TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is familiar with hurricanes wreaking havoc on a football schedule.
Fisher was LSU’s offensive coordinator in 2005 when three games were rescheduled due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. No. 11 Florida State is in the middle of a three-week idle stretch due to Hurricane Irma. The Seminoles’ Sept. 9 game against Louisiana-Monroe was canceled and the contest against No. 17 Miami was moved from Saturday to Oct 7.
With players and their families safe and accounted for, Fisher has tried to make this week’s routine as normal as possible despite classes not being held. The Seminoles practiced for the first time since the storm on Tuesday and will go until Friday.
Florida State will have the weekend off and resume practices on Monday in preparation for its Sept. 23 game against North Carolina State.
The biggest difference between what Fisher dealt with at LSU and in Tallahassee is that the Tigers didn’t have two consecutive games moved and that the longest time between games was two weeks. By the time the Seminoles face the Wolfpack, it will have been 20 days between that game and the 24-7 loss to top-ranked Alabama on Sept. 2 in Atlanta.
“Not many people get to go through two of them like that,” said Fisher of having to adjust things. “As far as the impact of distractions and things like that, it is very similar to LSU.”
Safety Derwin James said it almost feels like preseason camp because classes are not in session and the Seminoles have played just one game.
“We’re getting to focus on things that normally we wouldn’t have the time to do during the season,” the sophomore added. “I’m sure that the practices the next couple days though will be more about getting ready for N.C. State.”
Florida State had four days off before resuming practices. Tight end Ryan Izzo said the team was a little bit out of shape on Tuesday due to the layoff but feels like they are back to a normal rhythm.
The Seminoles have been using the extra practice time to refine special teams and get freshman quarterback James Blackman more comfortable with the offense. FSU had three major special teams gaffes in the loss to Alabama— a blocked punt, field goal and fumble on a kick return — that led to 14 Crimson Tide points.
Blackman played one series at quarterback against Alabama after Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury during the fourth quarter. Blackman is the ninth Florida State quarterback to start as a freshman but the first true freshman since Chip Ferguson in 1985.
Izzo said the thing that has stood about Blackman is his ability to lead in the huddle but that on the field both have similar styles.
“They throw the ball pretty similar in my opinion. They know when to put touch on it, when not to put touch on it. From working with them over the summer,” Izzo said. “For us we’re not trying to do anything different. Don’t try to do more, don’t try to do less. Just get your job done and do as good as you can.”
The schedule shifts also mean that Florida State will play 10 consecutive weeks, which is rare since the Football Bowl Subdivision went to a 12-game schedule in the regular season. James though doesn’t think that the long haul will cause problems.
“I feel like that’s what we need. We’re getting our bye week out of the way and now we can catch a rhythm,” he said. “We’re ready to play and keep watching games on Saturday but it isn’t our time yet.”
In what has been a challenging three weeks due to the Hurricane and one of their team leaders being injured, Fisher is hoping that all the adversity will make his team stronger like it did at LSU. In 2005 the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference’s West Division before losing to Georgia in the conference title game. They defeated Miami in the Peach Bowl to cap an 11-2 season.
“Those experiences bind you and pull you together,” Fisher said. “They understand that we have to face a lot of adversity, and sometimes that’s also really good.”
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