2005 RECORD: 8-5 (5-3 in ACC Atlantic) RETURNING STARTERS: 10
QB Drew Weatherford (Soph.)
Threw for 18 touchdowns and ACC-high 3,208 yards last year
WR Greg Carr (Soph.)
Averaged 20.6 yards per catch and had a team-high nine TDs
CB Tony Carter (Soph.)
Led Seminoles with 12 pass breakups
Big Man on Campus
A budding star, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen had a memorable first start last fall, sacking Miami's Kyle Wright in Florida State's season-opening 10-7 victory. He finished the year with 7 1/2 tackles for loss. The 6'4", 286-pound junior will be the leader of a front four that's talented but lacks experience.
It's back to the basics for the Seminoles, who are determined to reestablish their running game
Since arriving in Tallahassee in 2002 as the nation's No. 1 recruit, running back Lorenzo Booker has been redshirted, suffered knee and ankle injuries, and split playing time with other tailbacks. He has averaged only 10.1 rushing attempts a game and has never had even a 900-yard season. Yet when pressed about his unspectacular four-year stay, the 5'11", 193-pound senior accepts his fate. "With as many athletes as we have," he says, "this has never been a place where you get 25 carries a game."
Florida State is also a place where contending for the national championship is expected every fall, and Booker acknowledges that the Seminoles have lost too many games lately. For 10 straight seasons, beginning in 1991, FSU won 10 or more games, took home two national championships and never finished out of the AP's top five, but last year's 8-5 record marked the fifth straight season in which the school lost three or more games and finished outside the wire service's top 10. The Seminoles were hampered by an out-of-balance offense that threw too much (58.4% of the plays) and averaged an ACC-low 94.0 rushing yards per game. The trouble started when an already suspect line was hit hard by injuries, most notably to guard Matt Meinrod, who went down with a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula in the fifth game of the season. Without reliable run-blockers, offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden turned more and more to freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford and a gifted corps of wideouts. Booker, who had 887 yards rushing in 2004, finished with only 552 yards and was so disillusioned that he considered declaring for the NFL draft. (Experts projected him as a second-round selection.) Only a promise from coach Bobby Bowden to recommit to the run kept Booker in Tallahassee.
In anticipation of a heavier workload, Booker redoubled his efforts in the weight room during the off-season, adding six pounds of muscle and testing out as the strongest man on the team pound for pound. Though sophomore Antone Smith will get some work, Florida State will begin the season with Booker -- who was recently timed at 4.40 in the 40 -- as its featured back. "There's nothing not to like about him," says tight ends coach John Lilly, who recruited Booker out of St. Bonaventure High in Ventura, Calif. "He's got great change of direction and acceleration. He's a complete package."
How well Booker does will depend in large part on the retooled line, which will have three new starters and will be using the more physical run-blocking style that was emphasized during spring practice. The unit should get a boost from 6'7", 309-pound right tackle Shannon Boatman, a transfer from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. "It's simple," says Booker. "If we can't run, we lose." --Mark Beech