January 08, 2014

FSU RB James Wilder Jr. Decides to Turn Pro


Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. has decided to forego his senior year and enter the NFL draft according to a post on the junior running back's Instagram account.

"I wanna first thank GOD my family the whole nole nation and nole fam my brothers my coaches for being able to put me in a blessed situation to be able to continue my dream on to the next level and being able to enter the NFL," the post reads. "I had the best 3 years of my life being a nole and will always be a nole at heart that being said GO NOLES!!!!!"

Wilder carried the ball 81 times for 563 yards and eight touchdowns during the Seminoles' national championship campaign. He also caught three passes for 21 yards. 

At 6-2, 230 Wilder has the kind of size and above average speed that should find him a nice home in the NFL. Questions about his upright running style and vision are likely to come up during the pre-draft process but between his size and NFL pedigree the Tampa native is likely to go in the middle rounds of the Draft. NFLDraftScout.com currently has Wilder listed as the 12th best eligible back in the country and projects him as a fourth or fifth round pick.

Wilder's father, James Wilder Sr., played in the NFL for a decade (mostly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

Really, this isn't a very surprising move. Wilder's carries were already diminished after Jimbo Fisher switched Karlos Williams from safety to running back following the Pitt game. Williams finished with 730 yards and 11 touchdowns this year and should see the lion's share of the carries come next season when he's had an entire Spring and Summer to really pick up the nuances of his new position. 

Devonta Freeman -- who became the first 1,000 yard rusher at FSU since Warrick Dunn during the BCS Championship game -- could also return for his senior season. In addition, Ryan Green and Mario Pender could challenge for more time next year and highly-touted Miami Central recruit Dalvin Cook is set to enroll early and participate in Spring practice as well.

All in all, this was probably the right move for Wilder -- who could actually see more carries next year in the NFL than he would during his senior season at Florida State. 

Wilder finishes his career at Florida State with 1,358 rushing yards and 20 career touchdowns.


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January 07, 2014

Rapid Reaction: FSU Wins National Championship 34-31


What happens when you hand the Heisman trophy winner the ball with 1:11 left and tell him to go score you a touchdown to win a national title?

How about he goes 6/7 for 72 yards and throws a game-winning touchdown pass with just seconds remaining on the clock. That's what he's supposed to do, at least. So much is made of the "Heisman curse" and all that comes with it, and on Monday night Jameis Winston looked like he was destined to become the curse's next victim.

Not so fast.

Winston may have struggled in the early going. And granted, his stat-line -- 20/35, 237 yards and two touchdowns -- was hardly his most impressive. But this was the national title game and Winston led a team back from 21-3. He led a game-winning drive.

When the Seminoles needed him most, Winston stood and delivered.

Of course, it never gets to that point without Jimbo Fisher's decision to fake a punt late in the 2nd quarter near his own 30 yard-line. Though far less flashy, that will likely come to be known as Fisher's puntrooskie. It was a play FSU had to have, it was one that Fisher needed confidence to call and it was a play that will come to define this 2013 season.

That all beckons back to the way this team feels about itself, about one another. Fisher was noticeably choked up when asked about what it means to say goodbye to this team -- to say goodbye to the 2010 class.

2010 was the first class Fisher recruited as a head coach. It was cobbled together by Fisher and Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith and Jeff Luc and it turned into one of the greatest in Florida State history. Fans will see wins and stats and that title, but Fisher will point to two things: the team's selflessness and its love for one another. 

That all came to a head on Monday night.

In past years, maybe Fisher doesnt roll the dice in that situation. Maybe he doesn't want to risk it all yet in the first half. But this year, with this team, Fisher trusted his players and even if they didn't make it, he was willing to go for broke with them.

And they responded to that. 

FSU scored a touchdown on that drive, capping a 66-yard drive with a Devonta Freeman touchdown to cut the Auburn lead to 21-10 at the half. 

Then the defense buckled down in the third quarter, holding Auburn scoreless and starting to impose its own will on the Tigers while the Florida State offense continued to scratch and claw its way back into the game.

But in the end it would all come down to Winston -- the Heisman winner -- and whether he could overcome three up-and-down quarters in order to lead FSU on one final touchdown drive.

