When it comes to scouting Florida State, it would be hard to find a more qualified expert than Florida interim head football coach Randy Shannon.
Shannon knows the Seminoles as well as anyone else out there. As a player and a coach, he’s faced them so many times over the years he’s lost count.
“A lot of them,” Shannon said Monday. “I don’t have a number. With FSU, oh man, that’s a lot of them. Playing-wise and coaching-wise, that’s probably over 20, so it’s just one of those rivalries that you play.”
The actual number is 23. He will be squaring off against the Seminoles for the 24th time Saturday in The Swamp.
He’s knows FSU. He knows the rivalry (whether it’s UF-FSU or Miami-FSU). He knows what to expect from the Seminoles, because not a whole lot has changed over the years, he said.
“Always going to be physical,” he said. “They always have the big defensive linemen up front that do a great job. Odell Haggins has been there for a long time, the d-line coach, and he does a tremendous job with those guys. They’re going to be very physical up front.
“Offensively, they always have a running back. No matter what areas, they always have a running back that does a great job and (quarterback James) Blackman’s a young kid. He’s settled in right now. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes right now because they’re running the football.
“You’re going to see a very up-front defensive line and you’re going to see that the running backs, they try to establish the run game offensively.”
Shannon faced the Seminoles 21 times as a Hurricane. He will be going against them a third time as a Gator on Saturday. His record against FSU is 13-10, so the Gators have that going for them.
As for the rivalry aspect, Shannon said there is really no difference between the UF-FSU rivalry and the UM-FSU version.
“It’s all the same. It doesn’t change,” he said. “Florida State is Florida State. They’re going to be very competitive. They take a lot of pride in what they do at Florida State, just like at Florida. We take a lot of pride in what we do at Florida. Now we’re going to go out there, we’re going to play the game. Whatever happens after that, we’ll see what happens.”
Even though Shannon has been a part of some memorable games against Florida State, he said he does not have a memory that stands out.
“All of them are different,” he said. “It was great to play in some of them. Sometimes, we lost 48 to whatever. We lost 48-3 one time and then other games it was lopsided and the rest of them were neck-and-neck. They are games that you play. You never know what’s going to happen, but you play the game hard.”
Shannon said he has no special message or theme for the players this week, but then again, they already know what this rivalry is all about.
“Just stay on track to what you’re doing,” he said. “Don’t make it personal. That’s one thing that happens sometimes in life, you make things personal and you forget the real reason why you’re here, and the real reason why is to be competitive and win the football game.
“If me or any coaches or any players make it personal against Florida State, well, you’re probably going to make mistakes because you’re going to try too hard and you’re going to forget about your assignments and what you’re trying to get done.
“It’s a game where we’ve got to do our assignments, play hard, play physical and do what we do. If you make it personal then that’s when bad things happen.”
In one regard, though, the game is somewhat personal for Shannon, because he knows coaches and players on the other side.
“I know a lot of the kids on that roster. I know a lot of coaches on that staff,” he said. “Played against some of them. Some of them I coached with. (Linebackers coach) Bill Miller, I coached with at Miami. Me and Odell (Haggins) have been friends since we’ve played against each other. I’ve been knowing Jimbo since recruiting when I first started being a coach.
“Me and him recruited a young man when he was at Auburn. We know a lot of different guys. It’s coaching, that’s a part of it. You know a lot of different guys on the staff. We’re all competitive. We all want to win. That’s the way we’re going to approach it.”
If anyone knows how to approach this game, this rivalry, it’s Randy Shannon.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: Florida State (4-6) vs. Florida (4-6)
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Florida Field
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850