SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Florida St. Seminoles

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Bobby Bowden (29th year, 259-64-4)
2002 record: 9-5 (Lost to Georgia 26-13 in Sugar Bowl)
ACC finish: 1st
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 187.0 ypg (3rd in ACC, 35th in nation)
Pass: 211.1 ypg (6th, 26th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 130.8 ypg (4th, 36th)
Pass: 235.2 ypg (8th, 85th)
Projected Starters
Offense (4 returning starters in bold)
SE  81  P.K. Sam  Jr. 
FL  21  Dominic Robinson  Jr. 
ST  70  Alex Barron  Jr. 
SG  64  Matt Meinrod  So. 
63  David Castillo  Jr. 
TG  73  Bobby Meeks  Jr. 
TT   77   Ray Willis   Jr.  
TE  38  Paul Irons  Jr. 
QB   16   Chris Rix   Jr.  
FB   35   B.J. Dean   So.  
TB   6   Greg Jones   Sr.  
Defense (10)
DE   90   Kevin Emanuel   Sr.  
DT   45   Darnell Dockett   Sr.  
NG   99   Travis Johnson   Jr.  
DE  55  Eric Moore  Jr. 
SLB   58   Michael Boulware   Sr.  
MLB   40   Allen Augustin   Sr.  
WLB   9   Kendyll Pope   Sr.  
CB   10   Stanford Samuels   Sr.  
CB   7   Rufus Brown   Sr.  
FS   41   Kyler Hall   Jr.  
RV   23   Jerome Carter   Jr.  
Special Teams
47  Xavier Beitia  Jr. 
31  Chris Hall  So. 
KR  Leon Washington  So. 
PR  Leon Washington  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at North Carolina 
Sept. 6  Maryland 
Sept. 13  Georgia Tech 
Sept. 20  Colorado 
Sept. 27  at Duke 
Oct. 11  Miami 
Oct. 18  at Virginia 
Oct. 25  Wake Forest 
Nov. 1  at Notre Dame 
Nov. 8  at Clemson 
Nov. 15  NC State 
Nov. 29  at Florida 
It had been 21 years since a Bobby Bowden-coached Florida State team lost five games in a season. A 9-5 finish, culminating with a 26-13 Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia, was just part of the problem, as internal discontent and off-field indiscretions marred the program.
When it was over, Bowden summed it up succinctly: "It's been one of those kind of years that you're glad it's over. This season, it was just odd. It was strange."

Strange as it seems, Bowden, 73, has charged headlong into rehabilitating FSU's image, hoping the end result will be a turnaround for a program that has suffered nine losses over the past two seasons.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

The days of blaming quarterback Chris Rix's inexperience for the team's struggles are finally over. With 21 starts, 4,418 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes under his belt, Rix is a seasoned veteran and is expected to play like one.

If the Seminoles can find capable replacements for four offensive line starters -- and tackles Ray Willis and Alex Barron are experienced and capable -- there should be no shortage of firepower at Rix's disposal. Senior tailback Greg Jones was on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing campaign before suffering a season-ending knee injury, but he is expected back at full speed at the start of the season. In Jones' absence, freshman Leon Washington ran for 273 yards, including 134 in a win at Florida. With fleet-footed redshirt freshman tailback Lorenzo Booker expected to make an immediate impact, FSU's running game should be stout.

ACC sprint champion Craphonso Thorpe and junior classmate P.K. Sam must step up to replace Anquan Boldin and Talman Gardner.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Florida State's mistake-prone offense has been the target of critics over the past two seasons, but the defense has been equally culpable, yielding averages of 362 yards and 23.5 points over that span.

Expect the 'Noles to halt that trend in 2003, as defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews welcomes the return of 10 starters and 25 lettermen, led by seniors and third-year starting outside linebackers Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope. Boulware and Pope have combined for 562 career tackles, four touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 23 pass breakups and 31 tackles for loss, and are the heart of a unit expected to rank as one of the nation's best.

Though the Seminoles have paid a high price for their defensive inexperience over the past two seasons, Andrews slowly has been able to rebuild the team's depth. That alone should allow FSU to return to its once-lethal attacking style, maximizing its speed and numbers.

Replacing All-ACC defensive end Alonzo Jackson's team-leading 13 sacks and 19 quarterback hurries presents a significant challenge. Tackles Darnell Dockett and Jeff Womble lead a two-deep interior push, which should provide ample opportunities for ends Kevin Emanuel, Eric Moore and newcomer Chauncey Davis to get after opposing quarterbacks.

A strong push from the front seven should take some of the burden off an intact secondary, led by senior cornerbacks Stanford Samuels and Rufus Brown, that ranked 85th nationally against the pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Junior kicker Xavier Beitia (191 career points), a third-year starter, is 32-of-42 on field-goal attempts and has a streak of 77 successful PATs. The ’Noles are hopeful sophomore punter Chris Hall can step in and replace two-year starter Chance Gwaltney. Washington is one of the nation's most dangerous returners.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Bowden has placed an emphasis on finding leaders after last year's season of discontent. Team chemistry has become a priority as the defending ACC champions go after their 11th league title in 12 seasons. Though the ACC is stronger than ever, the Seminoles have no shortage of physical talent capable of delivering another title. Where the 'Noles fit on the national stage will be determined by a brutal non-conference schedule that includes Colorado, Miami, Notre Dame and Florida.

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