August 25, 1998
#2 Florida State
vs. #14/#15 Texas A&M
Monday, August 31, 1998
8:00 p.m. * ABC -Sports
Giants Stadium * East Rutherford, NJ
SETTING THE SCENE: No. 2 (USA Today/AP) Florida State opens its season vs. No. 14/15 (AP/USA Today) Texas A&M. It is the second consecutive year that FSU’s first game is against a Top 25 opponent away from the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium. Last year, the Seminoles defeated #21 So. California, 14-7, at the L.A. Coliseum. Florida State will start a new quarterback, sophomore Chris Weinke, who has thrown just 13 passes in his short college career. The Seminole offense will be led by junior receiver Peter Warrick, who caught 53 passes for 884 yards and eight TDs in 1997, and sophomore running back Travis Minor (112 carries for 664 yards and nine TDs) who was voted the 1997 ACC Rookie of the Year. Butkus Award candidate Lamont Green will lead the defense as FSU’s top returning tackler with 85 stops a year ago. Outland Trophy candidate Jerry Johnson and Larry Smith return as the anchors of one of the best defensive lines in the nation, while cornerback Tay Cody and free safety Dexter Jackson are back in their starting positions in the secondary. All of FSU’s specialists are also returning.
THE OPPONENT: Texas A&M returns 14 starters from a year ago when the Aggies posted a 9-4 record, including a 29-23 loss to UCLA in the Cotton Bowl. The Aggie offense boasts eight returning starters, including quarterback Branndon Stewart (111-for-196, 1429 yards, 10 TD, 4 INT) and running back Dante Hall (973 yards rushing in 1997). The Texas A&M defense is led by six returning starters, including All-American candidate Dat Nguyen.
SERIES NOTES: Florida State leads the series 3-0, including a 10-2 win over the Aggies in the Cotton Bowl following the 1991 season. The Seminoles also played Texas A&M in 1967 and 1968. FSU defeated the Aggies 19-18 in 1967 and 20-14 in 1968.
TELEVISION: ABC-Sports. Talent: Keith Jackson, Bob Griese, Lynn Swann. RADIO: Seminole Sports Network. Talent: Gene Deckerhoff, Peter Tom Willis.
Coach Bobby Bowden
Record at FSU
Record vs. Texas A&M
(McNeese State ’67)
Record at Texas A&M
Record vs. FSU
SUCCESS IN THE PRESEASON GAMES
Florida State has enjoyed success in previous preseason games. The Seminoles first tested themselves vs. BYU in the 1991 Pigskin Classic in California. Led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Casey Weldon, FSU defeated BYU, 44-28. The Seminoles made their first appearance in the Kickoff Classic in 1993 with a 42-0 victory over Kansas in Giants Stadium. The win kicked off Florida State’s only National Championship season.
NO OPENING DAY JITTERS
FSU has won eight straight season openers and the Seminoles are 19-3 on opening day under Bobby Bowden. The last time the Tribe lost their first game of the season was in 1989 when Brett Favre quarterbacked Southern Miss to a 30-26 upset victory in Jacksonville, Fla.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Head coach Bobby Bowden announced this year’s captains at the annual Kickoff Luncheon last Friday. Senior fullback Billy Rhodes will captain the offense, senior linebacker Lamont Green was named as the defensive captain and senior linebacker Demetro Stephens will be the special teams captain. Permanent captains are voted on by the team at the end of the season.
Biggest Offensive Line Ever
Although Florida State’s offensive line will be one of the youngest groups in recent history, it will rank as the biggest Seminole unit ever. The five starters, which include four at 300+, look like an NFL front with an average of 6-5 1/2 and 305 lbs. Four reserves also tip the scales at over 300 pounds. The group should be even better next year as the two-deep roster features no seniors and only two juniors (Jason Whitaker and Eric Thomas). In Bobby Bowden’s first season as head coach in 1976, the Seminole offensive line averaged 6-3, 246 lbs.
