FSU, Golson meshing behind his dramatically improved play
If college football had a Most Improved Player award, Florida State QB Everett Golson would have built a strong case for it in the first half of the season.
The graduate transfer who arrived in Tallahassee this summer has a sterling 11-0 TD-INT ratio for the undefeated Seminoles. He’s thrown 177 passes this season without a pick. Last season at Notre Dame, Golson threw 14 INTs. The 6-foot, 200-pounder also has made a significant jump in accuracy, going from 60 percent to 67 percent this season.
Making all that even more impressive is the fact that Golson didn’t even have spring football practices to get acclimated to his new teammates or the FSU offense. Even more impressively, he’s shining despite playing with one of the youngest offensive casts in the country. The ‘Noles start seven freshmen or sophomores on offense (and eight more are listed behind the starters on the second string), and he’s the guy being counted on to replace the big shoes of Jameis Winston.
I asked FSU coach Jimbo Fisher what has impressed him most about his new quarterback’s transition.
"He’s allowing himself to be coached," Fisher said. "We’re coaching him hard and tough in the way we want things done here in the offense. He keeps making little improvements each week."
A big focus of that coaching lies in Fisher’s messaging. While it’s cliche to say Golson needed to "take care of the ball" better — he had 22 turnovers last season for the Irish and has zero this year for FSU — Fisher feels it’s crucial not to say it that way.
"I don’t ever say, ‘Take care of the ball.’ I say, ‘Be smart with the ball.’ I want him to be smart and be aggressive," Fisher told FOX Sports this week. "If you say, ‘Take care of it,’ then he won’t make any plays. We want to be aggressive and we want to be smart. Make good decisions. Understand the situations of games, of down-and-distance, how to play field positions, understand what you’re trying to accomplish with each call.
"People say, ‘Don’t fumble,’ then you fumble. You can’t play that way. You can’t play trying NOT to make mistakes. You’ve got to be aggressive, but you’ve got to be intelligent."
Fisher said Golson also has done a "tremendous job" of handling his young teammates. In Golson’s past three games, he’s completed 70 percent of his passes and has thrown for 865 yards and five touchdowns.
"When you play quarterback, sometimes they’ll have a mess-up and you gotta manage their mess-up as a quarterback," he said. "That’s your responsibility as a quarterback, and that’s tough to do, especially when it’s your first time in the system. He is the only senior on our offense, and there’s only six other juniors in the top 22.
"He’s fit right in with our guys. They see that it’s not about him. It’s about us and him wanting to help us win."
This weekend, the ‘Noles go on the road to face Georgia Tech.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FS1. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His new book, “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks,” came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.