August 15, 2000 - by
FSU’s Latest Challenger: Clemson

Aug. 15, 2000



By David Droschak

Associated Press


The porch swing rocks a little slower these days when the subject of
football is broached during the Bowden family’s summer vacation in Panama
City,
Fla.


Never used to be that way. But the enthusiasm of swapping X’s and O’s
and
trick plays has died down considerably now that Florida State coach Bobby
Bowden competes against son Tommy in the Atlantic Coast Conference.


“We used to sit there and draw up plays in the sand. We don’t do that
anymore,” said Tommy, whose Clemson team appears to be the closest ACC
challenger this season to the powerful Seminoles, who have compiled a 62-2
league record since 1992 en route to eight straight ACC titles.


“He’s dumb like a fox. He’s tricky. He plays like he’s over there
sleeping,
but he’s really listening,” Tommy said of his dad’s summer naps on the
swing.


Not that the 70-year-old Bowden really has much to worry about in the
twilight of his career. His defending national champion Seminoles have won
10
or more games 13 straight seasons and finished ranked no lower than No. 4
since
1986.


Florida State’s offense is expected to be as good or better than last
year’s
12-0 team that scored 30 or more points 11 times, including 46 against
Virginia
Tech in the Sugar Bowl.


Heading that unit is 28-year-old quarterback Chris Weinke, a rare
three-year
starter at that position under Bowden. The former minor league baseball
player
is like a coach on the field. He threw for 3,103 yards and 25 touchdowns in
1999.


The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Weinke joined an impressive list that included
Andre
Wadsworth, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks and Deion Sanders, choosing to
return
for his senior season rather than enter the NFL draft.


“We’ve got so much riding on him I’m nearly afraid to tell him,” Bowden
said of Weinke. “When he decided to come back it was like throwing your hat
back in the ring, like saying, `I’m going to run for president.”‘


Weinke has one goal – winning another national title. He said sitting
out
the 1998 championship game loss to Tennessee with a neck injury made him
realize that pro football can wait.


“I told myself if I got healthy I was going to play college football as
long as I can,” Weinke said. “I said, `You’re going to have to kick me out
of
here.’ You do gain a bigger appreciation for the game when you’re sitting on
the sidelines.”


Weinke threw for 229 or more yards in all 12 wins – a remarkable show
of
consistency.


“He just seems like he’s on another planet,” Wake Forest defensive end
Bryan Ray said of Weinke’s abilities on and off the field. “He’s so on top
of
things mentally. He knows what he wants.”


Weinke won’t have spectacular wide receiver Peter Warrick to throw to,
but
the Seminoles remain deep there. “We play seven, eight or nine receivers,”
Bowden said. “Don’t be surprised if they don’t match last year’s group.”


Ditto for the running back spot where Travis Minor returns to run
behind a
veteran offensive line.


Florida State returns six seniors to a defense that led the ACC in
yards
allowed 1999. And once again, speed will be its forte.


Georgia Tech coach George O’Leary was asked if anything could slow the
Seminoles down.


“A machine gun,” he responded. “And I’m not sure you’ll get them all
then. They’ve got some guys quicker than the bullet.”


Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech were each ranked in the top
10 at
one point during Florida State’s dominance in the ’90s, but none have been
able
to challenge for the top spot.


Clemson, which played the Seminoles to a three-point game last season,
will
try this season, relying on Tommy Bowden’s wide-open offense and 16
returning
starters.


Still, the Tigers were 6-6 and haven’t finished in the final poll since
1993.


“I would think finishing in the top 25 at the end of the year would be
a
realistic goal,” said Bowden, who produced an undefeated season at Tulane in
1998.


“A lot of people down our way are saying BCS (bowl) and win nine or 10.
But
to me, if you haven’t finished in the top 25 in seven years, doing that
would
be realistic. That’s the next step, not playing Nebraska in the Orange
Bowl.”


The Tigers will look to linebacker Keith Adams for leadership. He led
the
nation with 168 tackles a season ago – 33 for losses.


“You like to say you’ve got a switch and your motor runs 1 through 10,”
Bowden said of the 5-10 Adams. “He plays at 10 every snap, at practice and
in
the games. We walks up and down the sidelines at a 7. He can’t even cut it
down
to a 3 or a 4. He brings the intangibles like how you play the game with
heart.”


Georgia Tech has been to three straight bowl games, but that was with
Joe
Hamilton, the ACC’s all-time total offense leader with 10,640 yards. His
replacement is unproven George Godsey, whose first test under center will be
Aug. 27 at No. 11 Virginia Tech. Two weeks later, he gets Florida State.


“George knows everything inside and out,” O’Leary said of his junior
quarterback from Tampa, Fla. “Now, a lot of second quarterbacks don’t make
good first quarterbacks because that lump in your throat gets there. I told
George he was the starting quarterback because he made less mistakes and was
going to put us in less perilous position.”


Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia has won seven or more games 13 straight
seasons under George Welsh, but is coming off a 63-21 loss to Illinois in
the
Micron PC Bowl. The Cavaliers also lost All-American running back Thomas
Jones,
who set a single-season ACC record with 1,798 yards.


North Carolina is coming off its first losing season in a decade, but a
healthy return of quarterback Ronald Curry (torn Achilles’ tendon) could
place
the Tar Heels in the upper part of the league.


N.C. State hired former Florida State assistant Chuck Amato after seven
seasons of .500 football under Mike O’Cain. However, the Wolfpack will be
young
and plan on starting freshman quarterback Philip Rivers.


The success of Maryland hinges on running back LaMont Jordan, who ran
for a
school-record 306 yards in last year’s finale against Virginia. Still, the
Terrapins have had only two winning seasons since Bobby Ross went 9-3 in
1985.


Wake Forest was the only other ACC team to win a bowl game last season,
but
return only four starters, while Duke was a near unanimous selection for
last.
The Blue Devils were 33-77-1 over the last decade.

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