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In the Pitt: Q&A with Florida State blog Tomahawk Nation


In case you missed it, I answered some questions for SB Nation's Florida State blog, Tomahawk Nation this week. Dylan over there took some time out answered some I had for him in preparation for the big Pitt-FSU game.

Here are my questions with his answers.

Pitt fans realize that the university brings a good deal to the ACC - a sizable market, a football program with very solid tradition, a top 25 basketball program, and a top 25 public university. Still, I'm always curious to hear the perception among the current members and I generally get a mix of answers. What did Florida State fans have to say about the addition of Pitt to the conference?

I think the general consensus from our fans was that the addition of Pitt was looked upon more favorably than that of Syracuse. I went back and read our thread from when this was announced in 2011 and it seemed like ages ago. We were really freaking out at the time because this was at the point where it seemed like everyone was up for grabs and it was going to be a mad dash to get into a "super conference" that was viable in terms of providing the revenue needed to keep up in the CFB arms race. The perception of our fans was that Pitt and Syracuse were both basketball schools first, which worried us. Basketball revenue is utterly dwarfed by football, and FSU competes for talent in a region with SEC schools that can easily outspend Florida State (see Bama’s waterfall locker room deal). For us, the concerns are the money first and foremost.

The signing of the Grant of Rights quelled the fears of conference realignment for a good while. I’m personally glad to have Pitt, now. I think the ACC has added a solid program that will operate in the top half of its division. As I’m sure you all know, the Conference has been smacked around in OOC games for years now, and its perception is much lower than it needs to be. Hopefully Paul Chryst can get Pitt to a high level very soon for the good of the league, but then again hopefully not TOO quick. Ya know, for us.

This isn't a slight at the program (particularly since Pitt has had their own share of off-field issues), so it definitely shouldn't be taken as such. However, Florida State has had a few NCAA violations over the years including the Free Shoes University deal in the 1990s and the big academic scandal a few years back. Do fans even care about that type of stuff if it doesn't affect current operations? The program was forced to vacate wins, but that hardly seems like it matters to anyone. I guess another way of saying it is, do Florida State's fans lose sleep over the fact that the program hasn't been squeaky clean or do they look around at other programs with similar issues and figure that's the cost of doing business?

Well, I don’t think anybody’s ever happy to have those kinds of events associated with a program. It’s embarrassing and we’d much prefer to promote an image of high character in the athletic department. But frankly, operating in a state with Florida and Miami as the two main rivals helps. I don’t think anyone would say that the perception of FSU’s program is less sterling than either, not to mention frequently competing with recruits with programs like Auburn. Not to say it’s completely relevant, but it’s important. Personally, I don’t care about misconduct in the 90’s with the free shoes stuff. I think the scandal was embarrassing, but I didn’t and don’t lose sleep over it. We talk about it a good amount, and I think Spencer at EDSBS does it particularly well, but college football itself is a ridiculous institution that’s built on all these contradictions (mostly amateurism). There are only shades of gray in this world. These are 18-22 year old kids, many of whom wouldn’t sniff college without their athletic ability, and they’re making millions of dollars of which they’ll never see a dime. It’s honestly preposterous. But I can say that and still love college football with every fiber of my being. I want Florida State to run a first rate athletic program consistent with the highest values it preaches, but I won’t hold my breath for a century-long run without off-field issues.

Most annoying fans in the ACC?

Miami. These people, y’all. Every internet stereotype you’ve heard about the "5 rAngZ Yo" crowd is absolutely correct, and I know you’ve dealt with them before. I mean, look at this guy:

To give you an answer with which you don’t have as much experience, though, I’ll say our budding rivals Clemson. We think they have an inflated sense of superiority when discussing all their success during FSU’s lost decade despite paling in comparison to the ‘Noles in terms of titles. Also they claimed an Atlantic Division Championship in their stadium from last year when they had the same conference record and lost head to head, not even making it to Charlotte. For real. It’s got an asterisk next to it in Death Valley.

I've always admired Bobby Bowden and think he was a pretty straight shooter over the years. I know it's been a few years now, but what did Florida State fans think of how his whole exit went down?

Those opinions will vary widely within the fan base. Tomahawk Nation was among the first and loudest voices calling for the end of the Bowden regime. The game had clearly passed him by, and he had brought the program down for years with out-and-out nepotism. When pressure for his exit came, he and his family only dug in deeper. It got ugly. The loss to USF at home in ’09 was really the end, not helped by the press conference afterwards in which he looked completely lost.

