March 17, 1999
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State returns 16 starters and all its primary special teams players from last year’s team that finished 11-2 and just short of a second national championship. The Seminoles did keep their incredible streak of 12 consecutive years of finishing among the Associated Press Top Four in tact and also extended college football’s longest run of consecutive 10-win seasons to a dozen.
While Florida State must replace some talented players at key
positions, the Tribe’s roster will look awfully familiar to opponents in
1999. The Seminoles return all their wide receivers from last year, each
of their quarterbacks, their top five rushers, nine of their top 10 scorers
and nine of their top 15 tacklers. In addition, the guys with no stats all
return as FSU offensive line coach Jimmy Heggins will have his entire
starting unit back along with all of his reserves.
“We probably have as many returning players as we have had in a
long time,” said Bobby Bowden, who begins his 24th season at FSU in 1999.
“When I reflect on last year I think if we were just a little bit better we
win it all. Now, we have most of these kids back. I see the key this
year as being hungry. Is this team hungry? That’s the thing about being
around the top all the time, you are always afraid someone is going to lose
their hunger. We haven’t seen any indication of it. When you go through
the off-season program, you look to see if you see a bunch of kids slacking
off. And I haven’t seen that. They look like they have worked real hard
and the coaches haven’t let up.”
Offensively, the Seminoles return nine of 11 starters but FSU fans
must wait until after spring practice to be assured that Chris Weinke can
return to his position as the starter at quarterback. Weinke underwent
successful surgery on his neck in December to repair a herniated disk
suffered in the first half of the Virginia game. The healing process is
slow and cautious for this type of injury and Weinke only be allowed to
throw lightly during spring drills. However, team physicians are very
pleased with his progress and expect Weinke to be ready to go by August.
One thing is for sure, FSU quarterbacks will be dealing with an
exceptionally talented group. The entire receiving corps returns including
All-American Peter Warrick, Ron Dugans and Laveranues Coles. They have a
chance to become the Seminole’s finest group of receivers ever. Another
all-star candidate returns at running back in Travis Minor and all five
offensive linemen return from last year’s squad, including All-America
guard Jason Whitaker and All-ACC tackle Ross Brannon.
“We will work with our quarterbacks like we did for the Fiesta Bowl
and that is Marcus Outzen at No. 1, Jared Jones at No. 2 and a walk-on Rich
Maher, who I like a lot behind them,” said Bowden. “We do expect to have
Weinke back and we will be a lot better with him because of his experience
and leadership, but we’ve got to prepare like he won’t be there.
“With all our receivers back and most of our running backs
practicing this spring, we probably have the quickest skill players we’ve
had here. The key for next season will probably be the improvement of the
offensive line. We have a line back that took us to No. 3 in the nation
last year, but they have got to improve. They should with the experience.
So, that will be as vital as any part of our football team.
Graduation and the NFL draft impacted the defensive side of the
football more than offense, but the Seminoles still return seven starters
from last year’s unit, which ranked No. 1 in the nation. All-American
Corey Simon returns at defensive tackle and teams with Jerry Johnson to
give the Tribe the nation’s top inside game. Roland Seymour is back at
left defensive end and will book-end with either Jamal Reynolds or David
Warren to give FSU another formidable defensive front. The linebackers
will be young and talented. Tommy Polley is the lone returner, but coaches
are high on Brian Allen, Bradley Jennings and Theon Rackley along with
several young players. The secondary looks extremely tough with
All-America candidates at both corners in Mario Edwards and Tay Cody
teaming with big hitters Derrick Gibson, Sean Key and Chris Hope at the
safeties. In addition, the secondary is a legit two-deep at every spot.
“We need some young players to come through and be able to play on
the defensive line,” said Bowden. “There is opportunity there for some
young players to get on the field. We feel very good about Corey (Simon)
and Jerry (Johnson), but one of the ways we have been successful is to play
a lot of players so fatigue is not as much of a factor. We lost some
leadership on the defensive side of the ball and we will need to fill some
spots, but I like the talent there.”
Remarkably, the Seminoles will return virtually all the components
of their special teams for the second consecutive year and they are led by
Sebastian Janikowski, who won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top
place-kicker last year.
“Veteran special team units allow you to do a lot of things,” said
Bowden. “They let you gamble a little with field position or maybe you can
try some things offensively and defensively that you would not if you were
concerned about how your special teams would hold up. We’ve got the whole
package if they all stay healthy.”
The Seminoles will enter spring drills without Chris Weinke who
will miss the entire session as part of his rehabilitation from a serious
neck injury suffered last year against Virginia. Weinke has progressed
nicely, but will not be full speed until just a couple of months before the
season opener. Weinke may have been playing the best football of any
quarterback in the country when he was hurt as he had not thrown an
interception in 228 consecutive pass attempts. Coaches expect to have him
back to run the high powered offense, but will practice for his absence.