Auburn and Florida State had gone back and forth, trading three scores in three and a half minutes before Winston trotted out with 80 yards and 1:11 between him and a national title.

He was nearly perfect. The indecision, the hesitation, all off the negative ticks that had started to manifest as Auburn had put pressure -- and hits -- on Winston throughout the first 55 minutes were suddenly gone. There he was, this was the kid that had blown people away through the first 13 games of the season, finally he was in Pasadena. 

Suddenly Winston was stepping into his throws, getting his eyes down the field and trusting his instincts. His throws were crisper, more decisive, the ball began to come out quicker and the offense roared to life. 

58 seconds later Winston found Kelvin Benjamin in the endzone for the game-winning score.

It was the first time Florida State fans had to sweat the ending of a game all year but in many ways it couldn't have been a more perfect ending for Florida State.

After all the eye-popping numbers Jameis Winston completed the most impressive season by any freshman quarterback in NCAA history not without an absurd statistical output, but with the kind of game-winning drive that showcases a player's competitve fire. 

As Jimbo Fisher said:  "It's the best football game [Jameis] played all year, and I'll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down, and he fought. And just like any great player, some nights you don't have it.

"Anybody can do it when it's their 'A' game night. A lot of guys can do that. Very few can do it when it's not their night. And to pull it out in the atmosphere and environment and with what was on the line tonight, to me if that's not a great player, I don't know what one is."

Added Winston:  "I'm pretty sure I got more respect from my teammates and the people around me on that last drive than I got the whole year."


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January 06, 2014

Halftime: Auburn 21 FSU 10


Auburn came to play in the first half and it showed. The Seminoles knew they were in for a fight when the Tigers rumbled for a first down on their very first offensive play of the game and thus far it has been a battle on both sides of the ball.

So far Auburn has the edge too.

Jameis Winston has not looked like a Heisman trophy winning quarterback early on. The redshirt freshman has taken a couple of sacks, sailed a few passes and just hasn't been able to establish any kind of rhythm -- at least not through the first 25 minutes. It didn't help that the Seminoles became one-dimensional for a good part of the first half when they more or less abandoned the run, either.

Credit Auburn, the Tiger defense is showing a variety of different looks and coverages and their corners have hung tight on the Seminole receivers throughout the first half. 

The results on offense have not been good for the Seminoles. FSU punted more in the first half than they did during entire months of this 2013 season, committed penalties and looked generally off-key throughout most of the first half. 

It started well enough for Florida State with a quick stand on defense followed by a field goal on offense. Then things started to get hairy for the Seminoles. A poor punt by Cason Beatty left Auburn with phenomenal field position and Tre Mason scored on a touchdown run several plays later.

A blown coverage early in the second quarter gave Auburn its second touchdown on a 50 yard touchdown pass to Melvin Ray and Auburn was suddenly up 14-3 and in position to really take control of the game. 

They almost did too, a long drive was stalled by an offensive encroachment penalty and kicker Cody Parkey missed the field goal. Unfortunately for Florida State Jameis Winston coughed the ball up a few plays later and Auburn capitalized when Nick Marshall ran it in from four yards out to make it 21-3.

But FSU did answer late. After another of their drives stalled out the Seminoles ran a fake punt and picked up a big first down that seemed to get the team fired up and ready to go. Jameis Winston came alive for the first time all game -- more with his legs than his arm -- and Fisher let his running backs carry the load some for the Seminoles. Devonta Freeman capped the 66-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

FSU is down, but not out.

Still, Florida State has dug itself a big hole. They will take the ball when the teams come out for the second half but Auburn has shown it can both move the ball and affect Winston early on and if that continues coming back from 11 down could really be a challenge for the Seminoles.

Florida State may have eased through their first 13 games, but this 14th one has been rough.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Nick Marshall (7/12, 113, 2 TD)
Rushing: Tre Mason (16-89 TD)
Receiving: Rashad Greene (4-63)


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Pregame: BCS Championship Game -- FSU vs. Auburn


It's here. Kickoff is in just a few hours and the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles are set to play for the last BCS Championship that will ever awarded. 

