Category: football

Transitions and Hope

My twins, Bryson and Holland, applied to college this week.  Bryson to Jacksonville University where he will play soccer, and Holland to Florida Atlantic University and Florida State University.  I assisted, to the extent they permitted, them in writing their admissions essays, and reviewed the final products.  It was a revealing process, but not in the way I intended.

Bryson essentially used me to generate some raw thoughts early in the process, and then trampled my work with a theatrical essay on his road to achievement.  He glorified himself as a writer of great repute while dismissing me as a benign objectivist.  Between the lines though, I was surprised to read a bit more insecurity than he would outwardly concede, though when pressed on this issue, he deftly shielded himself with a “dramatic flourish” defense.

Holland offered little at the outset of the process and was openly insecure.  She pushed me to start the process while I pressed her for insight into her genuine feelings and aspirations.  I assembled a draft and left the end open for “her”.  She demurred and consulted her brothers.  Bryson produced a draft that was over the top unusable excrement.  I was pissed.

This morning I woke to a draft from Holland that was pitch perfect.  She expressed herself.  Wrote from the heart, and in the closing paragraph a lump developed as I read in her words the strength that I always believed was in her.  I touched up a few grammatical points and sent it back with the words, “Holland, really good job.  You dug in and wrote from the heart.  That’s where good writing exists.  Not in fake drama and bullshit.  I left the last paragraph untouched because it was real.  Loved it.  Even got a bit choked up.  Now get this application submitted and become a NOLE!”

I went all caps on the “NOLE!” for selfish reasons.  I am a NOLE!  This weekend, my old roommate Sarvin Patel took his family to Tallahassee for the first time to see a game and sent a bunch of pictures.  We spent the weekend texting pictures and telling stories of our time in Tallahassee.  It was a special time and, as time has proven, unforgettable.  I wish that experience for anyone that goes to college, and especially, my guys.

As a college athlete, Bryson will have the unique experience of team sports at a high level and the ability to bond with his teammates through the demanding rigors of time management, close proximity and competitive challenge.  It is something I was unable to achieve for myself and for which I am immensely proud of him.

As a college student, Holland’s journey will be different, much closer to my own, and maybe that is why I am rooting so hard for her to be a NOLE!  At any campus, you will study for your degree and meet valuable friends that can influence and alter the course of your life, but for me, there is a tremendous enhancement of the experience when it is done at a school like Florida State where sports, on the national level, are so important.  You never forget that time of your life.  It becomes a part of you for better or worse.  It is a brotherhood or sisterhood not as tightly defined as Bryson will enjoy, but eternal.

I remember leaving the stadium after beating the Gators during law school.  Every Nole in the stadium chanted and chopped their way down the concourse and into the night.  My only thought, other than pride, was that my Dad needed to see a game before I graduated, or he died.  The following year we chanted and chopped our way out of the stadium after beating Miami’s ass.  I want this for Holland.  I want it for both us so that in addition to our father/daughter bond we have a bond as NOLES!

And just maybe she might have a better understanding of why her father hurls objects across the room when a lineman jumps offside on 3rd and 2, mother fucks the world with every missed tackle in space, buries every scrap of Nole clothing in the deepest corner of the closet after a 63-20 loss, or just beams with pride every weekend “we” win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up with Q

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Qamar Lewis was born into a broken home. His “sperm donor” was in jail by the time he was born and they didn’t meet until after he graduated high school. The meeting was just like the few that followed it…an awkward conversation and an invitation to “party” turned down. His mother was better…she didn’t go to jail until he reached middle school. She has been out, they live together and the mere proximity of being there has allowed a relationship to grow. He seems happy about that, and maybe its important to him as the Grandmother that raised him passed away a few years ago.

Qamar was a talented athlete, but bad grades, a stubborn attitude and a late high school diagnosis of epilepsy conspired to make sure his talents never made it out of Oviedo. While most of his classmates are a semester or less from graduating college, he is little more than a semester into the process. His stubborn streak may be diminished, but it damn sure isn’t extinguished. He just spent three months without a job because he couldn’t take the time to find a new one before he left the old one.

