"Last year, we weren't established on offense," tailback Greg Jones said. "We kind of knew what we could do, but we didn't know what everybody else could do. Now, we have all the pieces together -- and we're still working on it right now -- and I think Rix has got the confidence of everybody that he can do his thing."
Only a sophomore, the California native looks to be the next great FSU quarterback. Rix mixes tremendous athletic ability with size, strength and smarts. He solidified himself as the Seminoles' starter during spring drills despite coming off a tremendous freshman season, when he accounted for more yards of total offense (3,123) than any freshman in Atlantic Coast Conference history and was named the league's Freshman of the Year.
Accolades aside, Rix also believes he's better prepared to assume his role as a team leader this season. It's a responsibility that's earned, not given away for free.
"He looks more comfortable and that's understandable," junior receiver Anquan Boldin said. "To try to be a quarterback on a team like this, especially being a freshman, there aren't too many guys who are going to listen to you. But right now, he's earned their respect."
While Rix became the first freshman to start at quarterback in the Bobby Bowden era in Tally, he suffered noticeable growing pains, too. Rix struggled with turnovers and nearly lost his starter's role at one point. However, he settled down nicely to finish second in the league behind Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler in total offense. If that wasn't enough, Rix then held off the challenges of Adrian McPherson and Fabian Walker during spring drills.
Everyone seems sold on his merits.
Even so, the personable and polite Rix understands the best way to earn the respect of teammates is by winning. FSU, which opens its season in less than three weeks against Iowa State, is looking to erase last year's 8-4 struggles. The Seminoles were ranked No. 4 in the coaches' preseason poll released last week.
"I think it (leadership) will come with producing results," Rix said. "I am trying to command it rather than demand it and show it by producing better results that I have in the past and improving my game. I think the leadership will come with that. I don't think it's going to be so much as a rah-rah thing, but hey, let's go to work. And do my part. I can't speak for the rest of the guys but hopefully with the results and the wins and the progression they will come to see me more of a leader."
Senior tight guard Montrae Holland believes Rix better understands his role, thanks in large part to a year of experience.
"Last year Chris was very excited to be FSU's starting quarterback," Holland said. "This year, he has put in his work. You can tell he worked hard over the summer. Coming into practice, it seems like he's more poised. More comfortable. Being a freshman (last year), it's like you have to work to be star. You just can't become a star like that (snapping his finger). You have to work and you have to earn it and I think Chris has."
According to senior offensive lineman Brett Williams, Rix is actually a pretty funny dude off the field, too. Williams says a straight-faced Rix will hand out business cards identifying himself as FSU's starting quarterback - and then explode in laughter. Rix can also do a decent Arnold Schwartenegger impression, which he did for the media Sunday, and has been known to take his offensive linemen out for dinner.
"One thing I've noticed about all the guys on our team from California, they are all a little different from anybody else," Williams said.
"It took us a whole year to kind of understand his humor. After hanging out with him, he's hilarious. You got to get to know his personality. Last year I think we kind of mistaken him of being too cocky. Half the time he was just joking around. He kind of overwhelms you at first like, what is this guy talking about? We've gotten to know him a lot better this year from hanging out with him."
Rix also believes he is better prepared to lead the Seminoles this season -- either by example or a kick in the fanny.
"I tried really not to say too much last year," Rix said.
"Being around juniors and seniors and being a freshman, I just tried to concentrate on myself. I think as far as a leadership role, it helps having that year under my belt. It's not all about me now and everyone concerned what I can do. I can help my teammates do their job better rather than just focusing on myself, which is kind of what I did a lot last year. Sometimes people perceive that as not being a leader because you are supposed to look after everyone. That will come with more experience and now being more comfortable having a little more authority with a year under my belt. If something has to be said now in contrast to last year, it will be said."
Rix also understands that he will be judged on wins and losses. FSU has played in 11 consecutive January bowl games, playing for the national championship five times in that span. It goes without saying the Seminoles - Rix included - are eager to prove that last year was a fluke. Sure, the season ended in a January bowl -- the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
That's where Rix's confident approach comes into play. The signal caller said he worked hard in the offseason on his mechanics and passing accuracy. At least physically, he appears bigger and stronger. Rix also predicts subtle changes to the Seminoles' offense, which will be music to the ears of fans.
"I think they are going to add a couple twists and tweaks in there," Rix said. "Give me a little more freedom as far as audibles and making decisions at the line. I don't think it's going to be probably like Chris Weinke's senior year, but it will be different from last year. My goals this year? To be a consistent leader rather than having a great game one game and then a mediocre the next game. I would say just be consistent every game and make sure our offense is productive every week."
Chimed in senior receiver Talman Gardner: "Chris is going to be the guy, so let's get him together, let's go to work and let's get this."