Late-season hero Marcus Outzen will enter the spring first on the depth
chart. His 2-1 record as the starter last year should give him the
confidence and experience to run the Tribe offense. Sophomore Jared Jones
will begin as the second team quarterback. Coaches had hoped to redshirt
Jones last year, but used him against Wake Forest in the event Outzen was
injured. Jones should begin to shine as he competes for playing time.
Also in the mix is tough walk-on Rich Maher, who has impressed coaches with
Running backs coach Billy Sexton has more players in his stable
this spring than he is used to and they are led by All-America candidate
Travis Minor, who will not run track this spring to concentrate on
football. Minor battled an ankle injury during the early part of last
year, but came on to have a fine season and will enter 1999 as one of the
nation’s top backs. Listed behind Minor are a pair of talented and
experienced players. Jeff Chaney came in for Minor early last year and was
a tremendous threat from the tailback position. Chaney showed so much
talent that coaches may try him at fullback as well to get him on the field
more often. Listed as co-second team is Davy Ford who missed the entire
1998 season after undergoing knee surgery following the Sugar Bowl win over
Ohio State. Ford started some as a true freshman and played in all but two
games in 1998. Also vying for playing time this spring will be senior
Raymont Skaggs who showed flashes of brilliance in his first year with the
Seminoles last season. Skaggs may also return punts and kickoffs in 1999.
The starting fullback spot is vacant and the Seminoles will likely
miss the leadership and blocking ability of Lamarr Glenn. However, junior
William McCray backed-up Glenn last year and hopes to prove he is the man
to beat this spring. Coaches will look at Chaney at the fullback spot as
well as tailback. Another contender at the position really will not be
able to make his serious push until the fall, but do not forget about
senior Dan Kendra. He will be limited to non-contact drills, but the
former quarterback is tired of watching the action.
If hunger is the prescription for success this season, the
receiving corps may be the leaders of the pack. Peter Warrick’s decision
to return for his senior season was driven more than anything by a desire
to win a national championship. He is likely the finest receiver in the
country and certainly one of the best ever at Florida State. Ron Dugans
returns at wide receiver and he made some of the biggest plays of last
season including the game-winning touchdown catch against Florida.
Laveranues Coles is the fastest Seminole ever and he is determined to take
his place as a top-notch receiver. Marvin Minnis is the emotional leader
and he has a penchant for the big play. Robert Morgan proved to be a
sure-handed receiver in his first action last year and is very dangerous
after he catches the ball. Germaine Stringer, Atrews Bell, Talman Gardner
and Greg Moore will use the spring to contend for playing time among one of
the most talented groups in FSU history.
Myron Jackson graduated leaving the tight end spot wide open and
that will be the scene of one of the spring’s biggest battles. Nick
Franklin played a lot last year and he will enter the spring listed atop
the depth chart. Talented sophomore Patrick Hughes has great hands and is
anxious to show coaches what he can do at the position this spring. Ryan
Sprague, Carver Donaldson and Stacy Davis have seen limited action, but
hope to contend for playing time by virtue of their work this spring.
The Seminoles return all five starting offensive linemen from last
year and most of the reserves with the positions along the offensive front
among the most hotly contested this spring. Guard Jason Whitaker could
miss the spring if he has shoulder surgery, but the first team Football
Writer’s All-American will again lead the offensive unit. Justin Amman
will line up behind Whitaker at split guard and he will have a chance to
prove himself this spring, as will highly-acclaimed redshirt freshman Brett
Williams. Freshman Corey Whitaker enrolled in January and will be thrown
in the mix at split guard.
Two other starters, split tackle Ross Brannon and tight guard Jerry
Carmichael, will miss the spring after having surgery following the season.
Otis Duhart will line up in Brannon’s spot at split tackle this spring
with hopes of fighting off challengers until fall drills begin. Char-ron
Dorsey has recovered from a neck injury that kept him on the sidelines most
of last year and he will try and win the split tackle job. Veteran Donald
Heaven, who earned freshman All-America honors two years ago, will line up
in Carmichael’s spot at tight guard this spring. He will be pushed by
Ronald Boldin and redshirt freshman Montrae Holland.
Tarlos Thomas started every game at tight tackle last year, but he
will have to have a good spring to keep his job on this competitive line.
Redshirt freshman Todd Williams will get a long look this spring as well.
Center may be the deepest position on the roster with Jarad Moon
listed as the starter on the first day of spring drills. He and Eric
Thomas will likely battle all spring just as they did last fall when both
saw a lot of playing time. Sophomore Antoine Mirambeau is a player coaches
are anxious to see at the center position as well as transfer Josh Baggs.
The bottom line for the Seminoles is a lot of depth and a lot of
talent along the offensive front.