This may sound like a story of pre-destined failure, but it’s not. It is about humility, generosity, maturity and curiosity. It is about the winding road of life and a young man’s desire to make it matter. It is about my friend.

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I have coached sports since I was in high school, and one of the greatest pleasures I have known is when the player/ coach relationship matures into genuine friendship. Qamar asked me if, when I was coaching him, I ever foresaw us being friends. The truth is that I hoped that it would happen. If I coach with honesty, integrity and compassion, and the player plays the same way, we will have earned each others respect and trust. Friendship requires no stronger foundation.

Qamar is an assistant coach for his alma mater, Oviedo High School. He wears the school’s orange and black colors as comfortably as his skin. It has been a deeply personal experience as he has come face to face with players abundant in his shortcomings which has opened his eyes to the opportunities he lost. It has inspired him to coach beyond the field and mentor the young men in his care to value the opportunity before them and to extend the values of sport to the life beyond it.

He has adopted the quote, “Grow through what you go through” as a personal mantra. He has gone through a lot and it has made him the man he is today. He doesn’t smoke, drink or party. He let himself become difficult to coach and it hurt him, so he pushes for ways to reach the players that were most like him. He has seen black and white players coached differently, so he coaches them all the same. He knows that he must coach from his heart and stay true to who he is, but he is humble and curious enough to study other coaches to see what they do and how their players respond.

He has learned that coaching is not about sports, wins or losses. It is about relationships, life and the unrelenting push you give your players then friends to make the most out of it.

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Another Week, Another Win

FLORIDA STATE / WAKE FOREST

Florida State beat Wake Forest on the road 24-16. It was a difficult and uninspiring watch. The Noles never trailed, but struggled mightily to get the Wake Forest offense off the field. Wake outgained Florida State 357-329, but only produced one offensive touchdown in almost 36 minutes of possession. Florida State scored three offensive touchdowns, did not turn the ball over, and was quietly 6/12 converting third downs. Beyond winning there is not much in the way of insightful takeaways from this one.

Golson played his part as pedestrian game manager going 20/31 passing for 202 yards and a touchdown. It is increasingly tempting to conclude that this is what Golson is as a Nole and to expect more is foolish.

Dalvin Cook scored a 94 yard touchdown, but limped off the field with a gimpy hamstring later in the first quarter. This is the second consecutive game Cook has failed to complete due to injury. While Cook has two different injuries, it is difficult to dismiss the issue of his suitability as a workhorse running back, or the concern that an accumulation of injuries could impair his effectiveness for the balance of the season. As of now, his status for Miami is in doubt.

Four games in, and none of the receivers have distinguished themselves as a reliable or vaguely dangerous option.

The offensive line play was adequete.

This was a frustrating night for the defense. They surrendered only one touchdown, and produced a game saving interception, but never got the claws into the Demon Deacons. Terrance Smith and Nate Andrews were also lost to injury.

Miami will be in Tallahassee Saturday night, and they remain an even bigger enigma than this rendition of Florida State.

ALABAMA / GEORGIA

This game is why I enjoy Alabama and have no respect for Georgia. The tide were beaten at home by Ole Miss, and entered the game a rare underdog. They responded by kicking the crap out of Georgia between the Hedges. Georgia has again found themselves weighed, measured and found wanting on a big stage. How much longer will Mark Richt’s brand of high mediocrity endure?

LEONARD FOURNETTE

With every passing week, his freshman season becomes more difficult to comprehend. He is everything he was hyped to be as the top recruit in the land, and his speed/power combination invites comparisons to the early-80’s icons Herschal Walker and Bo Jackson. It is uncomfortable to think he will have to endure this work load at least one more season in the college game. I would be petitioning the league to enter the draft and get paid for running through people as he does.

