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.”