TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (AP) - Life after Bobby Bowden for Florida State’s players has meant getting lessons in positive thinking as well as eating more beans and greens and less fried chicken and fast-food burgers.
For Jimbo Fisher, who succeed the now-retired Hall of Fame coach at Florida State, it’s finally getting a chance to do things his way after three years as Bowden‘ offensive coordinator. During the last two, Fisher also held the newly invented and uncomfortable title of coach-in-waiting.
For Florida State’s boosters and fans it’s given them hope, if not expectation, that a younger coach with a more up-to-date approach can duplicate what’s happened just down the road in Gainesville.
That’s where Urban Meyer, an energetic and relatively youthful coach _ restored national championship luster to the Florida Gators, the Seminoles’ bitter rivals.
“I think we’ll do significantly better this year,” said Jim Smith, former chairman of Florida State’s Board of Trustees. “In a year or two we’ll be back in the hunt.”
Smith, who last fall successfully pushed for Bowden to retire a year sooner than he’d planned, is encouraged by a highly touted freshman class and several promising early verbal commitments for next year. He’s also excited about a high-powered offense that returns most of its starters, including senior star quarterback Christian Ponder. Most of all, though, Smith’s encouraged by Fisher himself.
“It’s all about coaching,” said Smith, a former Florida attorney general and secretary of state.
Fisher has a long history with the Bowden family that includes playing and coaching for and with Bobby’s sons. He says he plans to maintain the traditions and values the elder Bowden established during 34 seasons at Florida State. But he’s equally clear that he’s his own man.
“He was my hero, but we have to move forward,” Fisher said. “I have to control what we do now.”
Controlling is a good description of Fisher’s style. It’s been shaped by a stint as offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at LSU where they won a national championship. Saban, of course, now is at Alabama where he led the Crimson Tide to a national title last season.
“Coach Saban and myself are what you consider process oriented guys,” Fisher said. “Another guy who influenced that even before was John Wooden.”
Wooden, who died in June, turned UCLA into a basketball juggernaut, winning 10 national championships in 12 years during the 1960s and ‘70s.
Bowden delegated much of the coaching to his assistants, particularly longtime defense coordinator Mickey Andrews, who also retired after last season. Fisher takes a more hands-on approach. While Bowden oversaw practices perched atop a tower just like his hero, Alabama’s Bear Bryant, Fisher is on the field.
“Coach Bowden was kind of a CEO type,” said Ponder, who already has earned a master’s degree in business administration. “Coach Fisher’s a lot different where everything runs through him. He’s a lot more involved on the field, coaching different positions. He still coaches us quarterbacks, yelling at guys and everything.”