February 24, 1998 - by
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Football Spring 1998 Outlook

Seminoles begin hunt for the title.


Feb. 23, 1998

SPRING DATES
(Tentative)

Week One        March 3, 4, 5
SPRING BREAK    March 8-14
Week Two        March 17, 18, 20,21*
Week Three      March 24, 25, 27*
Week Four       March 30, April 1, 3
SPRING GAME     Saturday, April 4

* Indicates Scrimmage is scheduled.
Weekday practices begin at 3:30 p.m.
All dates and times subject to change

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–The Seminoles return 14 starters and all their primary special team players from last year’s squad that finished 11-1 and ranked third in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The finish extended a pair of incredible NCAA records as FSU continued to be the only program in the history of college football to finish among the Top Four in the AP poll for 11 straight years, and kept alive a record of 11 consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins. To put the streak into perspective consider the current list of consecutive AP Top Four finishes: Florida State 11, Florida 3, Michigan 1, Nebraska 1.

Florida State must once again replace talented players most of whom will get a shot at the NFL next year, but there is one position opening that has had fans in the Sunshine State talking since the moment the Seminoles left the Superdome field with a win over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Florida State’s starting quarterback position is open and there is nothing like a good quarterback battle to fuel spring practice. More on the race for that position later for FSU offensive coaches have some other concerns before they are ready to travel to the Meadowlands and an August 31, prime-time showdown with Texas A&M. The Tribe must find new starters at center, tight end and tight tackle along with a new signal caller. And while Thad Busby left big shoes to fill, the ‘Noles may actually have a tougher time replacing wide receiver E.G. Green whose 29 career touchdown receptions set a new school record.

The good news for Seminoles on the offensive front is that a battery of outstanding young offensive linemen return along with a stable of exceptional talent at wide receiver, and a running back in Travis Minor who might be as good as any in the country.

“We are excited about the potential of our offense next year,” said Bobby Bowden. “We’ve got a whole lot of work to do, but we do have a lot of players who have the talent to get it done. Naturally, the quarterback battle will be the key to the spring. I was very confident with Dan Kendra’s ability last year and I would not have hesitated to play him in any situation. I think he’s ready and he’ll play well, but he’s going to have to perform to stay ahead of (Chris) Weinke and Marcus Outzen. Weinke’s a proto-type, pro-style quarterback. He’s got a very strong arm and great size. He’s just got to learn the system and may prove that in spring. Outzen’s got a lot of ability as well. He and Kendra give you a run threat that Weinke does not provide.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do along the offensive line this spring as well, but we’ve probably got better depth there than we have had in a long time. We really had problems at times last year running the football. We lost our power running game and that starts with the line. We’ll try and re-establish our ability to move the football on the ground this spring.

“Our skill positions on offense are going to be very young, but very good. Peter Warrick came on last year and he must anchor our passing game. Travis Minor played better than I ever hoped he would as a freshman at running back. Davy Ford was exceptional as well, but we’re not sure he will have recovered from knee surgery by the fall.”

Defensively, Mickey Andrews and his staff must once again replace All-Americans at several positions. History, however, would lead one to believe that the Seminoles are well equipped to field another outstanding defensive unit. Gone for 1998 are consensus All-Americans Andre Wadsworth and Sam Cowart. Also missing from the spring roster are familiar stars Greg Spires, Samari Rolle and Shevin Smith. But the man, and the quality, that Florida State is likely to have the most trouble replacing is two-time Academic All-American and four-year starter at middle linebacker Daryl Bush and his leadership. What the 1998 squad may lack in experience they may make up in talent as the spring will feature one of the Tribe’s most athletic defensive units. Leading the charge will be five returning starters all of whom had fine seasons last year. Lamont Green has proven he can get the job done at either strong or weakside linebacker, but he must emerge as the leader of a young linebacking corps. Tay Cody is just a sophomore but appears to be the next great Seminole cornerback and he teams with senior free safety Dexter Jackson on what should be an outstanding FSU secondary. Jerry Johnson and Larry Smith return in the middle of the defensive front and junior Tony Bryant and Roland Seymour step in at the defensive ends which have produced four straight All-Americans.

“Our defense carried us at times last year and with a new quarterback at the helm we will need them to step up and lead early next season,” Bowden said. “We lost great players who were great leaders, but we have some tremendous young talent coming up. I think the spring will be a chance for our defense to experiment with players at different positions and in different schemes. We have had so many terrific players on defense over the last several seasons that losing them has become less of a traumatic experience. We’ve got guys with the talent to step up, but the question is whether they can provide the toughness and leadership needed.

