"Leadership, ball security, management of our systems offensively and also management of down and distance," Dickey said Thursday. "We've got to move on. Last year we had to learn plays. This year we have to learn how to be leaders, learn how to be managers of our systems play-wise and also of the game and make sure we are sound mechanically and fundamentally."
FSU head coach Bobby Bowden wasted little time following the Seminoles' national championship defeat to Oklahoma in 2001 to name Dickey to his staff to handle quarterbacks. In his first season last year, Dickey's work with freshman Chris Rix helped Rix earn the Atlantic Coast Conference's Rookie of the Year, the national Offensive Rookie of the Year and finish as the nation's eighth-rated passer.
While all that sounds dandy, Dickey stressed that Rix and reserve quarterbacks Adrain McPherson and Fabian Walker needed to make improvements during the offseason if FSU is to erase last year's 8-4 struggles. That accomplished, Dickey believes the group is progressing nicely as two-a-day practices continue in preparation for the team's initial scrimmage as well as its season-opener Aug. 24 against Iowa State.
Defensively, the Cyclones led the Big 12 in turnover margin last season, forcing 26 opponent mistakes. They also registered 18 interceptions, the program's best mark since 1976. ISU also has been able to keep opponents off the scoreboard with better consistency. IN 1997, a 1-10 Cyclone team allowed an average of 44.8 points per game. That number dropped to 21 points a game last season, its best effort since 1982.
"We are making progress," Dickey said.
"We are certainly a lot farther along at this point and time than we were last year obviously. A year behind us and everybody knows. ... we've got a good foundation of plays and protections and route trees and all that, which makes it a lot easier to coach on mechanics, fundamentals, reads and timings. That's kind of where we are at now, getting all the timing aspect of it and the mechanical aspect of being a sound quarterback."
While Rix remains the Seminoles' starter, Dickey acknowledged McPherson's improvements, saying, "those two are still right up there with on another and I think both of them are ready to play and are going to be really, really good quarterbacks." Walker, meanwhile, continues to learn the system after sitting out last season. True freshman Wyat Sexton is expected to be redshirted, while Matt Henshaw moved to tight end earlier this week.
Of course, all eyes are on Rix, the confident Californian.
Rix struggled with turnovers early last season. FSU didn't turn the ball over in its opening victories against Duke and Alabama-Birmingham, but Rix fumbled twice and threw an interception in the Seminoles' stunning 41-9 defeat at North Carolina. Against Miami two games later, the Hurricanes forced Rix into four interceptions and two fumbles and many wondered if Rix was the team's answer at quarterback.
In fact, through the first six games of the last season, Rix recorded just nine touchdowns. However, he found his rhythm in victories over Maryland and Clemson, throwing for 719 yards and nine scores. That helped set the tone for the remainder of the year, despite a pair of losses to N.C. State and Florida. McPherson, meanwhile, played in seven games in a reserve role as a freshman last season, completing 18 of 37 passes for 198 yards and two scores.
"Chris is playing with a lot of confidence," Dickey said. "Is throwing the ball very well. He has worked hard in the offseason on his mechanics and is a lot more consistent and has been really sharp. I think the same goes with Adrian, (he's) throwing the ball extremely well, both of them are. He has put in a lot of time.
"Fabian is still trying to catch up. He makes progress every day and is an extremely bright quarterback. He knows what his limitations are out there and knows how to take advantage of it by laying the ball off here and there. Wyatt Sexton is a young, good quarterback. He has to develop, he's got to get stronger, learn the offense but has the foundation and the skills to be a good quarterback before it's all over with. I am glad he's here.
"As far as Matt, he's excited about it (move to tight end). Eventually he will be able to help us a lot at tight end. The guy has been around football all of his life. He's got the instincts for the game. He will end up weighing 240 pounds before it's all over with - 6-4, he's going to be a nice player for us. But, overall, we are making progress. And we need to keep making progress."
And Saturday's scrimmage is an important step in that process.