Clemson University

Tigers not expecting same old Seminoles

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Hiring the tag team of a proven offensive coordinator and hard-nosed offensive line coach did more than display that Florida State's administration would open its wallet for Bobby Bowden's staffers.

It also means that a long-dormant Seminoles offense -- loaded with prized recruits -- had better start showing results.

Based on the accounts of the two players representing FSU at the ACC's annual media kickoff Sunday, the Seminoles are on the clock.

Target date: Sept. 3, at Clemson.

Sophomore tailback Antone Smith said the build-up for its opener in Death Valley has exceeded the level reached when the Seminoles began the previous three years against rival Miami.

"There has been a lot of pressure on us," Smith said.

"When you have a lot of coaching changes, people think you're not good any more.

"It's going to be a big thing to show we have our swagger back."

In the apparent view of many FSU players and fans, there would not be a better or timelier venue to announce the Seminoles' return to national prominence than this Bowden Bowl, which received the ACC's premium Labor Day night slot on ESPN.

The game will mark their offensive debut under Jimbo Fisher, who was hired from Louisiana State to bring his successfully balanced offense and track record for developing quarterbacks.

While Fisher's arrival is perceived as the major storyline for the ACC season, insiders believe the greatest impact should come the addition of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, whose knack for eliciting physical line play is just what the doctor ordered for FSU.

Clemson has beaten the Seminoles twice in a row and three of the past four years.

But junior defensive end Phillip Merling said the Tigers realize they will not have the luxury of facing what had become a one-dimensional Seminoles offense.

"It has us working a lot harder to try to reach our peak a lot faster," Merling said. "They have more experience in the Labor Day game, and this year we're going to have to match their intensity level in order to win."

Merling said he has already watched several LSU games on his own in order to get a taste for Fisher's nuances, and the difference is night and day.

"Last year, FSU ran a bunch of reverses and screens -- they tried to get outside because they had problems with the offensive line and couldn't run between the tackles," Merling said.

"LSU was line the ball up and let's go between the tackles. You know you're going to have to bow up. If they get a third-and-5, they might try a running play. They went and got coaches to fulfill what they needed."

The pratfalls of gearing up for a one-game, winner-takes-all showdown are still fresh in Clemson's mind -- see last year's Georgia Tech triumph, followed by the Virginia Tech debacle -- so Merling said the Tigers are not approaching the game as if their shot at the ACC title game is at stake.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden has compared the stature of this year's opener to the Tigers' home victory against Texas A&M that began the 2005 season.

But the groundwork appears to have been laid for more meaningful theater.

"With new coaches and some new things put in place," FSU defensive tackle Andre Fluellen says, "We want to come out and show people we're serious."