FLORIDA / OLE MISS

Huge win for the Gators that propels them into the outskirts of the college football playoff. Misery for Ole Miss, who have made huge strides in building their program, but have yet to build on their big results.

Florida State Grinds Out Boring Win Against Boston College 14-0

Florida State took the opening kick off and drove the length of the field to take a 7-0 lead. Sadly, it was the only offensive points of the night for either team. Pathetically, neither team would venture so far as the red zone until Florida State’s final possession of the night when they took a knee on the Boston College 15 as the clock ran out. With 7 points, 214 total yards and 4/13 on third down conversions, this was an inescapably bad offensive showing. If there was a silver lining, the offense is not turning it over and penalties were minimal. There is a sense that they are not far off from making plays and extending drives, but the struggle is real.

On the other side of the ball, Florida State put forth its best effort of the season pitching a shutout, creating two turnovers, injuring BC’s starting quarterback and scoring 7 points of their own.

DALVIN COOK

Cook was held to 54 yards on 15 carries, and left the game with an upper body injury. Cook had two good runs on the night that accounted for most of his yardage, a 17 yarder on the scoring drive and a 28 yarder in the second quarter that ended prematurely when he stepped out of bounds on his way to a long touchdown. BC keyed on the FSU star and limited his running lanes. Cook looked a bit indecisive at times, which was uncharacteristic, and took several tackles for loss. The injury does not appear to be serious.

It was noteworthy that FSU seemingly did away with any pretense of a running back rotation as Mario Pender got very little work until Cook left with injury, and with the exception of on 14 yard burst up the middle on the game’s final drive, he was ineffective.

EVERETT GOLSON

Golson started 5/5 on the opening drive and threw a stike to Travis Rudolf to finish the drive. He finished 15/24 for 119 yards, and was sans turnover for the third game running. Golson was interesting with his feet tonight. He had a couple of great escapes from pressure including one that prevented what appeared to be a certain safety, but at times he appeared slow in the open field and had a bizarre routine of slowing dramatically to change direction when running up the field. Based on tonight’s body of work, he has nice escape instincts laterally, but is not a fluid or particularly athletic runner beyond the line of scrimmage. Golson stuggled with pressure in his face which resulted in a turtle sack and a few short throws. I am further troubled by the rarity of hitting a receiver with space and time to run after the catch. I am not sure this is all on Golson, but it has an adverse impact on the offenses ability to break big plays.

RECEIVERS

Bobo Wilson was the best of the lot followed by Kermit Whitfield, but there was nothing special from this group again. As a whole, they do not do a good job of using physicality to create separation and lack awareness in scramble situations. Wilson was run out of bounds on a fade route with ease, and failed to attack a ball thrown in his area on a deep post while Ryan Izzo looked like an illegal man downfield on two Golson scramble throws in his direction.

OFFENSIVE LINE

This group was soundly outplayed. They conceded pressure and failed to create running lanes. A worthy argument could be put forth that their struggles were primarily responsible for the ineffectiveness of the offense as a whole. They must get tougher and better technically in a hurry or this season could be derailed.

DEFENSIVE

BC runs the ball a lot, and I was happy to see our big guys up front respond and play in the backfield a little tonight. A number of different players made positive plays. Though it is never good to see a player injured, there is a harsh reality in football that hurting people helps the cause. Early in the fourth, FSU sacked the BC quarter back who rolled back awkwardly on his leg and left the game. With the game still in doubt, BC was relegated to a pair of back ups to mount a comeback and it did not happen.

Lemarcus Brutus had a pick and Terrance Smith forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jalen Ramsey.

Ramsey is interesting in the sense that he has not done all that much in the first three games at cornerback. Perhaps his coverage is solid and teams are not challenging him. Truth be told we have not faced a top level passing attack or individual receiver, and his true value there may be yet revealed. I am tempted to consider if his impact on games would be enhanced back at star.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Aguayo missed a 42 yard field goal. Bobo Wilson mishandled a punt, but we recovered. Cason Beatty was pretty damn good at punting. More bad than good overall.

