Today marked the beginning of the end of the football offseason as we inch closer and closer to the first game of the year against the Hilltoppers. The focus of today’s press conference was the pending decision that has to be made at quarterback, the incoming freshmen and their expectations, and catching up on the team’s improvements over the sumer.
To begin, Stoops talked about the excitement he felt knowing that practice was about to start:
“It’s been a good summer. Really enjoyed this summer’s meetings. Excited about the newcomers…Lot of excitement in the air, players look good, excited to get going today.”
Stoops announced that Alvonte Bell and Justin Day did not make the team and that the coaching staff will be working with Bell to “help him get to another place.” Freshmen were the topic of conversation early on, and when asked about them, Stoops admitted that they would be of help to his newly inherited team:
“I would anticipate we certainly need them, they make us better right away. We’ll see who jumps out at us right away. Im excited to see them.”
Stoops was asked about being a first time head coach and the patience that comes with that, along with letting the returning guys from the previous coaching staff know that they are his guys now. On that issue, Stoops had this to say:
“Well it’s just about trust and only way you build trust is you earn it by the work that we do and the relaionships we build. We’re not done yet and were not perfect but we’ll get closer as camp goes on.”
On the topic of being patient with his young team:
“Oh yeah, daily. It’s hard but you know we preach that to the players and it’s true. We’re gonna build this program brick by brick. We have to lay the foundation and do our work each and every day; go to work every day and give a honest day’s work and we expect our players to do the same thing.”
On the defensive mindset of his team and the issue of producing more turnovers:
“Better have some toughness about us. Better play hard. Very important to play hard. Doesn’t take talent to play hard and relentless. You put that together and you will do good things…(on turnovers)you have to emphasize it. I’ve been on both ends of that, defenses wtih all kinds of turnovers and sometimes it doesnt go your way. Bottom line is you have to emphasize it and practice it and we will do whatever is necessary.”
Finally and inevitably, Stoops talked about the QB competition and how it will be handled going forward. Stoops talked about what he is looking for in his QBs after a summer of improvement:
“Managing the offense, being in command of that huddle and operation (and the) speed in which we do things and oviously leadership.”
On what has held back each QB as they compete for the starting job:
“To this point it’s been just an understanding (of the offense) because everything was new to them. Getting the ball out quicker and fundamentally, the scheme. It will be interesting to see who progressed through the summer. They had quite a bit on their plate the first 15 practices so you can understand why I would be hesitant to name a starter.“
Before he left, Stoops talked about the positivity around this program and the expectations of the fans going into this season:
“(on positivity) Proud of our guys, but we’ve not been perfect by any stretch. With 105 guys we’re not going to be perfect but there has been a positive buzz and I think our guys feel that. They feel the support throughout the state and they’re excited; they want go out there and produce.”
“(on fan expectations) I think w’ere all excited, I want the fans excited about what we’re doing. I want the fans excited about the hard work these players have done. I’ve said that before; most people understand where we are at as a program and where we can get to. We have a lot of work to do and were excited about doing it.”
Coach Eliot was up next and was asked to talk about his first impressions of linebacker Avery Williamson:
“My first impressions of Avery was, ‘I think this guy has got the measurements.’ I saw him move around and I said, ‘Ok he’s got some abilities.’ What really impressed me was his interaction with players and how serious he took the game. I was only on the job a few days and he was already in my office wanting to learn the playbook.“
On Za’Darius Smith’s expectations:
“I think Za’Darius fortunatly was coached by Coach Brumbaugh at his junior college. He came in ahead of the rest of the group. I’m hoping to see him go to that next level where he becomes a great player.”
Eliot wrapped up his portion of the press conference by talking about the defensive philosophy he and Coach Stoops are trying to implement based off the teachings of legendary Auburn defensive coach Pete Jenkins, including the mindset of the defensive line getting off of a block and making a play. Eliot noted that one of the leading tacklers during their time at FSU was a defensive end.
Neal Brown was up last and the talk was centered around quarterbacks, but he first talked about incoming freshmen Ryan Timmons and his decisions to play him at receiver:
“Ryan had a great high school career. He has the ability to run the football but we’ll start him at receiver and teach him that aspect first. If we have depth issues at running back, we’ll put him over there too. I know the state is excited about Ryan and they should be, but you have to remember, these are 18 year olds playing in front of 60,000 their first game.”
On what he sees in each of his quarterbacks going into practice:
“(Max Smith) He has the potential to be accurate with the football. He’s been productive when healty but he hasn’t been healthy a whole lot, but he’s been productive and accurate with the fooball against good people. (Patrick Towles) He’s a big kid with big arm. (Jalen Witlow) He makes plays, he’s a playmaker. He got thrown into the fire and even though the end results didnt show it, he got better last year.”
On the receivers he inherited:
“They’re all self driven people. They can see the success we had a Texas Tech throwing the football. We need those guys to come along. Lot of growth at wideout will depend on how we do as an offense. We have so much youth at WR and we have an opportunity to mold them. There will be some growing pains but it will be a fun time and a teaching time.”
Coach Brown also mentioned that expectations he has for the offense, including 75+ snaps a game, a 48% success rate on third downs and 50% or higher on first downs, defined by gaining four yards or more on a play.
Each coach was enthusiastic and excited about getting practice underway and seeing what their new team had done to improve over the summer. It will be fun to watch the things they talked about come to life on the field and through the improvement we see in as compared to years past. If you aren’t excited about football, I suggest you start right now.