"We should be an improved football team. We have so many things going for us this year that we didn't have going a year ago. Got your defense coming back practically intact. We have some depth on our defense, nearly every position has depth. Offensively, we are in great shape at running back. I think we are in good shape at quarterback. Your quarterback finally is a redshirt junior, which seems to be the starting mark at Florida State. And his backup is a redshirt junior also with a real promising freshman coming up behind him. Receivers, I feel real good about our receivers. They've been a pleasant of spring training and preseason practice. They've caught the ball better than I think we did last year. And they seem to be just as fast. We had a couple kids redshirted last year that kind of give us a different (look) to our receivers, Chris Davis and (Chauncey) Stovall. Tight ends, we finally have tight ends who can catch the ball a little bit. We ain't going to throw to them but they can catch ‘em (laughing). Tell their mothers they can catch it well. We still ain't going to throw to them. No, I hope we can throw it to them more this year.
"So, the question is the offensive line. We do not have the experience that we had a year ago. They are talented. There's about three of them that will start who started games last year that wouldn't have except for injuries. So, it's not like they haven't played before. I think a real big key will be staying healthy on the offensive line. I feel like we have depth everywhere else. But not there boy. If we lose a couple of those linemen, you are talking about pure freshmen stepping in there.
"Xavier (Beita) has come back about 10 pounds lighter. He seems to be kicking it further. He feels like he has a little more pop to the ball and it looks like it. I've been watching out there in practice. Then Chris Hall would punt for us today. Jessie Stein will be backing him up. Chris Hall can be the answer if he can handle the heat. We will see how he does under pressure. He's a good punter if he can handle that.
"The schedule is very tough, challenging. As long as we are healthy, I don't care. What you hope don't happen is you start get injuries, injuries, injuries, then schedule gets tougher, tougher, tougher. That's where you get hurt. I hope we can stay healthy."
Where do you see Chris Rix better on the field?
"I think experience is probably the big thing. You look at the history of Florida State since I've been here, you don't start until you are a redshirt junior. Here's a guy who has 20 starts under his belt and he's a redshirt junior. Now he has reached the maturity (level) where he's supposed to produce. I will be shocked if he don't."
What do you think about being ranked 12th in the AP poll?
"We've been ranked so high the last few years and now you are down there. It's different. It don't make no difference. You still have to play the schedule. It's not like you're out of sight and can't work your way up. I've seen some people start so low and go undefeated and still couldn't reach the first spot like West Virginia, for instance. At least if you are 11th, 12th or 15th, in there… if you are playing bad opponents, then it's hard to move up. The people we are playing, if we win we will come right up on top."
You're players say they are more optimistic…
"What makes you say I am optimistic, I have not tried to be. We are going to be a better football team. I purposely have not tried to be real optimistic because I feel like I have in the past, and we haven't lived up to it. I feel like now we are at the point where we need to go prove something before we start talking about how good we are."
The receivers say they are on a mission against dropped passes this year.
"It hurt us bad (last year). We dropped 35 passes. I just wonder how we would have done against Notre Dame if we don't drop those four in the first half. I can not understand. I can't remember a team of ours doing that. I am talking about good receivers, not some rookie out there in his first year. Yeah, they killed us. We could have caught one against Georgia it could have hurt them. If we could have caught one against N.C. State, you can't catch a ball you can't win."
Were those breakdowns more mental or physical?
"You know I don't know what it is. I guess it's a happening. It just happens. When you coach as many years as I have, there are some years where you couldn't catch the football. And them some years it's ‘Why did you fumble so much?' Then some years, ‘Why didn't you fumble?' And ‘Why didn't you drop passes?' I think that stuff kind of just goes in cycles. It just seemed like it was our year to drop balls."
Talk about what you want to accomplish behind your Unity Council?
"Unity Council is something I've done in the past but not lately. Down through the years of coaching, 50 years, there have been several times where I have gathered a certain group of guys together and said we are going to meet so often, we are going to talk about what we need to do. You all let me know what you all think we need to do better. I will let you know what I think. All we are doing is renewing something we haven't done in probably 10 years. That's have a council -- you can call it what ever you want to. We call it the Unity Council because unity was such a big objective on our calendar this year with our squad. Talking unity, unity, unity, unity. One of the television people I was interviewed by a few minutes ago said something like this and I corrected him. ‘Since your team last year was divided…' Our team wasn't divided. We had a couple of guys who wanted that quarterback. And a couple of guys who wanted that quarterback. And probably 80 percent didn't give a darn. It ain't like the team is divided. But we had just enough to disrupt. That's the kind of thing we don't want to happen. That's why we are talking about unity. But it ain't like your whole team is split down the middle. It don't work that way."
Michael Boulware talked about some of the meetings you have had. He talked about the music during pregame warmup. What impact has it meant in getting input from the players?