Providing another measure of security for Bowden and his staff is the fact that nearly every key member of the special teams’ units from last year will return, including punter Keith Cottrell and sensational place kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

“A great kicking game is just like holding an extra Ace in your hand,” said Bowden. “It allows you to take some chances on offense and defense that you might not take if you’re unsure of your special teams. Janikowski had a great freshman year and should get even better. Cottrell was good on punts and should get stronger. I don’t know when I’ve had everybody return like this year. We’ve got snappers, returners, holders, the whole package is back. (Peter) Warrick was a game-breaker on punt returns and he had three returns for scores called back by penalties.

“Overall, we need to be a more productive rushing offense in 1998. We played great defense most of last year, but we can’t give up the big plays we did last year. The schedule worked against us with all those big games on the road. We still play the great teams, but we’ve got Southern Cal at home, Clemson at home, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida at home. The other thing about the schedule next year is that we’ve got to be awfully good right out of the blocks. Texas A&M is a fine football team and August 31st seems right around the corner

“Our goal remains to win the national championship. To do that, we’ve got to win the ACC and a non-conference schedule with A&M, USC, Miami and Florida.”

Quarterbacks
The bad news for the Seminoles is that Thad Busby is gone. After all, he posted a 21-2 record as the starting quarterback over the last two years and threw for more yards last season than any quarterback in FSU history. His departure turns the glare of media attention into the face of three outstanding prospects.

Junior Dan Kendra enters spring drills with the most experience and the edge to become the next quarterback. He brings phenomenal athletic ability to the position with the size of a fullback, the speed of a tailback, the mentality of a linebacker, and, most importantly, the passing ability of a quarterback. Coaches were not able to play him as much as they would have liked last year, but he did complete 20-of-37 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran over people for 73 yards on 18 carries. Kendra already has starting experience as he won the Maryland game as sophomore in 1996 when Busby sat out with an injury.

Pushing Kendra this spring will be a pair of sophomores. Chris Weinke has everyone excited with his big league passing abilities. The number one quarterback in the country as a high school senior in 1989, Weinke played pro baseball with Toronto for six years, but went through the entire 1997 season with the Seminoles. He’s big, strong, and mature.

Marcus Outzen has already proven he can handle pressure as the holder for field goals and extra points last year. He brings great size and athletic ability to the position. Outzen is a good runner with the qualities of a winner.

Running Backs
Travis Minor entered FSU as one of its most heralded recruits ever last year and finished his first season as a Seminole as the ACC Rookie of the Year. Minor gained 623 yard on 112 carries and scored 11 touchdowns for FSU last year, establishing himself as one of the nation’s top ball carriers. A star on the track as well, Minor will miss most of spring while competing on the Seminole track team.

FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton will actually be without the Tribe’s top two running backs in spring and Davy Ford’s absence may include all of next season. Ford gained 258 yards on 61 carries as a true freshman last year, but underwent reconstructive knee surgery after missing the Sugar Bowl which will keep him out all spring.

With their top two guns missing, FSU coaches will experiment with promising sophomore fullback William McCray at tailback. McCray can definitely play fullback in the fall, but may have the speed to be a big tailback in the FSU attack as well.

Sophomore Jeff Chaney will move from defensive back to tailback this spring. Chaney has already seen considerable action on special teams last year and actually signed with the Tribe as running back two years ago.

The least known quantity heading in spring drills is junior West Los Angeles College transfer Raymont Skaggs. Skaggs will get a chance for a lot of reps during the spring and brings a reputation as an outstanding open field runner and special teams player from the west coast.

The fullback numbers are also thin this spring especially with McCray shifting most of his work to tailback. Lamarr Glenn is the returning starter and enters his senior season with great potential at the position.

Coaches have moved senior Billy Rhodes from defensive line, to offensive line to fullback over the last four months, and he has shown great promise at each of the positions.

Receivers
Peter Warrick returns as one of the nation’s top players as he begins his junior season on the heels of a spectacular sophomore year. Warrick has averaged 18.0 yards per reception over his career and last year gained 884 yards on 53 catches. He scored eight touchdowns through the air, averaging over 44 yards per score. He is one of the most exciting players in all of college football.

Returning at the opposite wide receiver will be junior Laveranues Coles who will be looking for a more consistent season in 1998. With E.G. Green gone, Coles will have more room to step up and make plays in the Seminole passing game.

Ron Dugans will likely emerge as the third starter when the Seminoles use their three-wide set. Dugans appeared headed for a great junior season in 1997 until a hand injury suffered just prior to the first game forced him to miss virtually the entire year. Big, physical and competitive, Dugans makes the tough catch over the middle.

