March 2, 2004
Tallahassee, Fla. –
“Our overall goals for this spring are the same as always. The first thing we try to do is answer the question of who’s going to take the place of the starters we lost. Now, the fact that on offense you only lost the starting tailback and a receiver and it’s pretty well set except for the battles that will go on now with second teamers trying to unseat the first teamers. Defensively, you lose a lot of starters, but we played so many guys on that side of the that it is easier for them to move right into those positions. The spring will be a lot of battles to move into those starter’s positions and fight off the guy behind them. We want to find out if we’ve got each player at the right position, and if we have them on the right string- first, second or third.
The second goal is to try and make them better football players. By that I mean the fundamentals of football and that always comes down to blocking and tackling. We want every player to improve in that area. Then, of course, we want improvement in the execution of throwing the ball, catching the ball, running, and coverage. We want to learn to run routes properly and get better on our defensive schemes. It is hard to get any kind of continuity in the spring because you have so many injuries.”
“Last year the offensive line was in turmoil when we began practicing in August because of injuries. We were missing Blake Williams, Matt Heinz and Eric Broe and ended up not having them the whole year. We were just on the bubble last year as far as injuries were concerned. This year we might face limitations in the spring because of starters and key returners having surgery, but when we get them all healthy we will go in there much stronger in the fall. So, I just hope we get some of our guys back in the spring and get some good work on the offensive line.
As for specifics at the position you would begin with the two proven pair of offensive tackles. Ray Willis will be starting his third straight year and Alex Barron will be starting his second straight year. Alex made a bunch of All-America teams last year and Ray Willis should contend right along with him for honors this year. So, we have excellent talent and experience in terms of the starters at the tackle position.
We’re very solid at guard on Matt Meinrod’s side. He started all 13 games last year at split guard and did not miss a play because of injury. The tight guard position is still up for grabs although we have players coming back in Bobby Meeks and Ron Lunford who played there. Starting center David Castillo is out for the spring and that will give John Frady a great opportunity in there and possibly Matt Heinz. We must get three centers ready for next year.”
“We will only have one scholarship tailback out there this spring and that’s what I mean by continuity being a problem. Lorenzo Booker is the only healthy guy we will have back there and you don’t want to work him too much. We will have experienced walk-on Marlon Napier and then we’ll see what a couple of other walk-ons can do. Now, in the fall you will get Leon Washington back and a couple of freshman tailbacks that we’ve signed. If we stay healthy we’ll be alright.
Fullbacks will be solid next fall, but they will not be at full strength in spring. B.J. Dean will be out there in spring and he started for us last year. James Coleman started the bowl game, but he’s out in the spring and we will see when we can start working Torrance Washington who missed all of last year. Fullback looks very strong, but they all need to improve.”
“The story is kind of the same along the defensive front and the linebackers. The bad news is you lost most of the starters, the good news is that we played a lot of people last year so we go into the spring with some confidence that we have a chance to replace them. We lost both our starting interior defensive linemen, but Coach Haggins played anywhere from five to six players at the position in every game. Brodrick Bunkley and Travis Johnson give you a great place in terms of solid experience. Then you have Charles Howard, Andre Fluellen, Clifton Dickson, and Chris Bradwell, it will be an important spring for them. We’ll get a good look at all those guys in drills and it’s their chance to move up the depth chart.
Eric Moore returns to his starting spot at defensive end and he had a very good year last year. He has the talent to be a great sack threat, and that makes our defense go. We lose Kevin Emanual at the other end, but again we have some players who have gotten work there. Kamerion Wimbley has played a great deal and Chauncey Davis played some last year. We really hope we can pick up Willie Jones after that knee injury kept him out all last year. Willie’s a guy that could really help our ball club if we can keep him healthy.”
“The starting cornerbacks at the beginning of last season were Bryant McFadden and Leroy Smith. We lost the two who started the Orange Bowl, but we have the two back who had won the positions last fall. We feel very good about the depth and talent at cornerback and in the entire secondary. I think we have six seniors back there for next year and that is a real help. We played better at cornerback last year than we have in the last several years.
The safeties are really solid. We’re deep at both positions with players that coaches can put in in any situation. Jerome Carter, B.J. Ward, Kyler Hall, Pat Watkins, Claudius Osei – these are guys who made a lot of plays for us last year. Four of them are seniors so you get both the talent and the leadership qualities.”
“I feel really good about the linebackers. I felt very confident when the younger players went in last year and I think they are ready to become the starters. We’ve got A.J. Nicholson, Ernie Sims, Ray Piquion, Sam McGrew and Marcello Church who have all played a lot of football. Then you have Buster Davis who is ready to get in there and a junior college transfer in Barry Wright and you feel good about depth. I think we’ve got the same potential we had a year ago and we signed some good ones.”
“The potential is good at wide receiver, but so many of them will be missing in the spring. We won’t have Craphonso Thorpe, Willie Reid or Chris Davis so we can’t work with them. We do have Dominic Robinson and Chauncey Stovall, which will help because they have enough experience to get us through. But we will just sort of survive at receiver in the spring and rely a lot on walk-ons because we just don’t have the scholarship numbers.”
“Well, there is some good news and some bad news with only having two scholarship quarterbacks in the spring. The bad news is that we don’t have a lot of them out there, but the good side of that is you can really concentrate on your main quarterbacks. I just think this time last year we tried to divide the practice time five ways and that’s just not enough repetitions. So this year we can really concentrate on Chris (Rix) and we can concentrate on Wyatt (Sexton). Rix is starting his fourth year and that’s a new one for me and I believe for Florida State. I’ve never had a four-year starting quarterback and experience is hard to beat. Then you’ve got Sexton who is an excellent prospect and I’m anxious to see what he can do with a little pressure on him.”
“Tight end is probably the strongest that position has been in quite a while. We’ve got Paul Irons who’s very solid and a returning starter. We have Donnie (Carter) who was coming on and really getting better every game last year. Matt (Henshaw) gives you what you’re looking for at tight end with a 6’5″ frame, good speed and he is getting bigger. We’ve had some great tight ends here, but we’ve not had as many who can run and catch as we have right now. We’ve always featured the blocker first, and still do, but the tight ends we have now can really catch and that gives us some options.”
“We have a three-year starter back at place kicker in Xavier (Beitia) and we’re brining another kicker in the fall. We also have Chase Goggans who redshirted last year. Xavier and Chase will get a lot of work this spring. Some people have asked why we would sign another kicker and we did that because we saw someone who we think can push Xavier. He will make him a better kicker or get his job, and there is chance you might have more kickoff range with (Gary) Cismesia. It’s really no different than any other position. You sign someone who you think can win the job.
We almost literally flipped a coin last year in terms of choosing a punter at the start of the season last year. We decided to go with the senior Jesse Stein and he did a great job all year. So, we feel very good about Chris’ (Hall) ability to handle the punting duties, but he will have to win the job just like every other player.
One of the real crucial areas for us in special teams is finding a replacement for our deep snapper Brian Sawyer. He made every single special teams snap over the last four years and I think will get a shot in the pros to do it. We’ve got some walk-ons who showed some promise last fall and we’ll spend time this spring trying to develop someone at the position.”