Jimbo Fisher: Very excited to open the season. I think we're ready to play somebody else. I think we're tired of banging on each other. But we've had a very physical camp, a very good camp. For the most part, we're relatively healthy. I loved the guys' attitudes throughout camp. We've worked very hard, continued to get better, and a lot of our younger guys, you could see where some of their contributions could possibly be made and they're developing some depth for the rest of our unit. But I was very happy with the veterans and how they performed and how they conducted themselves throughout camp with their leadership and with their practice habits. Like I say, looking forward to this Saturday.
I know it was four years ago, but how much did you use this and how much can you get the attention of these kids by showing them what Louisiana-Monroe did to Alabama in 2007?
JF: We don't discuss that. I mean, we know that these things happen all the time. I mean, look at James Madison last year. It was a 1-AA. Look at App State a couple years ago at Michigan. Kids know about all those things, and I don't like dwelling on negative things. I don't like dwelling on anything that's happened in the past. I just like to concentrate on us playing the best we can play, and I don't ever go that way in how you prepare kids. Our kids know that everybody has got a good football team. They can look at the film last year, when they had Arkansas 7-0 at halftime and 14-0 in the third quarter and had opportunities in the game and did very well. From that standpoint, I think we just have to worry about ourselves and try to play the best we can play.
I'm wondering how much with what has gone on at the University of Miami in relation to the NCAA has been a lesson to you and your team. I know you have some South Florida kids. Have you spoken to your players about boosters and used what's happened at Miami as a way to approach the subject maybe?
JF: You know, before the Miami situation occurred, we always talked to our guys, and, like you say, you try to educate them in every way, shape and form about the pitfalls out there that go on in the world today and the way folks get to you. Sometimes it's innocently, and sometimes it's guys with a purpose. You don't ever know. That's something as a coach you constantly have to educate your kids and bring up to and just keep them aware of all the time. I mean, we can use Miami as an example right now, but we have done that way before the Miami situation.
Do you feel for Miami coach Al Golden walking into this his first year?
JF: I sure do. You don't want that to happen to anybody. We hope everything is okay, and, like I say, I don't know enough about the whole situation. Honestly, I haven't kept up with it because of us being in camp, and we're trying to get ready to play ULM. But I wish him nothing but the best.
Taking you back to your SEC days you coached in for a long time, it has five teams in the top 20 and won the last two national championships. What, from your historical purposes, and even contemporary, what makes that league so strong, especially that division, the way those teams have come on so strong?
JF: Well, I remember when I first got in it, probably the East was a little stronger than the West, and I think it just goes in cycles. I think they're in a good area where there's a lot of football players. Football is very important to those schools. They prioritize that. And then I think they've got some great coaches that have done a great job coaching, and then they have programs who financially back them, and then they're doing a good job recruiting. So from that standpoint, I think that makes it very tough.
By nature most head coaches are worried about something. I was wondering, what are you fretting about the most going into this season opener? What are the areas that you see that are just kind of nagging at you a little bit?
JF: I just think you always -- the consistency levels which you play with early. Some guys it's the first time they're getting on the field, how they handle all those situations. Just your organizational things, how you're organized on the sideline to your communication levels to not getting delay of games, you get penalty issues, guys subbing back and forth on offense, defense making sure you're getting your calls, communicate and don't bust calls. Just typical things. Punting game, are you very sound in your kicking game, making sure you have no mistakes, making sure you take care of the ball on offense, and then special teams. Just your normal things. And if you were a head coach for 30 years, you'd probably have the same ones 30 years from now.
You don't see any area of your team in particular that maybe concerns you any more than others?
Where you're unsure maybe of how they're going to perform?
JF: No, we really don't. We've got a lot of experience back across the board in most places. But you know, just always you go into that first game, how they all respond? If camp is an indication, we'll be very pleased. Until the lights come on on the scoreboard, we'll have to make sure, and that's a big thing. I think we've prepared well for the situation. Now we just have to go out and perform.
I'm working on a story about the place kickers in the ACC. We're going through a really amazing period of success. Last year, Dustin Hopkins had the longest field goal in the league, the most field goals in the league, and yet he's just one of seven or eight really outstanding kickers. Can you talk about him and evaluate just where he fits in this picture?
JF: Well, I think the one thing about Dustin is he's learning to be very consistent on his shorter field goals, which we feel very comfortable with. But then you have that tremendous range, if you have to win a game or hit a big one before a half or get some momentum. And then I think the other thing that separates him from most guys is his kickoffs. I think he's first or second in the nation in touchbacks. I think we talk about field-goal kicking so much, but also kickoff. If you're talking about field position and how your defense plays and what goes on when that team is starting at the 20 or behind the 20 because of deep kickoffs, I think it's a tremendous advantage. And I think that's where Dustin really, really excels on and beyond the field goals.
The really successful kickers in this league are an interesting mix of recruited guys and walk-ons that have won the position. I know some coaches don't like to waste scholarships on kickers. They feel they can find them as walk-ons and then give the scholarships then. What's your philosophy on that?
JF: I think every situation is different. I think by needs and who you're watching and who you're looking -- like Dustin, we scholarshipped him from the day out of high school. We thought he was going to be a very good one, and we were fortunate that it turned out that way. But I've been on both sides of that. I've had walk-on kickers come in and be tremendous players, and we've had scholarship kickers do it, and vice versa, where you couldn't find one and you've scholarshipped one and he didn't turn out quite as well. I think each individual situation when that occurs is different, and you have to address it that way.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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