off, let me answer a few often-asked questions so you can
get these obvious items out of the way
the best FSU team since 2000. Chris Rix will be a better QB.
FSU is not the dominant team in the ACC anymore. FSU will
not contend for the National Championship. Barring injury
(like that's possible), the OL is better than people think.
The schedule, though, is too tough. FSU coaching is still
questionable. LB Ernie Sims and RB Lorenzo Booker will be
that good. A four-to-five loss season is again possible. TB
Greg Jones will be back. Taking away all off-the-field troubles
will not win more ballgames. DTs Darnell Docket and Travis
Johnson will play. The FSU secondary will be better. The ACC
championship still goes through Tallahassee.
best to approach the 2003 Noles in two different ways when
addressing any won/loss outlook(s).
this is the best Nole team since the 2001 slide, in terms
of experience at the skill positions, and more importantly
overall defensive depth. Understand that during the great
Nole dynasty run from 1987 to 2000, FSU always operated under
the system where the groomed talent taking snaps was at least
a junior (minus 26-year old sophomore Chris Weinke) with years
spent sitting on the bench watching, waiting and learning.
Danny McManus - senior
1988 - Chip Ferguson - senior
1989 - Peter Tom Willis - senior
1990, 1991 - Casey Weldon - junior, senior
1992, 1993 - Charlie Ward - junior, senior
1994, 1995 - Danny Kanell - junior, senior
1996, 1997 - Thad Busby - junior, senior
1998, 1999, 2000 - Chris Weinke - sophomore, junior, senior
(26 years old)
2001 - Chris Rix - freshman
player the caliber of Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward had
to pay his dues on the pine. You simply cannot plan on taking
a freshman QB to then push for championships.
exists here. Most astute followers of the game can attest
to the fact that team success is often measured in terms of
the guy calling the signals and his experience level. If Southern
Cal's 2003 team had a returning experienced QB, you would
see them now as a legit Top 5 team.
WILL FIND IN 2003
What about the QB situation? Bear in mind, Rix won
the Spring MVP award recently. You are going to see a much
more poised version, finally, in his third year at the helm.
we see the same Greg Jones again in 2003? As of now, the
big tailback, who led the ACC in rushing before tearing his
ACL in early November, is expecting to be 100% by the opener
versus North Carolina. His primary goal at this junction is
to shed the extra pounds picked up in the rehab process. He
weighs 251 pounds (yes, a tailback), but has a goal of 238
when August practice gets underway. Luckily, his running style
is not predicated on slicing and slashing, which can add extra
stress to a knee, but more of a straight ahead approach
idea most defensive backfields do not appreciate.
about the defense? The defense has been a thorn in FSU's
side the last two falls. 2003 is, by far, the best defense
coordinator Mickey Andrews has been able to cast in terms
of experience and depth since the new millennium drought started.
Ten returning starters, as well as each man on the first unit,
is a junior or senior, a factor that has not existed now for
two years running. Some defensive rays of light started shining
through as FSU closed out the 2002 campaign.
2002's end surge enough to make this group one of the better
defenses in the nation? No, once again, it is the best
in Tallahassee since the drop-off started.
about the secondary Achilles Heel? The DB unit is still
a wait-and-see process. The safeties are, with Carter, Ward,
and Watkins, finally up to par in terms of speed and athleticism
(B.J. Ward is the fastest Seminole of late, recording a 4.42
40). The corners (Samuels, Brown, McFadden) have been through
the mill. This is where the test will come. The young DBs
have matured enough to grant coaches a chance to mix the defenses
and trust the blitz. They won't lock down receivers as FSU
has in the past, but they will outshine their previous efforts,
which wouldn't take much. In addition, the FSU opponent list
likely won't find as many Seneca Wallace, Dave Ragone, Ken
Dorsey and Rex Grossman's tossing darts.
talented are the linebackers? The LBs have excellent depth
and are extremely gifted. This is the best unit on the field,
other than at tailback. Seniors Michael Boulware and Kendyll
Pope are top athletes on any depth chart. Who is the new
guy? Yes, five-star recruit Ernie Sims will see playing
time at MLB in his first season. He recently recorded a 4.44
40 at the FSU summer workouts. Mark my words - he will be
one of the all-time LB greats before his time is through.
At DE, there just was not enough room on a two-deep depth
chart to list all of the qualified applicants. The inside
of the interior is another story in terms of depth. What
about suspensions? It appears DT Darnell Dockett, who
decided to stick around for his senior year despite his legal
troubles, is ready to start. His one game suspension in the
Sugar Bowl may be his only missed assignment. The other question
is whether his partner (Travis Johnson) will be available
due to legal troubles of his own. All indications point to
yes, he should play, barring a team-appointed multiple game
suspension. The only real player departing from this mess
appears to be back-up/starter QB Adrian McPherson.
will the off-the-field troubles effect this 2003 version?
Nothing that winning cannot cure. Unfortunately, the more
notches in the loss the column, the more that "perception"
noose will tighten.
is FSU not getting preseason respect? The second portion
of this two-fold outlook means understanding that FSU's schedule
is absolutely brutal. Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Colorado,
Maryland, Virginia, NC State...forget it. You are still going
to see the loses mount, which should account for their low
preseason placement in many of the released polls. When some
look at the fact that you have ACC teams such as NC State,
Maryland and Virginia ranked ahead in the polls, the deduction
is that FSU is headed to a fourth place finish in the league.
This assumption is not the proper way of looking at the situation.
The non-conference schedule difficulties just won't allow
for a higher ranking. Who won the ACC Championship last year?
FSU. Final rankings? AP Poll - #12 NC State, #13 Maryland,
#21 Florida State, #22 Virginia. Losses and rankings do not
(necessarily) consistently translate into similar conference
standings. The point is that non-conference losses mean lower
rankings. For those analysts that feel FSU will be a fourth
place finish in the ACC
another team win the ACC? Now this definitely could happen
sooner than FSU finishes fourth. But the odds are greater
now more than ever (since FSU joined the conference in 1992),
even though the media has been saying this every year since.
Sounds good, except the argument really holds water this time
around with the quality of the ACC from top to bottom.
losing such great coaches still affect the outlook? The
truth is, that with all of these questions, most answers do
not reside in the off-season troubles or the player personnel.
The most important questions here still remain within the
coaching staff. Now that they have been handed a more stacked
deck upon which to deal, while living in a pressure cooker,
will they make the right decisions in terms of play calling
and schemes? Nothing but time can answer this. If history
is any indication, the prognosis would be more towards a negative
response. The replacement coaches for former Seminole greats
Chuck Amato and Mark Richt, as well as others, are in a crucial
"show me what you've done for me lately" type spot.
Their status in the eyes of the FSU faithful comes down to
now (and possibly 2004). With better overall talent and experience,
their coaching worth should be answered by then. For those
that still do not know, Bobby Bowden does not call the plays.
two losses for the upcoming season used to be unheard of during
the summer months. In that regards, FSU has lost its mental
edge and swagger. The talent in 2003 is just as good as the
latter teams of the 90's, creating quite a telltale situation
for those leading the troops.
will this team end up in January? An 11-2 season for FSU
with the current schedule would be quite a success. 10-3 appears
more realistic and Coach Bowden would not complain. 9-4 or
8-5 is still quite a possibility, which would leave FSU with
yet another year of disappointment.