FSU is lead by their Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston and the top defense in the country. Early on this season it was all about Winston's prolific passing numbers and eye-popping highlights. As the year progressed though, Jeremy Pruitt's defense started to steal the show. By the time FSU had put away the ACC title game against Duke, there was little doubt that the '13 FSU defense belongs with the best in the program's history.

If it can stop Auburn tonight, it will stake its claim as THE best (with plenty of good debate to follow).

Florida State needs just 28 points tonight to set a new NCAA record for points in a season. They also have a chance to join the ranks of the elite if they can win by a couple of scores.

Only three teams have ever won all their games by 14 or more points. 1995 Nebraska -- considered by many to be the greatest college team of all-time -- and 2004 Utah. The Utes' accomplishment, though still noteworthy, is a bit less impressive when you consider the best team they faced that season was an 8-3 Pittsburgh team in the Fiesta Bowl. If FSU can win by more than 14 tonight, they will join Nebaraska in the conversation as one of the greatest teams in college football history. 

That's still a tall order for the 'Noles though. Auburn brings a fierce rushing attack and a defensive front that can cause problems. FSU may be favored, but the Tigers are more than capable of the upset if the Seminoles' minds aren't right.

How will things play out? We will see shortly...

Keep checking back throughout the night for coverage of the BCS Championship Game.

Here's your game capsule:

Previewing the Opponent
Five Things to Watch For
Injury List

Governor Scott Picks FSU
Florida State's Practices Often Harder Than Their Games


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Florida Governor Rick Scott: FSU Will Win 47-10


Just had a chance to talk with Florida's governor, Rick Scott, about the BCS Championship game. The governor is on-hand to take in the game tonight and was gracious enough to share some of his perspective.

“Its been exciting, how many times do you get to be the governor where Florida State’s in the national championship?" joked Scott. "We’re going to have a big win and I’m going to be drinking some nice Lemonade from Alabama, we’re going to have a big win, I think Jameis is going to have a great game.”

The lemonade Scott alluded to is a part of his bet with Alabama governor Robert Bentley. As is custom, the two governors have made a small side-bet -- featuring products their states are famous for -- on the results of tonight's game.

“It will never happen, but if FSU lost then we would give them a Key Lime pie from Kermit’s down in Key West," said Scott. "And when we win, which we will, he’s going to give me a gallon of Toomer’s lemonade.”

Scott also took time to praise the way Jimbo Fisher runs his program. As a businessman who has experienced considerable success in his own life, Scott sees more than a few parallels between himself and Fisher.

“We had lunch earlier this year and he was explaining how he runs the team and it was like how a business-person would do it," said the governor. "He’s very process-oriented, he knows exactly what he wants to get out of it, listening to him you could see that he was going to have a great season.”

As for Scott's prediction, he isn't hedging his bets. He was bold in predicting a Florida State win.

“It’s going to be a big win, so I assume something in the high 40’s, and hopefully [Auburn will] score not more than 10 points," Scott said.

"So I’ll say 47-10.”


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Five Things to Watch For: BCS Championship Game


Here are five things to watch for when Florida State and Auburn square off for the final BCS Championship later tonight.

1.) Paging Lamarcus Joyner

No player has played a bigger role in the resurgence of Florida State over the past four years than Lamarcus Joyner. He helped cobble together one of the top recruiting classes in FSU history when he was still a senior at Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, after starting for two seasons he made the decision to return to school after last year's Orange Bowl and he has been one of the defensive leaders as the Seminoles transitioned into a new system under Jeremy Pruitt.

If FSU wins a national title tonight no player will have been more directly responsible for it than Joyner. That's why it's probably appropriate that should FSU win tonight, Joyner will have to stand and deliver one last time for the Seminoles. Auburn's rushing attack oftentime comes out of a multi-receiver set to try to exploit the defense having extra defensive backs on the field -- the nickel corner usually being a key target.

If FSU is to stop Auburn's vaunted rushing assault, Joyner is going to need to be assignment-sound and extremely physical -- just as he has done all year. If the senior DB is up to the task, Auburn will struggle to establish itself like it wants to in the early going. That could make all the difference.

