After week of distractions, FSU back to work

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The coaching vacancy at Texas is big news, and Jimbo Fisher is a hot name, so invariably the question was going to come up. After a week of off-field distractions and no on-field practices, Fisher was ready with an answer.

“I’m going to talk about our team, and that’s all I’m talking about,” Fisher said. “I’m not getting into all the rumors. ... We’re getting ready for a game, that’s where I plan on being. That’s my sole focus. That’s it.”

It wasn’t exactly a stern denial of interest in the job compared with the ones given already by Chip Kelly or Urban Meyer, but it was a template for how Florida State appears to be handling all the chaos outside the locker room. There’s little point in pretending it’s not there, but the Seminoles are talking up their focus on their date with Auburn in the VIZIO BCS Championship game on Jan. 6.

Aside from the coaching rumors, the Heisman Trophy presentation last weekend created its own set of distractions.

Quarterback Jameis Winston became the youngest Heisman winner in history, faced a slew of questions from media about his role in a high-profile sexual assault investigation, then did the banquet circuit and made a handful of TV appearance, including reading the top-10 list for David Letterman on Monday.

Again, the realities of life as a Heisman winner can’t be ignored, Fisher said, but he was thrilled with how well Winston handled the process.

“I thought he handled it very well,” Fisher said. “He gave well thought-out answers, he was himself, and he was very charismatic.”

When Winston returned from New York on Tuesday, Florida State got back to work with seven-on-seven drills, followed by its first full bowl practice Wednesday.

It wasn’t an entirely crisp showing, Fisher admitted, but he said players appeared eager to get back to work and shake off the rust.

“It took us a little while to get going again,” Fisher said, “but they competed well. The timing was off in the beginning, but it got better. It was a good, solid first day.”

And, of course, Winston wasn’t the only player enduring the distractions since the Seminoles sunk Duke in the ACC championship game on Dec. 7. A handful of other players got the star treatment, racking up postseason awards, while several key Seminoles, including defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and receiver Kelvin Benjamin, are weighing options on whether to enter the NFL draft once the season is over.

Fisher said he spoke with all his draft-eligible underclassmen last week, and he said he’s confident they’re focused on finishing the job at Florida State before they make any final decisions on the NFL.

“We’ve had conversations and know where we’re at,” Fisher said. “We’re going to practice now, and then there’s a decision to be made. They don’t need to worry right now.”

On the field, Fisher said the plan is in place to ensure FSU is ready for Auburn. The Seminoles will practice four more times before taking a break for Christmas, then go through another five practices in Tallahassee before heading to Pasadena on Dec. 31.