Feb. 27, 2004
By: Rob Wilson
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden is hoping for a productive spring session in 2004, but a large number of off-season surgeries will probably mean that full scrimmage opportunities will be few and far between. The practices will be particularly important for the defensive side of the football as Mickey Andrews and his staff must replace seven starters from the 2003 team. Offensively, the Seminoles’ only starters lost were senior tailback Greg Jones and junior wide receiver P.K. Sam, who left early for the NFL draft.
“Overall, the first thing we want to accomplish in spring is to find out who is going to replace what you lost,” said Bowden who will be coaching his 29th spring practice beginning March 2nd. “Who’s going to move up to starting positions? The thing about spring training is you give everybody a pretty good shot to show where they belong. That’s the starting place every spring is to get our depth chart in order. This is the first team, this is second team, this is third team. So that’s our first goal.
“Our situation is the complete opposite of what it was last spring, but the goal remains the same. Last year, we had everybody back on defense so you used the spring to develop depth there. Offensively, we were trying to replace practically the entire offensive line and Anquan Boldin among others. This year, we’ve got to find a lot of starters on defense, but it looks like your spring on offense will be mostly players trying to take someone’s position away. The good thing on defense is that we did play a lot of players last year and we’ve got a good idea of what they can do. Now, they must go out and win positions.”
Complicating the effort to develop a solid first and second team coming out of spring is the fact that the Seminoles will be missing a number of key players due to injury. The offense will be without All-America tackle Alex Barron (shoulder surgery), All-America candidate wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe (leg fracture), starting center David Castillo (shoulder surgery), possible starting tailback Leon Washington (ankle surgery), wide receiver Willie Reid (ankle surgery) and fullback James Coleman (shoulder surgery). In addition, five players will miss at least the first half of spring practice with a medical evaluation scheduled following spring break to determine their status. They include: All-America candidate offensive tackle Ray Willis (shoulder scope), starting offensive guard Bobby Meeks (shoulder scope) and starting rover Jerome Carter (shoulder scope), potential starting wide receiver Chris Davis (ankle) and linebacker Ray Piquion (shoulder scope).
“I said the same thing last year, but it’s true again – this is going to be a very thin spring because of injuries,” said Bowden. “It is getting to the point where nobody can field two teams and play a true spring game. So many of the players who are missing spring are either starters or pushing to be starters so it will be hard to get any continuity especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“Our No. 1 priority is to determine who is going to replace the starter we lost. Then we will just focus on trying to get better as football players and as a football team. By that I mean stressing the fundamentals. Blocking, tackling, throwing, catching, running routes and defending. Use the time to make each player a better, more sound, football player.”
In contrast to last season, the Florida State offense will be counted on to play in top form early in the season as young starters get a chance to develop on defense. While it will not be apparent during spring, the FSU offensive line should be the backbone of an extremely talented unit. The Seminoles welcome back all five starting offensive linemen, including consensus All-American Alex Barron and two-year starter Ray Willis who should also contend for All-America honors. Matt Meinrod started every game as a sophomore last year at guard , and Bobby Meeks and Ron Lunford shared playing time at the other guard position. FSU coaches used last season to develop depth on the line as well and true sophomore John Frady has proved his metal at center along with sophomore Mario Henderson who started the Orange Bowl at split tackle. Redshirt freshman David Overmyer will get his first real chance to show coaches he’s ready to play this spring, both Eric Broe and Matt Heinz could provide solid back-ups at guard if they can overcome injuries that sidelined them for most of last season. Senior Brian Ross missed all of last year after breaking his leg last spring, but he should be healthy and ready to compete at center in March.
Lining up behind center will be Bobby Bowden’s first-ever four-year starter at quarterback in Chris Rix. The rising senior has a chance to set a number of Florida State passing records, and his ability to run and throw makes him one of the nation’s most dangerous quarterbacks. Consistent play will be what the coaches ask of the veteran during the spring and early part of next season. Only one scholarship player is listed behind Rix on the depth chart at quarterback and he is sophomore Wyatt Sexton. He impressed coaches last spring with his poise in the pocket and proved his arm strength during the fall, but he lacks game experience.