2.) Nick Marshall

If Auburn is going to beat Florida State is has to prove it can win the battle in the air early on. FSU knows what Auburn's bread and butter is and the Seminoles will be hell-bent on trying to stop it. That means FSU is likely to leave its corners and safeties in a lot of single coverage to try to free up extra men to go play in the box. That is, if Nick Marshall can't prove early on that he can beat that coverage and throw on the Florida State secondary.

If FSU can't afford to load the box that will loosen things up for Tre Mason and the Auburn run game. If FSU can afford to load the box, Marshall and the Auburn offense will struggle all day. Marshall will also be called upon to shoulder the load should the Tigers fall behind. Auburn is not built to come from behind. If it has to, the Tigers could be in trouble.

3.) Jameis Winston

How amped is Jameis Winston at the start of this one? He came out over-hyped against Duke and threw two early picks. He also came out too excited to play Miami and he threw two early interceptions. This is the biggest night of Winston's life, how does the redshirt freshman handle this game?

A lot has changed for Jameis in the past month. The ugly allegations against him were lifted, he won a slew of awards including the Heisman trophy and his national profile is flying higher than it's ever been. Did he read his own press clippings? Will he fall victim to the Heisman curse? Or will this be the same Jameis Winston fans were used to all year?

4.) Mario Edwards

Here's something nobody ever mentions: Mario Edwards was hurt the day Boston College ran all over FSU. As in, he didn't play a snap. Since then Edwards has been healthy and the Seminoles haven't trailed again all year. Edwards was asked a lot about that BC game in the weeks leading up to tonight. He answered all the questions graciously, but it wasn't hard to tell he was irritated answering for mistakes he didn't actually make.

Tonight, he'll have a chance to show how much of a difference maker he really is. Edwards is more of a bull-rusher when it comes to getting after quarterbacks, some have even questioned whether he is an elite pass rusher. What nobody questions is how he stacks up against the run -- in that regard he's one of the nation's best. If Edwards has a big night stuffing the Auburn rushing attack, then you should look for him atop draft boards come the start of next season.

5.) Jimbo, Jimbo, Jimbo

It's come up all aces this year for Florida State and Jimbo Fisher. Fisher replaced 11 draft picks and half of his coaching staff last season and seemingly every move he made paid off huge. Jeremy Pruitt took over for defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and installed a monster of a defense, bringing along late recruiting flips Jalen Ramsey and Demarcus Walker -- both impact freshmen -- on the way. Jameis Winston replaced EJ Manuel to the tune of a school record for touchdown passes and a Heisman trophy.

And after getting over the proverbial hump and winning all the games he was supposed to (and a couple the Seminoles weren't expected to) Fisher himself received a hefty contract extension from FSU.

Now all he has to do is beat Auburn, and that means calling a good game tonight.

In the past Fisher has shown a tendency to get a little wide-eyed at key moments and the play-calling has suffered. If this year is any indication though, that trend is a thing of the past. Take for example the Duke game when FSU's offense was struggling against a very well-prepared Duke defense. In the past Fisher may have kept hammering that square peg into the round hole. Instead, he broke tendency and ran an option look for the first time all year. It worked. It put Duke on its heels and FSU broke the game wide open. 

Fisher will need to show the ingenuity tonight too. If he does, FSU should be in a good position to claim their third national title.


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Previewing the Opponent: Auburn Tigers

Auburn logo

Auburn Tigers
Head Coach: Gus Malzahn
Record: 12-1

Overview: Auburn is by far the best offensive attack that Florida State will have faced -- on the ground, anyway. Anybody that thinks the Seminoles can just completely stuff the Tigers' rushing attack is being foolish. Auburn does too many things well on the ground to be completely stopped. Whether it's play-calling or just their players making the right reads and cuts, it's difficult for any defense to key on what the Tigers do for an entire game and stop it.

That being said, Auburn is not the most balanced offense that FSU has faced and that lack of balance could be the Tigers' achilles heel.

Auburn doesn't have to rely on the pass often -- although they have proven they can throw it when they need to -- and their defense is not one of the better units that has made it to a BCS title game in recent memory.

Both of those facts seem to be getting overlooked in favor of that rushing attack and the Tigers' SEC ties.

