The Seminoles go into the season with a new quarterback, 12 new starters, three new assistant coaches, and without four players who have been suspended for receiving money or gifts from agents. Does this portend a tough season? Not in Tallahassee, where the talent is so deep, it was a joke last year. "We'd put a new guy in and complain," says former offensive coordinator Brad Scott, now South Carolina's coach. "But we also knew he was a high school All-America and quicker than a hiccup."
The most glaring loss is at quarterback, where Charlie Ward turned the '93 Heisman race into a laugher. Ward's heir apparent, Danny Kanell, is a pocket passer, not a scrambler like Ward. Last season, with Ward resting his bruised ribs, Kanell threw for 341 yards and five touchdowns against Maryland.
If Florida State has a Heisman candidate now, he's sophomore running back Warrick Dunn. Last year Dunn started preseason practice as the fifth-string tailback but came on to lead the team in touchdowns, with 10. What will he do as a season-long first-stringer?
Despite heavy losses on defense, coach Bobby Bowden says, "We'll have as many good linebackers as we've ever had." The best is senior Derrick Brooks, who will miss the first two games for participating in an agent-funded shopping spree at a Foot Locker. The defense's other mainstay is 6'5", 282-pound junior end Derrick Alexander, who should flourish in the team's new 4-3 alignment. Alexander had 100 tackles and five sacks in '93.
This has already been a trying year for the defending national champions, and they have yet to face Florida, Miami or Notre Dame. Come January, the Seminoles won't be No. 1 again, but they won't be too far behind.