Florida State opens the 2012 season Saturday against FCS opponent Murray State, and while fans are no doubt excited for the season to begin, the opponent remains something of a mystery. So we talked to MSU head coach Chris Hatcher to get some inside information about the Seminoles' first foe of the season.
The Racers might not be a familiar foe, but Hatcher has plenty of ties to the area. Hatcher played and coached at Valdosta State, and his resume also includes stops at Kentucky and Georgia Southern. We previewed this game earlier this summer in our March on 2012 profiles, but Hatcher provided a good bit more detail.
Nole Nation: You've had a chance to see your team in action for the past month. How prepared do you think your guys are for the season opener in Tallahassee?
Chris Hatcher: We've gotten a lot better, there's no question about that. Whether that equates to us having more wins, only time will tell. But we're a much deeper team than we've been in the past.
Unfortunately a lot of that depth has come from freshmen that we've just signed. But we practice well, and I think for our level of ball at the FCS, we have an opportunity to have a good team, to be competitive in our conference. I'm excited about the progress that our program's made in a three-year period. When we got here, they'd only won 13 games in five seasons. We've won 13 in the past two. We're looking to step that up a notch this season.
NN: You've coached your share of these types of games in the past. What is it that you hope your team can get out of going up against a top-10 opponent like Florida State?
Hatcher: First of all, we get an opportunity to go play, and playing games is always fun. It'll be the first time a lot of the guys we have on our team have ever played a college game, so that will be interesting.
Secondly, when you're at this level, very rarely do you get to play a team of Florida State's caliber, with all the hype and the big crowd and everything that goes along with it. So even from a coach's standpoint, that gets the juices flowing a little bit more. I coached at UK for three seasons, so once a year I get the feeling of being in that big-time environment. That's a lot of fun. Our guys look forward to that.
But the main reason this game is being played is we need the money, so we're going down there to get a big check. Hopefully we'll play there and get out of there unscathed as we prepare to play the remainder of the games against teams at our level.
NN: I'm sure Florida State fans don't know a ton about Murray State. Who are some of your players you feel could make an impact, and what are some areas you think you might actually match up well against the Seminoles?
Hatcher: We've got a quarterback who is an All-American (Casey Brockman). He could play at pretty much any level. I've got a good receiving corps I feel real good about. Defensively, we've got a couple guys that I think are good players -- both of our outside linebackers are both transfers. One's from UK (Qua Huzzie), and one from South Carolina (Corey Addison). So those guys have some big-game experience.
But the big thing in a game like this is you're concerned about two things: How you're able to match up up front on both sides of the ball. As good of receivers as we have, it's going to be a big task blocking that awesome front that Florida State has. Those front four guys are pretty good, and they can get pressure on you with just a four-man rush, which really hurts your passing attack.
Then the other big concern is in the special teams area. When you play a team up a level, just due to lack of depth on a roster our size, a lot of times the special teams game can get out of hand quicker than any other point of the football game.
NN: As you've studied the film on FSU in preparation for this game, what has stood out to you about the Seminoles?
Hatcher: They're very talented, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That front four is pretty salty. They've got great athletes on the back end. To have a great team and be a top-10 team and a chance to win the BCS championship, you better be good on defense. And the thing that sticks out to me is they don't have to do a whole lot over there to stop you, and that's the mark of a well-coached team that's very athletic.