Bowden gone but not forgotten at Fla. St media day

Florida State held its first media day without Bobby Bowden in
34 years on Sunday. The retired coach was not forgotten.

New Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said Bowden’s values and
traditions have been retained even though some day-to-day
operations have changed.

Fisher took over when Bowden was nudged into retirement in
January. Fisher was offensive coordinator for three seasons and had
the designation of coach-in-waiting in the final two.

”It’s an advantage to have the knowledge of a man of that
character, that stature,” Fisher said. ”That was the reason I
came to Florida State because I knew I wanted to be a head coach. I
didn’t know it would be here.”

The affable and always quotable Bowden amassed 389 victories,
second only to Penn State’s Joe Paterno, still coaching with 394.
But Florida State has gone 38-28 over the past five years,
including three 7-6 seasons.

Fans will forgive Fisher if his oratory doesn’t quite measure up
to Bowden’s if he can return the Seminoles to their former
prominence.

Bowden has taken some of the pressure off Fisher by keeping his
distance, allowing the new guy space to do things his way.

”It’s important for the program,” Fisher said. ”I heard him
say that years ago.”

It was in 1993 when Bowden’s son, Terry, replaced Auburn’s Pat
Dye. The former coach remained on the scene. Fisher was one of
Terry Bowden’s Auburn assistants.

Fisher said Bobby Bowden told him when he was named coached in
waiting that he wouldn’t be around for at least three years but
also said ”If you need me call me.”

”That doesn’t surprise you about the man he is,” Fisher said.
”He understands it’s not about us, him and I. It’s about the
kids.”

Fisher said he has called Bowden but what they talked about is
private.

Florida State’s high-powered offense, which averaged 421.4 yards
per game, returns largely intact including the entire offensive
line and senior quarterback Christian Ponder. He led the Atlantic
Coast Conference with 321.8 yards per game in total offense last
year.

Ponder said he’s fully recovered from a shoulder injury that
ended his season near the end of last year’s ninth game against
Clemson. Ponder, who already has earned a bachelor’s degree in
finance and a masters in business administration, had considered
skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft until the injury
ended those thoughts.

”In the long run it’s definitely better” returning, Ponder
said. ”A lot of juniors who come out don’t really pan out.”

The Seminoles began practice last week. They will start the 2010
season by hosting Samford, Bowden’s alma mater, on Sept. 4 before a
road trip the following Saturday to Oklahoma.

The Sooners are coached by Bob Stoops, older brother of Florida
State’s new defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops, the youngest of the
three coaching Stoops brothers. It’ll be the first time one Stoops
will coach against another.

If anyone on Florida State’s staff is facing more pressure than
Fisher, it’s Mark Stoops. He came to Tallahassee from Arizona where
he had been defensive coordinator for his other brother, Mike.

Stoops succeeded Mickey Andrews who retired after 26 seasons as
Florida State’s defensive coordinator.

”I enjoyed my time at Arizona, but I was just ready for another
opportunity, another challenge,” Stoops said.

Last year, Andrews’ defense was Florida State’s weak link,
giving up 434.6 yards and 30 points per game. Fisher and Stoops
have installed a new defensive philosophy with more zone coverages
and an attacking style. Andrews had favored man-to-man coverages
and a read-and-react style.

Fisher and Stoops have been encouraged by what they’ve seen in
the spring and so far since practice began Thursday.

”We’ll never be a great team until we’re great on defense,”
Fisher said. ”I like where we’re going. We’re not there yet.”

Bright spots on defense include two young defensive backs,
sophomore Gregg Reid, and true freshman Lamarcus Joyner.

Reid made his mark last season with big plays on defense as well
as leading the NCAA in punt returns with an 18.4 yard average.
Fisher said he’s look for more consistency, though, from Reid.

”That’s what wins football games,” Fisher said. ”That’s a
challenge for him every day.”

Stoops said he’s excited by Joyner.

”I’m not ready to put him in the Hall of Fame, but I really
like his competitiveness, his athletic ability,” Stoops said. ”He
made a couple plays in practice – you know I’ve coached some pretty
good defensive backs and I haven’t seen too many plays like that in
the first practice or two.”