Florida State’s tremendous success over the past few seasons can be
directly attributed to its dominating defensive line. Jim Gladden and
Odell Haggins hope to use the same recipe for 1999, but they will not be
sure of their ingredients until spring drills conclude.
One thing is for sure, the Seminoles will have perhaps the nation’s
best inside duo in defensive tackles Corey Simon and Jerry Johnson. Simon
earned first team Associated Press All-America honors last year despite
splitting starting honors last year. Simon is the leader of this Seminole
team and while he plays in a down linemen’s stance, he chases ball carriers
with the speed and agility of a linebacker. Johnson is a extremely
physical player whose strength allows him to work opposing lines. Backing
up Simon at tackle will be Bryne Malone who needs a good spring to secure
his playing time. A pair of redshirt freshmen, Rian Cason and Tony
Benford, will play at tackle this spring and they will get their first real
chance to impress coaches. Behind Johnson at noseguard at the start of
spring will be Randy Wilkins who has seem limited action over the last two
years on specials teams. Also trying to work up the depth chart will be a
pair of redshirt freshmen, Octavis Jackson and Chris Woods, who showed
tremendous promise last fall.
Defensive end at Florida State has become one of the true glamour
positions in all of college sports and there should be a real battle this
spring to see who wins these jobs. Roland Seymour returns to his starting
position at left end and he should be ready to have a break-out season.
Senior Chris Walker has considerable experience behind him. At the other
end, Jamal Reynolds has the edge over David Warren going into the spring
although both played extremely well as reserves last year. Kevin Emanuel,
who joined the team in January, will also see his first action here this
This group is the least experienced on the team, but coaches are
excited about the talent at the position. Tommy Polley is the most
experienced returning starter and he comes off an excellent sophomore
season. He will be the starter at weakside linebacker where he will be
backed-up by redshirt freshman Michael Hamilton.
Junior Brian Allen started half the game in 1998 and he will enter
spring drills at first team middle linebacker. He also had a terrific year
in 1998 and has proven he can get the job done. However, he will be
pushed all spring by sophomore Bradley Jennings who will see a lot of
playing time. Redshirt freshman Jerel Hudson could use the spring to prove
to coaches that he should get playing time next fall as well.
Senior Theon Rackley appears ready to lead the Seminole defense and
he will likely do so from the strongside linebacker spot. Intense and
mature, Rackley will be counted on to lead both on and off the field.
Brian Allen is listed as the back-up here as the spring begins, with Bobby
Rhodes, who started six games last year, also competing for playing time.
FSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Mickey Andrews
probably cannot wait to hit the practice field this spring as he welcomes a
very deep talent pool at all four positions in the secondary. He returns
three of the four starters from last year’s defensive backfield that played
tremendously well with the exception of a couple of big plays.
Both cornerbacks return to the Seminole roster although they will
have to win their positions back after a weak off-season workout schedule.
Mario Edwards is an All-America candidate at left cornerback, having
finished among the top 10 players in the country in interceptions last
year. However, he will begin the spring at third team behind hot prospects
Stanford Samuels and Reggie Durden. Samuels is a redshirt freshman seeing
his first action while Durden is a senior who proved his ability last year.
Over at right cornerback Tay Cody has been a steady starter for two years
and should contend for pre-season honors as well. He is listed behind
Clevan Thomas, however, who played very well over the second half of last
season. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Tatum will get his first real chance to
show the coaches what he can do here this spring.
Chris Hope appears ready to take over the vacant spot at free
safety after seeing a lot of playing time at the position last year. Hope
is big and fast with the intelligence to play beyond his experience.
Listed at second team this spring is another experienced player in senior
Sean Key who also saw a lot of action last year. Todd Frier will play here
next fall, but will be limited to non-contact work in the spring, and
walk-on Pete Henderson hopes to use spring to earn more playing time as
Derrick Gibson returns at rover where his love of the big hit has
made him someone all opposing receivers try and find. Abdual Howard will
begin spring as the back-up having missed last year with a thumb injury.
Jean Jeune saw considerable playing time last year and is slated for some
in 1999, but will be held out of most of spring drills with an injury.
Sebastian Janikowski set the Florida State and ACC records for
field goals in a season last year with 27. He was named the Lou Groza
winner as the nation’s top place-kicker and he led the country with 2.25
field goals per game. In addition, 47 of his 79 kickoffs were not returned
Also returning is punter Keith Cottrell who will begin his third
year as the starter. Coaches are very pleased with the one-two punch of
Janikowski and Cottrell. In addition, the Tribe welcomes back its deep
snapper in Clay Ingram and the holder Marcus Outzen. The Seminoles even
return all their primary return men in Peter Warrick and Reggie Durden on
punts and Durden and Laveranues Coles on kickoffs.