The FSU Sack Attack
Seminole starting defensive ends have contributed 58.5 sacks to the FSU pass rush over the last two seasons. In 1996, first-round draft choice Peter Boulware sacked the quarterback an FSU record 19 times, while Reinard Wilson added 13.5 sacks from the other end. Last year, Andre Wadsworth led FSU with 16 sacks and Greg Spires contributed 10 despite playing just seven games. Tony Bryant and Roland Seymour will take over at the Seminoles’ starting bookends this fall. Bryant and Seymour got a head start last season with a combined 13 quarterback sacks.
A Parade of Quarterbacks
True freshman Jared Jones became the third Parade All-American quarterback on the FSU roster when he signed with the Seminoles earlier this year. Junior Dan Kendra, who will play fullback when he returns from a knee injury, earned that distinction as a high school senior in 1994. FSU’s starting signal caller, 26-year old sophomore Chris Weinke, was a Parade All-American in 1989.
Florida State was officially named a college football dynasty by the NCAA in the organization’s record book. The Seminoles are the only Division I school ever to win at least 10 games for 11 straight years. The Tribe has posted a 108-15-1 mark since 1987. Bobby Bowden has also led his teams to an NCAA record 11 straight Top Four finishes in the Associated Press poll.
IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS
Florida State is accustomed to playing in front of the cameras of the major networks and has posted a 105-33-4 on television. The Seminoles are 44-15-2 when playing on ABC. The Tribe is 59-27-4 when playing on national television.
The biggest move of the Seminoles preseason was at the quarterback position. A knee injury to former quarterback Dan Kendra during spring practice forced 26-year-old sophomore Chris Weinke to step in at signal caller. Kendra has decided not to play this year in order to fully rehabilitate his knee and has also moved to the fullback position for his return.
STRONG AS EVER
Florida State continues its tradition as one of the strongest teams in the nation as it had five players — Jerry Johnson, Brian Allen, Justin Amman, Donald Heaven and Billy Rhodes — bench 500 lbs. or more. A total of 41 Seminoles, including four freshmen, benched over 400 lbs. in preseason testing.
Florida State’s assistant coaches average more than 17 years of collegiate experience between them (157 years total). Bobby Bowden has seen only one coach depart since the 1993 national championship season after Ronnie Cottrell (recruiting coordinator/tight ends) was hired as Alabama’s assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator last year. Graduate Assistant John Lilly was elevated to Cottrell’s post and recorded a consensus top five recruiting class in his first year. Following the 1993 season, Brad Scott (offensive coordinator) took the South Carolina head coaching job and brought FSU assistants John Eason and Wally Burnham with him. Jeff Bowden and Odell Haggins have been with the Seminole staff since.
TWO DEFENSIVE STARS GET NOTICED
Senior linebacker Lamont Green and junior defensive tackle Jerry Johnson are listed as preseason candidates for two major awards. Green was a member of the Butkus Award checklist and Johnson was on the preseason shortlist for the Outland Trophy.
FSU Career Tackles for Loss
1. Ron Simmons (77-80) 44
2. Paul McGowan (84-87) 32
3. Marvin Jones (90-92) 27
4. Jerry Johnson (96-present) 24
COLES TO MISS OPENER
Starting split end Laveranues Coles will miss FSU’s opening game with Texas A&M due to a one-game suspension. Junior Ron Dugans will start in Coles’ place. Coles caught 21 passes for 384 yards and one touchdown in 1997.
A Little Sunshine
The six Florida State home football games will be broadcast (tape-delayed) on the Sunshine Network this season. The games will be replayed on Sundays at 7:00 p.m., and on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m.
Bobby Bowden will field an extremely young team in 1998, with 12 sophomores in the starting lineup for the opener (including the kicker and punter). Of those 12, TB Travis Minor, QB Chris Weinke, S Derrick Gibson, K Sebastian Janikowski and P Keith Cottrell are true sophomores. Another sophomore, WR Marvin Minnis is slated to start when the FSU offense goes to a three-receiver set. Only five seniors are listed at first-team with freshmen and sophomores filling 22 of the 44 position slots on the opening game two-deep depth chart.