Keep in mind one very important -- and understated -- fact from Auburn's miraculous last-second win over Alabama. The Tide were without both of their starting safeties. That's a pretty glaring omission to make when people are so quick to tout the rushing totals that the Tigers rolled up in that game. Why would safeties matter in run support? Well against option packages that use multiple receivers a physical safety actually has quite a bit to do with the run. Missing two starters? That hurts.

Technically Florida State IS missing one of its starting safeties -- Tyler Hunter has been out most of the season with a neck injury. Fortunately, several years of good recruiting have helped cover up that loss. True freshman Jalen Ramsey moved from corner to safety and freshman Nick Andrews ended up leading the team in the interceptions. 

On the other side of the ball Auburn is going to give up points. They have done that all year. That being said, Auburn's defense is best described as opportunistic. The Tigers can get after the passer on third and long, they tighten up in the red zone and they always seem to do just enough to keep their offense in position to win come late in the game.

How FSU Stacks Up: There are two key areas that FSU has to exploit if they want to win this game. First of all, the Seminole offense has to start fast and score often. Given Auburn's defense, as long as the Seminoles can be productive on early downs and maintain balance that shouldn't be a problem. On the other side of the ball the defense will need to get a few early stops.

If the Seminoles can put a little bit of distance between themselves and the Tigers they can break Auburn's tendencies and force Nick Marshall to beat them in the air. That's not an ideal situation for Marshall or the Tigers -- typicaly Auburn's offense likes to throw between 10-15 times per game. On a good day that would take FSU's talented secondary out of the equation on most downs. Fortunately for the Seminoles, that's where physical safety play comes in. 

Between Terrence Brooks and Ramsey at the safety spots, and with Lamarcus Joyner lining up at the nickel, FSU will have three very talented tacklers helping out in run support when Auburn keeps it on the ground. Provided FSU's front does its job and takes up blockers and running lanes, that trio of DB's -- along with linebackers Telvin Smith and Terrance Smith -- should end up with plenty of tackles near the line of scrimmage.

If FSU's offense does its part and the defense can shut down the Auburn run early, FSU could force the Tigers into a very uncomfortable position where they need to throw to keep up. That is not how Auburn's offense is built.

The flipside of that though is what happens if Auburn can run successfully on FSU and keep this game tight all the way through? In that case, all bets are off given how battle-tested the Tigers are and how little the Seminoles have even had to play in the fourth quarter this season. Auburn will carry with it the confidence that comes from having won two games on the final play. That confidence will only grow if this game is tight coming down to the wire. 

FSU might be fine in that situation too, the problem is nobody can know because as of yet the Seminoles have not been tested that way. We have no information on that. That's why Auburn's best bet is if the Tigers can keep it close late, they are not well-equipped to come from more than a couple scores behind.

Three to Watch:

1.) Nick Marshall, QB -- If Auburn beats FSU it will need a huge game from its quarterback.

2.) Tre Mason, RB -- The Heisman finalist will be the Seminoles' chief concern come kickoff.

3.) Sammie Coates, WR -- Auburn's biggest receiving threat ranks amongst the most talented WR's FSU has had to cover all year.

Quote of the Week: "My life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet. At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like okay, they've got a freshman quarterback. Nobody is going to pay any attention, now we're in the National Championship." 

- Jameis Winston


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January 05, 2014

Florida State's Practices Often More Challenging Than Their Games


Florida State is confident about Monday’s BCS National Championship game against Auburn. The Seminoles will tell you that much.

That confidence isn’t borne out of what the Seminoles have done to their opponents this year on Saturdays, either. Though that would be a compelling reason in and of itself.

FSU is 28 points from setting an NCAA record for the most points scored in a single season. The Seminoles have beat their opponents by an average score of 42 points per game. They boast the number one ranked scoring offense and scoring defense in the country.

Detractors will say that FSU played a soft schedule -- they did -- but the Seminoles obliterated that schedule, soft or not..

That, however, is not why Florida State feels good about their chances come Monday night. No, it hasn’t been what’s happened on Saturdays this season that has the Seminoles so confident, it’s what they do every day in practice -- during the week -- that has the Seminoles feeling good as they prepare to face Auburn in Pasadena.

“We go ‘good-on-good’ every day in practice,” said head coach Jimbo Fisher, speaking of his practice of having the Seminole’s starting offense and starting defense practice against each other on a daily basis.

That means on any given day in Tallahassee this season a casual spectator could see the nation’s top scoring offense scrimmaging against the nation’s top scoring defense on the fields of the Albert Dunlap practice facility.

“It is a blessing to be a part of it,” said junior defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. “To play with so many other talented guys. That’s what makes you better, being able to practice with those guys week-in, week-out, just pushing each other.”

Sure, Florida State still does all the usual scout team stuff to prepare for their opponents. And yes, other teams go ‘good-on-good’ in their practices too. The difference between those schools and FSU though? The talent level.

Florida State lead the nation with 11 players selected in last year’s NFL Draft. This year should see plenty more Seminoles hear their name called by the NFL too. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage called FSU -- along with Alabama -- the most loaded roster in the country before the start of the season.

By the year’s end, the results matched the hype.

For instance, FSU’s trio of receivers have garnered plenty of NFL attention this season. Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin all had over 900 yards receiving while they helped carry quarterback, Jameis Winston, to a Heisman trophy.

But as much as Winston benefited from the trio’s highlight reel catches and the prolific numbers they put up, nobody benefited more than the Seminole secondary -- the group that has to practice against them daily.

“Going against that offense, that helps us get better every day, those receivers are just phenomenal, the line is great, the running backs are really good. Getting to go against them every day just gets us that much better," said senior safety Terrence Brooks. "I think it’s a standard that we hold when we practice in everything that we do and that’s why we’re able to do so good.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, FSU’s defense lead the nation in interceptions this season.

It’s been like that all over the Florida State roster this season. Strength battles strength in practice during the week and both are better for it come Saturday. Still, the Seminoles know on Monday they will face a tougher challenge than they have faced in a game all year.

“This team will definitely be the most athletic team,” said defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. “We’ll have to be technique-sound.”

But will the Tigers be better than the opponent Florida State battles against every day in its own practice?

So far the Seminoles haven’t faced a tougher opponent come game-day all season.

“There has not been, and I, well…,” said senior left tackle Cam Erving, a confident smile spreading across his face. “No, there hasn’t been.”


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January 04, 2014

FSU Injury Report: BCS Championship Game


Florida State enters the BCS Championship game healthy and in good shape. Not that FSU really needed the month off to rest -- the Seminole starters rarely play past the third quarter -- but the few nagging bumps and bruises that were an issue have mostly worked themselves out. WR Isaiah Jones has been back at practice after missing a couple of months, Devonta Freeman was banged up following the ACC Championship game but was rested and will be fine come Monday night. The Seminoles are in good shape from a health standpoint.

Out for Game

DB      Colin Blake (hamstring)


Out for Season

QB      Jacob Coker (knee)
OL      Ira Denson (shoulder) 
WR     Jarred Haggins (knee)
TE      Kevin Haplea (knee)
DB      Tyler Hunter (neck) 
LB      Matthew Thomas (shoulder)


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December 31, 2013

Jimbo Fisher Officially Signs Extension with Florida State


A little over three weeks after it was first reported by the Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo, head coach Jimbo Fisher has finalized his contract extension with Florida State University. 

Fisher will now be at FSU through 2019.

"We are extremely pleased with the direction of our program and believe that this new contract will assure that Coach Fisher is in place to lead the Seminoles for a long time to come," said athletic director Stan Wilcox in a statement released earlier today. 

"Coach Fisher enjoys the full support of the leadership of the university and we look forward to the continued success of our football program on the field and in the classroom."

There had been rumors linking FSU's fourth year head coach to the vacancy at Texas. It appears -- barring an absurd offer from the Longhorns -- that those rumors will now be put to rest.

Fisher's deal is reported to be in the ballpark of about 4.1 million dollars per year -- making him one of the nation's highest paid coaches. Despite being reported on during the ACC Championship game, it took several weeks before the terms could be agreed upon by both sides. One of the potential hold-ups could have been compensation for assistant coaches. Fisher had to replace half his staff following last season and may have wanted to try to avoid repeating the process again at the start of 2014 too.

Per FSU: "A copy of the contract will not be available for release until later this week, but will include a raise in annual compensation for Fisher."


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