VERDICT

I had significant concerns about this game as BC played the Noles well the last two times out. The game stayed within reach until midway through the fourth quarter, and this was a grinder. If the team improves, it will be remembered as an off night, if they don’t it will stand as an early sign of imminent decline. It is always better to win than to lose, and in doing so, FSU controls the narrative for another week.

I Have A Few Thoughts…

Florida State beat South Florida 34-14.

The Noles put together a putrid half of offensive football. Everett Golson failed to complete a pass in his first six attempts. The offensive line looked overwhelmed particularly in pass protection. Our third down conversion rate rivaled John Starks from the field in game seven. The only points and moment of enjoyment came when Dalvin Cook’s brilliantly weaved, bounced and ran past the Bull’s defense for a 74 yard touchdown. The defense was solid, but gave up a score for a 7-7 tie at the break.

FSU rebounded nicely in the second half scoring on every possession, and even completing a few passes. South Florida’s only points came on a defensive breakdown that led to a long touchdown pass, but the game was firmly in hand at that point.

DALVIN COOK

Two games into his sophomore season, Cook is a star and staking a claim among the great backs in Florida State history. His 30 carry, 266 yard, 3 touchdown game was the second best yardage total in school history, and he has a way of almost making it look easy. He simply does not run into traffic when he doesn’t have to, and his combination of speed and power confounds downfield tacklers.

After the game, Fisher was asked about Cook’s heavy workload, and he responded “that’s why you recruit great players so they can carry the load”. I agree it is a joy to watch a great player take over a game as Cook did yesterday, and it is a great service to this young team. In a larger context though, I am concerned for the team and for Cook.

This team will not contend for a title or major bowl without a balanced offensive attack. Defenses are too good, and someone will load the box enough to minimize Cook’s effectiveness. At that moment, Golson and the passing game must respond.

Per NCAA rules, Cook must spend three years on campus before becoming eligible for the draft. Running backs, even great ones, have an odometer, and it’s best when that thing is not used up before the money starts to come in. I cannot help, but think of Marcus Lattimore.

Stay healthy Dalvin!

EVERETT GOLSON AND THE REST OF THE OFFENSE

Golson struggled to get anything done in the first half, and I see three contributing factors. One, the line play in pass protection is subpar. The line’s inexperience is highlighted in pass protection where they must read blitzes and adjust protections. Golson was under considerable pressure most of the first half, and it impacted his footwork, decision-making and accuracy.

Two, the receivers dropped six balls in only 26 pass attempts, some more egregious than others, but way too many as a whole. Each of these drops adversely impacts the score, possession, down and distance. There is a benefit to spreading the ball among different receivers, but at this point, one or more of these guys need to step up as preferred targets.

Three, Golson’s over-compensation for turnovers past. Golson has played turnover free football through his first two games which is a pleasant trend away from his biggest perceived weakness coming into the season, but it has come at a cost. I sense Golson, perhaps with a complicit coaching staff, is playing conservatively, and that is fine, but there will come a moment this season where he has to be willing to throw into the shark’s mouth and do it again even after he gets bitten for this team to pull a game out.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The kick return game continued to show signs of improvement with Kermit Whitfield jump-starting the second half with a 50 yard return. Aguayo is death and taxes rolled into that shape of a right foot.

DEFENSE

Jimbo had high praise for the unit acknowledging the one blown coverage touchdown. I am a bit more moderated in my praise as I do not see the level of disruption up front that I so closely associate with dominant defense. The line seems to get penetration, and force the quarterback to move, but we are not finishing those plays with sacks and interceptions.

BOSTON COLLEGE WILL BE A BITCH

FSU is on the road at Boston College next week and this game will be difficult. In 2013, BC jumped out to a big lead before Jameis brought us back, and last season the game was decided by a late field goal. BC plays a physical brand of football that eats up the clock and puts a premium on each possession. Steve Addazio is a good coach and has made steady progress with this program during his tenure. Expect a war!

