We talked to Samford's Defensive Coordinator, Bill D'Ottavio, who was about as non-committal as a politician during campaign season. Our take is that Bill hopes to preserve some slight advantage against FSU by using the element of surprise.
Keep in mind, though, there were no fleas on these Bulldogs last season when they opened against UCF. Samford played off the leash, losing by 28-24 on the Knights home turf.
D'Ottavio didn't have much to say about that game either in our conversation. See what you read between the lines in the following interchange.
Coach, what type of defense do you run so FSU fans will know what to look for?
D'Ottavio: "Uh, I think I may want to make them work a little harder to find that out (laughs). Let 'em do a little research."
You must be changing your scheme.
D'Ottavio: "No, I don't think so."
Do you have a lot of returning starters from last year's defense?
D'Ottavio: "We have some kids back, yes we do."
Who should we look for that will be anchoring the defense?
D'Ottavio: "I always hate to single kids out. But we have a few seniors. Our middle linebacker has been our leading tackler. A guy by the name of Bryce Smith. And we've got a couple of seniors up front that have played a lot of football for us. And a few seniors in the back end. We'll be counting on those guys to give us some leadership."
Do you have any starters who'll be out or doubtful because of injuries?
D'Ottavio: "I'm not commenting in that direction, if you don't mind. That's kind of a personal policy of mine."
Are the players looking forward to that first game?
D'Ottavio: "For us it's a step up and a tremendous challenge. It's a David and Goliath situation, I understand that. We're just gonna go through fall camp, prepare ourselves for the season and go out there and play as well as we possibly can. For us, when we play an ACC team, you know what you're getting into."
But in last year's opener you guys gave UCF a good scare. They only won by four points.
D'Ottavio: "Yeah, it was a pretty good football game. Our kids played hard and we did some things to give us a chance. We had the lead going into the third quarter and maybe even some of the fourth -- you know, the details kinda get fuzzy. But it was a good game. We were competitive and proud of our effort. But we didn't close it out."
I bet you've looked at film of Jacksonville State, a team in your league, that came close to beating FSU last year.
D'Ottavio: "Yeah, they played a good game against them. But I've also seen film of FSU playing some other people and they looked pretty good (laughs). So each week's a different deal. I think Florida State's got some talent and a very good offense from what I've seen -- I'm not that deep into studying them at this point. But I imagine they'll be a little better this year. They have a lot of youth coming back, I understand."
When will you start looking closely at film and coming up with a defensive game plan for FSU?
D'Ottavio: "We've peeked at them. And once we get over spring recruiting, before we head out on vacation, we'll spend some time studying them and learning as much as we can, then go from there. Of course, during fall camp we'll come back and revisit it."
Is there anything your telling or selling your kids on about that first game?
D'Ottavio: "We'll be preparing our team for an entire season, we don't want to focus on just one thing. But we'll be very excited about the opportunity. You know, Jimbo's an alumnus. So that'll be a neat thing for our fan base."
Bobby Bowden's also a Samford alum. Have you heard if he might be there?
D'Ottavio: "No, but Samford's proud of him, as many others are."
Sounds like you're playing it close to the vest and might have some surprises for the Seminoles.
D'Ottavio: "We'll see what their scheme is offensively and we'll try to game plan it like you do everybody else. There's not a lot of surprises in this day and age. We felt like we had a good spring. So come fall we'll just go out and play hard and do what we can do."