit. One thing we are always trying to do is during the season, everybody knows about coach Bowden's meetings with the offensive staff and we're basically going over every possibility and things that can happen during a game. That's something coach Bowden is very serious about. In recruiting, at times, winning is more important than anything else so you don't want to make sure you don't short anything as far as an opportunity to win a game. That being said, coach Bowden always wants Jeff Bowden, Daryl Dickey and Jimmy Heggins to all be at that meeting on Friday - I don't know what that says about myself and Billy Sexton (laughing) but he definitely wants those guys there. I think what we've tried to do, one move we've made, is to try to make it much easier on coach Heggins to be at those meetings and at the same time be in his recruiting area as much as he can. So we've moved him into the area that coach Kines had in Jacksonville, that area, because it does get him a little closer. He can still get to Jacksonville and see games or if we wanted to work it where he was in Jacksonville in the day and we meet at night up in Thomasville (Ga.), we can always do that a lot easier than we could when he was in South Florida. With that being said, we extended Odell Haggins down into some of South Florida and then gave coach Steele some of South Florida as well. In addition to South Florida, he has Texas and South Carolina. He's very experienced in Texas and he was raised in South Carolina, so it was kind of a natural fit. The South Carolina frees Billy Sexton to do a little bit more in Georgia as well as his Florida area. Texas, I had been doing a little bit out there and coach Gladden had done a great job out there for many, many years. I think this gives us again somebody who is very familiar with the terrain and the people who live in the state of Texas. We feel like this (system) will (work). It frees everybody up to do a more thorough job with everything they have on their plate. Sometimes you are trying to juggle hours and being able to be places and doing the things you need you do. I think it does that. When coach Richt was here, he had the local area and Jeff has that area now. And coach Dickey has the Tampa area. It might be a little of a reach at times but we've been able to work through that the last couple of years and still be efficient there and still be in those meetings. I think it's going to work out very well for us."


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