"What was that music? In pregame warmup? (Jock Jam). I don't even know what is. We are going to have to call another meeting, I can see that right now (laughing). But that's why you have it. There's too many things… I say too many, here I go exaggerating again like you all do (laughter). But there were things last year that happened that I wasn't aware of until after it happened. If some of the kids would have come and said, ‘Coach we have a little problem.' Then I can solve it. That's what the Unity Council is trying to do. If you have a couple kids that can't get along, tell me so I can get it straightened out. That's the reason of it. Some of it went on last year. I didn't know it and I don't think the coaches realized it until after it was damaging."
Some players said not everybody liked Chris Weinke when he was here, but everybody respected. Is that what you are looking for in regard to Chris Rix?
"I think respect has to be there. And you don't have to like your quarterback. You don't have to like him, but respect has to be there. And I think he will have that this year. Here's the thing is the way I see it. Somebody might say Chris Rix is not a leader. Yes he is. He has been a leader ever since he's been here. He's a natural born leader. It's just a senior is not going to listen to a freshman. So, he gets in the huddle and jumps on somebody about doing something wrong, and he did that. You think a senior is going to listen to that. So, he's a leader where it wasn't time for him to be a leader. Chris you need to go ahead and be quiet. One of these days you will be old enough to be a leader. Well, he has reached that point now. Now he can use that leadership quality. I think the kids recognize it and I think they will respond. But again, earlier in his career is where his leadership probably worked against him. It would have been better if he had just taken the team and been quiet."
Does he have that respect from the team?
"I think so. Now, when he's in the huddle, it's Mr. Mr. Rix in there. He's not a little ol' freshman. Just because he's older than most of them now."
What is the biggest change in Chris physically and mentally from last year?
"Well, mentally he is getting smarter about what he's doing. The thing that we were so upset with him for, when we took him out, it wasn't so much A.D. (Adrian McPherson), it was him fumbling that football three times or throwing a couple of interceptions. But those fumbles, when we told him to hit the ground when he got around contact. I don't want you to run into people. They will knock that ball out of your hands. Well, he lost two that day. So, I think he's learning that. That's another thing where is great skill of running worked against him because he runs and didn't protect the ball. So, he should be a lot better in that area now."
Are you encouraging him not to run?
"What you try to do is get him to run at the right time. Run at the right time because you can run at the wrong time. You can come out of the pocket too quickly and you had a guy open. So, run at the right time. That's one thing. The other is to protect the ball once you get downfield. He's a reckless, wild, physical, tough guy. He's not a baby, he's not a sissy, he's not scared. That works against you too sometimes."
He said he has watched the Florida film about 10 times. It was probably one of his best all-around games.
"That's probably the best game since he's been starting I guess. I haven't thought about comparing it with other games. But that has to be one of his best games. Florida is a pretty darn good football team. He led us to victory."
Has he gotten better find his secondary receivers?
"I think that comes with age. Chris Weinke wasn't as good his sophomore year as he was his junior year. Wasn't as good his junior year as he was senior year. And Chris (Rix) wasn't as good his freshman year as his sophomore year. And he wasn't as good his sophomore year as he is going to be this year. And he's going to be better than that next year. So, just on a progress scale, he's going to be better picking up his secondary receiver."
How much will the running game help in that regard?
"It will take it (pressure) off good if we can block. If we don't block, those runners aren't worth two cents. I just told them that the other day. I made the offensive line stand up right in front of the whole squad. I said, ‘See them guys right there?' You all aren't worth a darn without them guys right there. And that's true. If they don't block, them guys can't run. The quarterback can't throw if they can't protect him. Guys here can't catch the ball if you can't protect the quarterback. Are we going to run more? Are we going to run better? Yeah, we are sure going to try to. But that's really dominated by the front. But we have some doggone good runners."
How has the line been progressing?
"They are progressing but they have more room to progress than anyone on the team. Of course, they are the most inexperienced part of our football team. But they have some talent. It's not like their not talented. It's just their not as experienced as last year's offensive line. And the depth is not very good. We have people but you are talking about pure freshmen coming out of high school as backups. You say, ‘Why did you get in that fix?' Everybody else has got the same problem. You are only allowed to sign but 85 guys nowadays. If you have 70 out there that means you can't sign but 15 guys. So you might not have got enough at one position that you would like or have the experience."
Speaking of heralded freshmen, what have you seen from Ernie Sims?
"I can see why he's one of the best. I have visions of Derrick Brooks, about 20 pounds bigger. He looks like the real deal. He and Cromartie both. He (Sims) happens to be at one of our strongest positions. You have your three starters back at linebacker from last year. Then you got three kids behind them that are doggone good. That's where our depth comes in. And yet he looks so good, it's hard for me to think he's not going to play somehow. I know I want him on special teams. I want him going down on kickoffs and punts. Things like that. I don't know what's going to happen after that. You have to keep Booker in mind. Booker was one of the best runners in the country and we redshirted him last year."