While Greg Jones is gone along with his three years of starting experience at tailback, FSU coaches are very pleased with the performance of potential starters Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. Walk-on Marlon Napier will be asked to carry a lot of the load in the spring with Washington out, but depth next fall must come from a talented group of incoming freshmen. Fullback looks very deep and strong as well although Orange Bowl starter James Coleman will miss spring with an injury. Junior B.J. Dean shared starting honors last year and is solid and coaches are pleased with junior Chad Canfield at the position. Sophomore Torrance Washington showed great promise as a true freshman in 2002 but missed all of last season with an injury. He will use the spring to make a case for playing time once again.
The receiver position took an unexpected hit with the early departure of P.K. Sam to the NFL, but the good news for FSU fans is that All-America candidate Craphonso Thorpe’s rehabilitation of his fractured leg is right on schedule. He broke the leg in overtime against NC State and missed the Florida game and the Orange Bowl. A pair of seniors, Dominic Robinson and Chauncey Stovall, proved they could be counted on last season and will provide leadership for the group this spring. Coach Jeff Bowden will not be able to determine much in terms of depth among his receiving corps with Willie Reid and Chris Davis missing practices, but sophomore Lorne Sam should benefit from the extra scrimmage snaps in spring. Signee DeCody Fagg will get a head start on his career as well since he enrolled in January and will go through spring.
Coach Bowden suggests the tight end position is as deep and talented as its been in years. The Seminole returns game tested veterans Paul Irons, Matt Henshaw and Donnie Carter. All have the ability to catch and run the deeper patterns giving FSU’s offense yet another dimension.
Defensively, Coach Andrews and his staff are probably more disappointed than the offensive coaches with limited numbers for scrimmages. He wants to come out of spring with a good idea of his first and second team players. While the loss of seven starters would suggest to most programs that the unit would be weak, FSU’s heavy use of back-ups last season provided valuable experience for both coach and player, which explains the optimism surrounding the defensive staff.
The Seminole front seven was gutted with only senior Eric Moore returning among the defensive line and linebackers. However, Moore appears ready to take his place as the next great FSU rush end. Junior Kamerion Wimbley has played a lot of snaps and looks like he will be the man to beat at right end. Senior Chauncy Davis and Darrell Burston have also seen action at the key position. Willie Jones should be full speed by next season and ready to make a charge and coaches will get their first hard look at redshirt freshman Alex Boston.
The interior defensive line was one of the real strengths of last years team, but both Darnell Dockett and Jeff Womble are gone. Travis Johnson moves into his senior year with a great deal of playing experience as does Charles Howard who can play any of the front four positions. Junior Brodrick Bunkley and sophomore Clifton Dickson will try and use the spring to win a starting job. Coaches will also watch the progress of redshirt freshmen Andre Fluellen and Chris Bradwell closely.
The bad news for linebackers coach Kevin Steele is all three of his starting linebackers are gone. The good news is names like Ernie Sims, A.J. Nicholson, Sam McGrew, Ray Piquion, Buster Davis and Marcello Church have already been called many times on the stadium p.a. and there will be fierce competition to see who emerges as the three new first teamers. All the returning players have considerable game experience which means regardless of how it shakes out, FSU will have the luxury of depth at the position next year.
Six seniors are scattered among the listing of players available in the FSU secondary. The Seminoles return starting corner Bryant McFadden who could contend for All-America honors. A groin injury kept him all but out of the Orange Bowl game, but he had a great year in 2003 and should be a star in 2004. Also returning is Leroy Smith who played in all 13 games last year, starting three. Smith tied for the team lead with three interceptions and is an outstanding veteran. Also returning for his true sophomore season is Antonio Cromartie who lacks only experience to become a star. Junior Gerard Ross and redshirt freshman Jhermaine McAroy will use the spring to prove to coaches they are ready for playing time.
FSU is very solid at both safety positions with returning starters and back-ups at both free safety and rover. Senior Jerome Carter should have a breakout year in 2004. He is backed up by a pair of seniors with starting experience themselves in Kyler Hall and Claudius Osei. Senior B.J. Ward has already set the school record for his blocked kicks on special teams, but his play at free safety was outstanding last year. Junior Pat Watkins will be listed behind the veteran at the position and all he did was tie for the team-lead with three interceptions.
“I said the same thing last year, but it’s true again – this is going to be a very thin spring because of injuries”
Head Coach Bobby Bowden
Special teams will be a focus in the spring with the departure of deep snapper Brian Sawyer and punter Jesse Stein. Sawyer made every single special teams snap for the last four years. Sophomore Myles Hodish is hoping to fill the role this spring. Coaches had planned on using senior Chris Hall as the punter last year, but opted instead to use the senior Stein. The punting duties will be passed to Hall this spring and coaches feel good about his ability to handle the role. Placekicker Xavier Beitia returns for his senior season having hit 76.1 percent (51-of-67) of his field goal attempts over his career. He made 19 of his 25 attempts last year for 76.0 percent. Redshirt freshman Chase Goggans will get a chance to see what he can do during the spring before coaches get a look at incoming freshman Gary Cismesia in the fall.
“With Miami set as the opening game you know that motivation is not going to be a problem,” said Bowden who will enter his 29th season at FSU in 2004. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we have real talent out there. Injuries, as always, will be a key. Leadership is essential. We got good leadership last year and I expect to get good leadership this year. The schedule is as demanding as ever and we will basically run through the schedule without a week off, but I don’t mind that if injuries are not a problem. I’m excited about next year and ready to get going.”
2004 PERSONNEL CHART
STARTERS RETURNING………….. 14
Offense: QB-Chris Rix, Sr.; FB-B.J. Dean, Jr.; WR-Craphonso Thorpe, Sr.; TE-Paul Irons, Sr.; OT-Alex Barron, Sr.; OT-Ray Willis, Sr.; OG-Bobby Meeks, Sr.; OG-Matt Meinrod, Sr.; C-David Castillo, So.
Defense: DE- Eric Moore, Sr.; RV -Jerome Carter, Sr.; CB-Bryant McFadden, Sr.; FS-B.J. Ward, Sr.
Specialists: PK- Xavier Beitia, Sr.
STARTERS LOST………………. 10
Offense: TB-Greg Jones, Sr.; SE- P.K. Sam, Jr.
Defense: DE-Kevin Emanuel, Sr.; DT-Darnell Dockett, Sr.; DT-Jeff Womble, Sr., LB-Michael Boulware, Sr.; LB-Kendyll Pope, Sr.; LB-Allen Augustin, Sr.; CB-Stanford Samuels, Sr.
Specialists: P- Jessie Stein, Sr.
LETTERMEN RETURNING…………. 53
Offense: OT- Alex Barron, RB- Lorenzo Booker, OG- Eric Broe, FB- Chad Canfield, TE- Donnie Carter, C- David Castillo, FB- James Coleman, WR- Chris Davis, FB- B.J. Dean, C- John Frady, OT- Mario Henderson, TE- Matt Henshaw, TE- Paul Irons, OG- Ronnie Lunford , OG- Bobby Meeks, OG- Matt Meinrod, RB- Marlon Napier, WR- Willie Reid, RB- Ryan Reynolds, QB- Chris Rix, WR- Dominic Robinson, WR- Lorne Sam, QB- Wyatt Sexton, WR- Chauncey Stovall, WR- Craphonso Thorpe, RB- Leon Washington, OT- Ray Willis.
Defense: DB- Anthony Bredwood, DT- Brodrick Bunkley, DE- Darrell Burston, LB- Marcello Church, CB- Antonio Cromartie, LB- Buster Davis, DE- Chauncey Davis, DT- Clifton Dickson FS- Kyler Hall, DE- Charles Howard, DT- Travis Johnson, CB- Bryant McFadden, LB- Sam McGrew, DE- Eric Moore, LB- A.J. Nicholson, RV- Claudius Osei, LB- Ray Piquion, CB- Gerard Ross, LB- Ernie Sims, CB- Leroy Smith, FS- B.J. Ward, FS- Pat Watkins, DE- Kamerion Wimbley.
LETTERMEN LOST……………… 18
Defense: DB- Kasey Anderson, LB- Allen Augustin, LB- Michael Boulware, CB- Rufus Brown, DT- Darnell Dockett, DE- Kevin Emanuel, LB- Nate Hardage, LB- Kendyll Pope, RV- Gordy Reid, CB- Stanford Samuels, DT- Jeff Womble.