Weinke Youngest QB Starter in 12 years
Although Chris Weinke turned 26 on July 31st, he will be the first sophomore to start at quarterback for Florida State since Chip Ferguson began the season as the starter in 1986. A trend of late, Seminole quarterbacks have put in two to three years of back-up duty before taking over as the top signal caller. Ferguson, who was also a true sophomore, started the first four games that year before being pulled in favor of Danny McManus. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 176 yards in the 1986 season opener against Toledo. Weinke, whose story has been well documented, originally signed with FSU in 1990 and went through four days of preseason workouts before signing a pro baseball contract with Toronto. He rose as high as AAA and spent two weeks in the majors before deciding to take Bobby Bowden up on his open invitation to return to FSU. The top prep signal caller in the country in 1989, Weinke returned to Tallahassee and enrolled in January of 1997.
Defense Consistently Among Nation’s Best
The 1998 version of the FSU defense is expected to be one of the top units in the country, even with the departures of Andre Wadsworth, Julian Pittman, Greg Spires, Sam Cowart, Daryl Bush, Shevin Smith and Samari Rolle to the NFL. The Seminole defense has been ranked in the top 10 in total defense dating back to the 1996 season-opener against Duke. FSU’s final No. 3 ranking in total defense last year kept them in the top 10 for 22 straight weeks. The Seminoles have spent seven weeks in the top spot and four weeks at No. 2 during that span. The Tribe ranked first against the run last year, giving up only 51.9 yards per game. That unit set school rushing defense records in that category along with yards per rush (1.5), season rushing yards (571) and rushing first downs (38).
Feaster and Rhodes Bolster Run Game
The Florida State running game got a lot better with a pair of position changes – Dee Feaster to tailback and Billy Rhodes to fullback. Feaster switched to defensive back at the conclusion of the 1997 season after spending his first three years at tailback where he had 517 yards on 106 carries and seven touchdowns. He returned to tailback at the request of offensive coordinator Mark Richt and has moved to second-team on the depth chart in only two weeks of practice. Rhodes, also a senior, had played defensive line and offensive line before making his final move to fullback during spring practice. “Rhodes-Grater” as he has been nicknamed by coaches and teammates, was named offensive team captain by Coach Bowden and has been impressive in lead blocking duties as well as running the ball in goal-line and short yardage situations. Both Feaster and Rhodes have been valuable in leadership roles as well on a young Seminole offense.
ACC Preseason Poll
1. FLORIDA STATE 594
2. North Carolina 486
3. Virginia 483
4. Georgia Tech 392
5. Clemson 303
6. Wake Forest 271
7. NC State 238
8. Duke 115
9. Maryland 87
“We’ve completed two weeks of two-a-day workouts and so the toughest part of practice is behind us. We still have a long way to go before we’re ready to play a game. Our quarterback did not even play in the last scrimmage with an elbow problem, so the timing is not where it needs to be.
“I know everything about him (Chris Weinke) now except how he will play in the game. He’s got all the tools and the biggest thing is his maturity. I would be surprised if he did not do well, but we must remember that our last three or four quarterbacks all really struggled in their first few games.
“Texas A&M is a very difficult opponent. All we know about them is what we’ve seen on film of them last year. They could have changed everything, but that’s not really their style. The last time we played them they were more run oriented. I think they have more balance in their offense now.
“The game will feature the strength of both teams going at each other. Our strength on offense is our receivers right now, where Texas A&M’s strength is their veteran secondary.
Wide receiver Peter Warrick heads the list of Seminoles selected to preseason All-America and All-Conference teams. Warrick was named a Playboy All-American earlier this summer and has received first-team All-America status from Athlon’s, Lindy’s, The Sporting News and Street & Smith. He is rated the No. 1 wide receiver nationally by Lindy’s and No. 2 by The Sporting News. Others receiving All-ACC first-team consideration by more than one publication were: OT Ross Brannon, LB Lamont Green, OG Donald Heaven, S Dexter Jackson, K Sebastian Janikowski, DT Jerry Johnson, TB Travis Minor and OG Jason Whitaker.
Players rated nationally by position:
Positions rated nationally: