A room full of reporters gathered around Kendal Briles in Florida State’s Moore Athletics Center on Sunday, the scrum making it obvious who the biggest offseason story surrounding the program is.
As the new offensive coordinator, Briles has been tasked with resurrecting a Seminole offense that ranked near the bottom of the nation in many categories a year ago. As Briles spoke, the message became clear. Familiarity and consistency were the foremost objectives of his first few months as the signal-caller in Tallahassee.
Which is why the hire of new offensive line coach Randy Clements, was so important to Briles when agreeing to sign with FSU.
The two have worked together for years since their days at Baylor, revolutionizing the way college football views offensive philosophy. Briles has known Clements far longer than even their work history, back when Kendal played for his father, Art, at Stephenville High in Texas, where Randy was on staff. Later Briles would transfer to Houston in his collegiate playing career, where Clements was the Cougars’ offensive line coach from 2003-07.
“I always enjoy working with Kendal because he’s one of my great friends and his family, they’re like family to me,” Clements said at FSU’s Media Day. “We’ve grown up (together), almost 30 years ago. That’s just been a blessing for me in my life.”
Synergy between the two and patching an offensive line were part of the reason Willie Taggart opted to hire the duo that was, in every sense, a package deal. The tempo in which Briles wants to operate requires a precision that takes instinctual ability. The two have synched over the years in many way as it relates on and off the field.
“It makes everything easier obviously. We worked together for so long, we know what each other wants, thinks, that type of thing,” Clements said. “We both expect the same thing, we want the same thing.”
“It’s a huge deal, just understanding what we do with our offense and the RPOs (Run-Pass Option),” Briles agreed. “You’re talking about running and throwing altogether. Having a guy who knows exactly where we’re going with the football and what should happen on the play, it’s tremendous.”
The expectation for Briles is to revamp the Seminoles’ offense overnight. Fair or not, Briles understands the responsibility of coaching at a program like FSU, where results are demanded immediately. The relationship with Clements should bridge the learning curve at a rapid pace before the 2019 season starts.
“I think it’s important to have that relationship in any offense whether you’ve been with a guy that long or not. Everybody has got to be on the same page,” Clements said.
“Our offensive staff is awesome. Everybody is just willing and eager to do their part. Whatever it takes for us to be successful. The fact that me and Kendal have been together that long, all it does really is speed things up.”
The Seminoles hope the shear pace in which they run their plays will be punishing to opposing defenses attempting to line up against a talented core of skill-players at FSU’s disposal.
“When you’re going at a really fast pace, there’s a lot of things that need to happen from processing the information coming out and reacting to it,” Briles said of early observations in practice.
“I’ve been really pleased with the guys.”
Clements’ offensive line has received a ton of praise this offseason for the work they’ve put in improving their technique, their bodies and their confidence. With tempo, all three areas will be put to the test. The Seminoles’ coaching staff has spent a lot of time working with this group to get them ready for the upcoming campaign.
“Our O-line, the last three practices, we’ve done a great job of allotting more time to coach them within that tempo,” Briles said. “Coach Clements knows exactly what we want up front. Those guys are the ones who have to get up and get set the quickest. When you’re 340 pounds, it can be difficult, so we’re working on that, but I really like where we are at right now.”
Improvement is the biggest priority for the staff with the blocking unit. They understand it will take some time to get cohesion and experience for this group. The goal is for tempo to help mask some deficiencies early in the growth process and allow the Seminoles to take advantage of strengths.
“You can hide some weaknesses with tempo. If we can go sideline to sideline and get the defense to chase, then you don’t let those defensive studs get set and get off the line as fast,” Briles said.
“We can create some creases, cover some things up and let our guys do the rest. Defenses go really hard and they tend to tire themselves out, that’s something I’ve learned over the years and we’re getting better at taking advantage of it.
Florida State conducted its first scrimmage on Saturday, allowing the staff to see the early returns on progress the offense has put forth this fall.
“We protected the football well, and from an assignment standpoint I thought we blocked pretty well. We ran the ball effectively,” Briles said.
“One thing we need to be better at is playing cleaner and sustaining drives. Our defense has been playing really soft (coverage) and has made us earn every yard. When a defense does that, you have to play clean on offense.”
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