SERENA STUMBLES AT THE FOOT OF HISTORY

Serena is one of my favorite female athletes of all-time, and her legacy as such has long been secure, but this was a crushing failure. There is no doubt the weight of history was felt throughout this tournament, but for it to all come undone to a largely unremarkable player with more facial wrinkles than my beloved mother, who went on to lose the final to a slightly less unremarkable player who promptly retired, is a skid mark in her Wimbledon whites.

CHANGING GAMES

Several notable games this weekend featured one team dominating a half or more of the game, and losing control thereafter. Tennessee dominated Oklahoma for 3.5 quarters before losing in overtime at home. LSU and Kentucky both dominated the first half of their games, but struggled down the stretch to bring home wins.

Save the narrative about conference strength or lack thereof. The reality is that games are long, and good teams will adjust and evolve thoughout the contest gaining and losing advantage as they do so. Coaching is important in making adjustments and managing the late stages of a game. The decisons and disciplines that win games late often bear little resemblance to those that impacted earlier segments of the game, and this should be welcomed and accepted. Culture also manifests itself in these situations when a team stays together and competes to the end of the game even in the face of poor performance or adversity through most of the game.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER AND “RETIREMENT”

Floyd Mayweather won his 49th utterly boring fight against no defeats, and pocketed an absurd amount of money for hand-picking Andre Berto as his stooge.

He then “retired” as the supreme master of a dying art.

49 is an odd number. Floyd has the spending habits of a third world dictator and no endoresement money. Floyd is insecure and craves attention.

Floyd will fight again…against an opponent he will easily beat…and I will continue to not give a shit.

Jimbo Fisher and the Apparent Futility of Parenthood

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Giorgio Newberry is a fifth year senior at Florida State.  He has had a minimal impact on the program during his first four years on campus.  Last Saturday night, he was player of the game for the Seminoles.  As I read the first few paragraphs of the article, I got somewhat emotional thinking of how many practices Newberry must have attended where he failed to distinguish himself or stood on the side as reps went to other players, and the type of resolve it takes to endure and make the most of his opportunity last Saturday night.  As I read on, it was apparent that for much of his time on campus, Newberry was his own worst enemy displaying a lack of effort and a lack of attention to detail.  The coaching and resources of the program were at his disposal every bit as much as all the players that kept him off the field, and he did not make it happen.

Coach Fisher was proud of Newberry, and said, “It’s like I say, you can coach your kids and teach your kids all you want, when they walk out the door of their house, they’ve got to decide what they want to be.”

I am the father of three teenagers.  I have spent the last 18 years trying to provide love, support and guidance in the best way that I can, and there are many days when it feels utterly ineffective.  As my kids have entered their teenage years, it has increasingly felt like my voice in particular holds less weight than any other, and the frustration of this is beyond measure.

“…you can coach your kids and teach your kids all you want.”

I am 44 years old.  I have experience through lessons learned and mistakes made that may help each of them to avoid a painful pothole or plot a cleaner course through life.  I am a resource, not just of money, but of knowledge that in this most critical of ways remains largely unused.  I have varied my tactics of communication and patiently waited for moments ripe to dispel my wisdom, but the clock is ticking.

“…when they walk out the door of their house.”

My oldest started college last week and he has spoke openly of wanting to move out of the house.  His twin siblings are not be far behind. There is a sense of palpable desperation descending on me that I have not given enough and somehow failed in the most important responsibility of my life.

“…they’ve got to decide what they want to be.”

I can and will love, support and guide each of them.  I am granted only one life to live…my own.  Camden, Holland and Bryson must live their life and “decide what they want to be.”

Florida State 59 Texas State 16

Florida State opened the 2015 season with a 59-16 home victory over Texas State. Let there be no pretensions that this was a mighty conquest. It was not. Texas State was a well paid cupcake, but in the interest of full disclosure, the Bobcats were 13-11 over the last two seasons, and are coached by Dennis Franchione, who at one time was a rather hot name in coaching with tours of duty at TCU, Alabama and Texas A & M on his resume.

GAME FLOW

FSU used a ground-heavy attack and solid defense to take a 14-0 first quarter lead. Matters got a bit tenuous in the second quarter primarily due to spotty special teams. Texas State pulled off a fake punt for a first down, and Marquez White fumbled a punt to set up a short field touchdown for the visitors that closed the lead to 14-10. The Noles responded with a touchdown drive late in the half to lead 21-10.

FSU, and Everett Golson in particular, were marvelous for the next quarter and a half scoring 28 unanswered points to lead 49-10. Coach Fisher opened up the passing attack during this segment of the game, and Golson was very sharp while throwing for 4 touchdowns. The defense put the clamps on Texas State and seemed to suck the life out of the game.

With a wave of substitutions, the Bobcats produced a scoring drive, but FSU responded with another ten points under the stewardship of Sean McGuire to make the final score 59-16.

OFFENSE

Seven of last year’s starters are in the NFL including the iconic Jameis Winston, so this was an area of great concern and Fisher handled it with care. FSU pounded the ball in the first half behind Dalvin Cook, who looked exceptional. The strategy was sound as it let four new starters on the offensively line get their feet wet by firing off the ball and driving into an undersized defensive line while minimizing the potential for confusion in pass protection. In this context, the line performed well, but it is not a true reflection of where success must be found for this team to achieve anything special.

Cook has a wonderful knack for finding and accelerating through seams and finishing his runs. Mario Pender received plenty of work as well, and was very efficient running through the line, but made some poor decisions in the second level that kept his yardage total down. Freddie Stevenson was terrific as a lead blocker.

Golson was not asked to do much in the first half, but was efficient completing 7/9 passes for 74 yards and was vicitimized by a clear drop on a play action bootleg. In the second half, Fisher let the transfer play. Golson was Winston-esque splitting two defenders on a pass to Pig Harrison, and later lofted a beautiful ball to Ryan Izzo for a touchdown. On the night, he was 19/25 for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over and three of his incompletions were drops or catchable balls. Golson’s leg work was somewhat oversold as he did not produce much in the way of running yardage, but he was very sharp and convincing in play action and roll outs. I enjoyed his intangibles as well. He was quick to run the length of the field to celebrate touchdowns with his receivers, helped Cook off the ground on another touchdown play, was alert in talking to Fisher between possessions and befitting his experience generally unflustered. Tougher tasks lie ahead, but Golson delivered as much as could be hoped for in this game.

I felt good for Sean McGuire, who threw a touchdown and generated ten points in garbage time. Golson seems the right choice as a starter, but it should not be forgotten how much sincere effort was put forth by McGuire in this quarterback competition. Good for him!

DEFENSE

The defense surrendered 300 yards of total offense and 16 points, but the first touchdown was set up by a turnover and the second touchdown came against the back ups. There were few, if any, glaring mistakes. Missed tackles, uncovered receivers and widespread systemic confusion were avoided. It was a solid effort. Solid is not enough to win championships though. We need more. The pass rush did was not demonstrably improved and the unit created only one turnover.

A championship level defense generates turnovers, overwhelms or disrupts plays and delivers violent hits. There is a fever pitch of relentless enthusiasm that has players flying to the ball in packs balanced by a focused, discipline to assignment that suffocates offensive options and renders a moment of actual sympathy.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Mixed bag her. Fell for a fake punt against a team with nothing to lose, and mishandled two punt returns resulting in one turnover and a touchdown. On the good side, Jalen Ramsey and Kermit Whitfield looked dangerous on kick off returns, though Ramsey’s bizarre jersey change will soon be tiresome, and Roberto Aguayo was, well Roberto Aguayo, the best kicker in college football.