New coach, new season, new expectations.
Hope is running rampant in Tallahassee this year for a return to the glory years when the Seminoles finished in the top five of the AP Poll for 14 straight years from 1987-2000 and won two national championships.
Of course, at this time of year, everyone's hopeful, because everyone's still undefeated. Fans envision another Seminole national championship celebration. Players are spending hours studying the tendencies and personnel of their upcoming opponents. Coaches, well, coaches by nature refuse to ever buy into the hype, at least publicly.
This year, the enthusiasm is well-deserved for all associated with FSU. Take Jimbo Fisher.
Critics are quick to cite his lack of head coaching experience. To me, that's a non issue. He possesses all of the traits necessary for success - leadership, organization and commanding of respect. He is well-respected across the sport for his ability to game plan and was unafraid to institute a new approach for the team, which included a revamped offseason program.
Coach Fisher was also smart enough to build a coaching staff that includes some of the top minds and recruiters in the game. The recent commitment of the nation's top recruit, James Wilder, to FSU is just one example of the success they are having in that area.
Then you have Christian Ponder. The subject of countless media features thanks, in part, to FSU's push to make him a Heisman candidate, Ponder faces some daunting challenges this year. He's an extremely talented, intelligent and hard-working player, but the full weight of pressure typically falls on the quarterback. I am confident he is the right guy to be able to handle the demands which will be placed on his shoulders.
During the 1999 National Championship season, I set a firm schedule for when I could address any media requests or else I would have been completely consumed. At one point, I was getting 10 or 20 requests for my time per day that were completely outside of my athletic and academic responsibilities.
The biggest thing for him to remember is to never lose sight of how much fun college football is and to enjoy the ride this year.
As for the team, offseason preparation will serve as one of the biggest factors for the success of the season. To use the 1999 team as a comparison, we had the perfect combination of leaders and talented players - Peter Warrick, Ron Dugans, Travis Minor, Tommy Polley, Tay Cody, Corey Simon, Brian Allen just to name a few. Then you had Sebastian Janikowski, who kept everyone loose.
I'll never forget the offseason, and the dedication and energy of every player. We had one goal - a National Championship.
Whether that's a reachable goal for this year's team is yet to be seen. The 'Noles face a daunting schedule with a new coach standing on the sidelines under the still-gigantic shadow of the legendary Bobby Bowden.
And I couldn't be more excited.
- The offensive line could serve as the key to the season. Experienced and talented, if the line can keep Ponder upright and open some holes in the running game, the offense has the potential to put some serious points on the board.
- I've been asked often what I think of schools doing a preseason Heisman push, most notably as FSU has done for Ponder and Washington for Jake Locker. It's a nice gesture, but the award is won on the field. It creates awareness and gives people from around the country a chance to get to know players on a more personal level, but at the end of the day, a player has to perform.
- My Heisman favorites? Unlike last year with Bradford, McCoy and Tebow, there's no true favorite this year. Check back after Week 1 for my top five.
- Luckily, the Seminoles play UF and Clemson at home. The Swamp and Death Valley are definitely the loudest stadiums in terms of trying to run an offense. At Clemson, the fans are right on top of you. Fans have said some unbelievable things to me, but none are printable. You just try to block them out, but you hear them when you're on the bench. That's one of the toughest things as a player. You have to able to not allow that to affect you or how you play the game. I'm sure Ponder has and will continue to hear anything and everything from fans, but he has to ignore it.