It’s no secret that Jimbo Fisher comes from the Nick Saban coaching tree. The two share more than a few similarities, from their demeanor at news conferences to their propensity for landing highly touted recruiting classes, they are cut from the same cloth.
One place the acorn did fall a considerable ways from the tree, though, is in regard to the transparency with which they run their programs.
Jimbo Fisher was the offensive coordinator at LSU when Nick Saban famously said he was committed to the Tigers just days before accepting a head coaching job with the Dolphins. Two years later Saban gave the same song and dance when he opted to bail on the Dolphins and head to Alabama.
Recently, the rumors have begun to swirl that Saban once again has the NFL itch. Regardless of the validity of those rumors, Saban’s credibility is hardly his strongest trait.
Fisher, on the other hand, has built a program at Florida State founded on honesty. That was never more apparent than in the weeks following former FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ decision to take the head coaching job at Kentucky.
Defensive ends coach DJ Eliot — who will serve as FSU’s interim defensive coordinator for the Orange Bowl — will leave to assume that position permanently at Kentucky after the game.
And although Florida State fans are undoubtedly sad to see the talented duo go, the players were hardly surprised.
“I knew [about their ambitions] when I came in,” junior defensive end Bjoern Werner said. “I asked Coach Eliot, ‘What is your dream?’ And he said to be a defensive coordinator, and I’m happy for him. I asked Coach Stoops, ‘What is your dream?’ [and he said] to become a head coach. They were telling me the truth.
“They weren’t going to say, ‘I’m going to stay at Florida State forever.’ And I know people are going to move on, and they knew straight up. We’re going to have a great relationship if you’re going to be straight up. Sometimes you hear in the media how other coaches tell lies, lies, and then the next day they’re gone. It wasn’t like that.”
That starts at the top.
Jimbo Fisher was the subject of much speculation himself in the days after the Seminoles closed their regular season. Both Auburn and Tennessee showed interest in the 47-year-old coach, and to his credit, Fisher never hedged.
“If somebody calls it’s like [any other] job opportunity if they called you and asked you,” Fisher said at the time.
“They would have to go through the proper channels to call your AD or president or whoever it would be to say, ‘Can we have permission to talk?’ And they’d have to give it and then ask me, ‘Are you interested or not interested?’
“I mean just like you would [any time]. But that’s the proper way, that’s the way you’ve got to do it. I would always do that, though. Straight up.”
Straight up — it’s a concept that permeates the entire Seminoles program. From Fisher on down, Florida State’s coaches are honest with their players, transparent with their intentions and it engenders trust from the players they lead.
“That’s always good when you have a program full of honesty,” said junior safety Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas).
“It’s hard, because you know a lot of people’s intentions are run by different things. Some people are selfish, some people are honest, you never know what you’re getting, but in my three years [at FSU] everyone was always honest with me.”
In turn, that gives juniors like Joyner and Werner confidence that in the weeks following the Orange Bowl they will get trustworthy advice when considering their own prospects. While that should be standard at any college, it’s not always the case.
It is at Florida State, though.
“You always want to thrive on what [the coaches] say,” said Joyner, who will seek the counsel of his coaches when deciding whether to turn pro after the Orange Bowl.
“You always want to listen and try to get a sound understanding and communicate with the coaching staff here to make any decision.