Excerpts: Alex Atkins on his coaching start, FSU’s line in 2020

Florida State offensive line coach Alex Atkins joined Mark Salva and Patrick Burnham on the Seminole Sidelines podcast to discuss a variety of topics at the midpoint of the Seminoles’ season. Here are five excerpts of Atkins’ thoughts:

On Atkins’ coaching start

“I played at a small school, UT Martin. Really enjoyed my time there. I got to play for some great coaches and learn from some great coaches. While my time was there, Jason Simpson, who I played with my senior year, is actually still a coach there, and got me into coaching. He really talked me into it. When I graduated from college, I was actually about to go to Illinois to take the state trooper exam. I was all in. I had already taken the first part of the exam was going to take the second. And he called me in and told me he wanted me to help out coaching. Would I be interested in getting my master’s degree and continuing my education? They had a spot. What I didn’t realize he was setting me up because he put me in the equipment room. And I started my coaching career riding the U haul to set up locker rooms.”

What was the impact of COVID-19 on offseason?

“It was a unique situation where I think it made coaches practice what we preach, because every coach in America talks to players about how they respond to adversity. You know, hey, things are not going your way. How are you going to play? How are you going to practice? You’re a little banged up? I had every reason not to be able to establish a relationship. I had every reason to make an excuse of why I can’t be around. But what unique things was I going to go out of my way to still establish that relationship. So it gave me an opportunity to show effort and how I can be consistent in finding unique ways to let you know I want to build this relationship with you. And genuinely and not just because of what you can do to help me on a football field. … How can I still get these guys to trust me? How can I stilll build the relationship? I can really dive deep into you as a person. Hey, Facetiming, let me see your mom. Show me your room. Let’s talk.”

How did you instill confidence in FSU’s linemen?

“Truth. I don’t believe in false confidence. There’s truth. Telling them the truth and holding them accountable to the truth. … I tell guys, ‘I don’t like non-growth. If you don’t grow or I don’t see any type of improvement in some aspect of your life, you’re not going to like playing for me. You’re not going to enjoy it, we’re not gonna have a great relationship, you’re gonna dread walking in my meeting room, because it’s gonna be tough for you. If I don’t see improvement, it’s gonna be awkward. We’re not going to get along. We’re going to be at odds, because I’m not seeing any improvement.”

Has the group exceeded expectations?

“My expectation of them is higher than probably what it should be, but we’re not close. I’ve enjoyed the daily improvement. … I enjoy those moments where everybody was on time for treatment. Where the weight room, guys attacked the workout this week. Where I got a call from our academic department, said he turned in all his work before Thursday, before he travels on Friday. I’ve enjoyed — we’ve made the out call on inside zone. So it’s more of an all-encompassing approach. We’re just starting the foundation of the standard.”

How hard is it for a true freshman, like Robert Scott, to start on OL?

“I couldn’t do it, you know? I’m glad I got some guys here that can do it. But the most difficult (aspect) is learning on the fly and being able to take the outward criticism that you get as you’re learning, as you’re developing. Just like you do your children, you wish you can protect them from the world as they start their journey of improvement and learning, but you can’t. So I believe that’s the most difficult part. Like you don’t want your young kids going somewhere and seeing some things or hearing things that they’re not ready for, that you haven’t prepared them for. You want them to be able to stay in their cocoon while they’re fine, before to get the wings. I’ll give those young guys credit of being able to focus on improvement, despite everything around them.”

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