I don’t think any FSU fans were happy with the way it ended. It was truly sad, and not the way you want your iconic coach to end his career. We were happy THAT it ended, but embarrassed by the way Florida State handled the actual event, in which they sent out two football players to talk to the media about it while the Athletic Director hid inside his office. We’re happy that Bobby has agreed to a deal that will have him come back in a fundraising capacity for FSU this season, and he’ll make his return to Doak Campbell this fall.

Florida State enters this game as a solid favorite. Still, on the road with a freshman at quarterback and in what should be a hostile atmosphere on the road, what's the level of concern among most fans?

There’s a definite concern. Frankly, it’s hard to know what this team will look like. We’ve got a new, RS Freshman quarterback with all the ability in the world, but a definite propensity to try to push things too far. The offense should feature a strong running game with some quality wideouts, albeit with some depth concerns among the latter. The defense is undergoing a big schematic change under Jeremy Pruitt and there will be growing pains. The players are uber-talented, but there will be mistakes. We have a freshman kicker who is again talented, but Heinz isn’t an easy place to kick. There are a lot of factors that scare us here, not the least of which being that under Jimbo Fisher we’ve taken to calling being favored by 10-17 points the "danger zone."

The Seminoles had a lot of turnover from one of the best defenses in the nation last season. Florida State recruits very well, so it's rarely a true rebuilding situation, but there's got to be at least a small level of uncertainty surrounding that unit, right?

Yes indeed. It isn’t really the loss of talented players that scares us, it’s more the shift in philosophy. Pruitt’s pattern-matching, Alabama-style defense is markedly different from anything FSU played under Mark Stoops over the last three years. The Seminole secondary is absolutely loaded, the linebackers are very good, and the defensive tackles are studs. The defensive ends do worry us a bit because of depth. But, again, we don’t know what exactly they’ll look like on Monday. The depth chart that Fisher released has a base 3-4 & 5-2 look. We’re going to have a lot of fun breaking down the film on what was going on in game action starting on Tuesday. Still, the talent is such that we hope many transitional issues can be overcome.

What are some of the names we'll be hearing a lot of from the PA announcer on Monday?

On offense, I’ll start with #80 Rashad Greene. He is an excellent wide receiver and the clear cut number one target for Jameis. The backfield combination of #8 Devonta Freeman and #32 James Wilder Jr. should be heard from early and often as the ‘Noles try to run behind their excellent offensive line and protect Winston. On defense I’ll say #1 Tyler Hunter, who is a playmaker in the secondary, along with linebacker #22 Telvin Smith who seems to be everywhere, and #8 Timmy Jernigan who is a beast of a nose tackle. On kick return make sure you look for #9 Karlos Williams, who will return kicks running a 4.4-4.5 at 230 pounds. It is terrifying.

What are the best position units for the Seminoles on offense and defense?

On offense it’s a tie between the backs and the offensive line. Both are very talented and experienced, but both have some depth concerns. Wilder and Freeman are excellent, and young guns Mario Pender and Ryan Green bring a lot of speed to the table and will be flexed out wide situationally. The line returns all starters from last year’s efficient group with the exception of Bobby Hart at right tackle, who will be the focal point of observation for us. This combination means the run game should be very strong in 2013.

On defense it’s the secondary, though the defensive tackle group gives them a run. There are a lot of NFL guys back there, from Lamarcus Joyner, to Tyler Hunter, to PJ Williams. The size, speed, and general football ability is remarkable. I expect them to do a lot of different things as far as movement, coverages, and blitzes are concerned. There are hybrid corner and safety types there, and I expect Pruitt to utilize them as such.

Florida State is clearly expected to win, but if Pitt is going to pull an upset on Monday, how will they do it?

If Pitt wins, they’ll have taken advantage of several Jameis Winston freshman mistakes and have held up extremely well against the run. This is not an unreasonable proposition because the ‘Noles have one functioning tight end, and he is not an in-line blocker. I expect the Panthers to force Jameis to make plays and concentrate on stopping the FSU run game.

Pitt will also effectively run the ball at Florida State’s defensive ends and will likely have hit a big play or two over the top. They will have won the turnover battle, and they will need to tip their caps to the home crowd for a job well done. And also maybe thank the Heinz Field turf and win dynamics for a missed kick or two by freshman Roberto Aguayo. Again, this isn’t far-fetched, and that’s why the line sits at a mere ten or so.

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