Listed behind Coles and Dugans at split end to start the spring will be true freshman Robert Morgan and sophomore Tres Walton. Morgan originally signed with the Seminoles last fall, but did not enroll until January. He joined the team after the fall semester was over and impressed coaches during Sugar Bowl practices with outstanding speed and precise routes. Walton has battled injuries since he arrived at FSU and needs a healthy spring to get in the mix for playing time.

Backing up Peter Warrick at flanker will be junior Germaine Stringer whose blazing speed makes him a threat on every pattern. Stringer, who will likely return kickoffs as well, needs to be more consistent catching the football this spring.

Sophomore Marvin Minnis may be the emotional leader among the receivers. He made some big catches as a freshman last year and should use the spring to establish more playing time this fall. Freshman Atrews Bell moves over from defensive back and will go through spring drills with a lot to learn.

Offensive Line
Florida State returns three starters from last year’s offensive line, but must find replacements for a pair of departing standouts, tackle Tra Thomas and center Kevin Long. Jason Whitaker earned All-ACC honors at split guard as a sophomore last year and has two years of starting experience under his belt. Sophomore Donald Heaven started last year at tight guard and should be ready to contend for all-conference honors at the position this year. Ross Brannon started all but two games at split tackle as a freshman in 1997 and should benefit from the off-season weight program leading into next year.

Jerry Carmichael will push Brannon for first team honors at tackle just as he did all last fall. Coaches are confident in Carmichael’s ability and if he does not emerge at split tackle, his talent may earn him a place somewhere else on the line. Otis Duhart will also see action at split tackle during the spring and coaches are anxious to see the sophomore compete.

Solid reserve Jeremy Brett returns for his junior season as the likely second team split guard, while Justin Amman is listed behind Heaven at tight guard.

With those starters returning and solid reserves in place, Coach Jimmy Heggins’ attention will be focused on finding the replacements at center and tackle. Sophomore Jarad Moon begins spring listed at first team center. He must beat out talented junior Eric Thomas to keep the job.

The tight tackle position, which has produced back-to-back NFL first round draft picks in Walter Jones and Tra Thomas, is up for grabs this spring. Sophomore Tarlos Crumitie is listed as number one on the spring depth chart. He played sparingly as a rookie, but has the size and strength to hold the position. 325-pound Char-ron Dorsey moves from defensive line to offensive tackle where his agility should make him a natural.

Tight Ends

John Lilly makes his full-time coaching debut after taking over for Ronnie Cottrell as the Seminoles’ tight end coach and recruiting coordinator. He must find a replacement for All-ACC performer Melvin Pearsall who set the school record for touchdowns by a tight end last year.

Myron Jackson is a senior who enters spring drills with the inside track to become the starter. An excellent blocker, Jackson will use the spring to try and establish himself as a reliable receiver. Behind him will be four talented if inexperienced players. Sophomore Carver Donaldson played sparingly last year and freshman Stacy Davis redshirted during his rookie season. Junior college transfer Nick Franklin brings an impressive resume’ into his first action at FSU. He could push for playing time right away. Sophomore Ryan Sprague saw action on special teams as a freshman.

Defensive Line
Florida State will rely on a pair of very physical players to lead a young but deep group along the defensive front. Junior Jerry Johnson had an excellent 1997 season and gives the Tribe a leader inside. Nose tackle Larry Smith came out of nowhere to have an outstanding sophomore year and he plays with an intensity that others will try to match this year.

Listed behind Johnson at tackle as spring drills begin will be sophomore Bryne Malone and freshman Ronald Boldin. Malone has all the tools to become a fine player but needs to improve his intensity in the spring. Boldin moves from offensive line and will battle for playing time during spring.

Corey Simon is second on the depth chart at nose tackle after undergoing another off-season surgery that may put him a bit behind. Simon’s shoulder may slow him in spring, but he is an excellent player when he’s on the field. Randy Wilkins will begin drills at third team nose tackle.

Stepping into what has become one of the nation’s most glamorous positions, at least at the start of spring drills, will be Tony Bryant and Roland Seymour who hope to continue FSU’s string of four straight All-Americans at defensive end. Bryant begins his senior season but only his second year at FSU after transferring from a junior college. He is slated to start at right defensive end where he saw considerable action last year. Just a sophomore, Seymour must step in a play at the left end position vacated by consensus All-American Andre Wadsworth.

Pushing Bryant at right end will be sensational sophomore Jamal Reynolds who can play a number of positions within the defense. Chris Walker should see time there as well in his junior year.

David Warren, the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior, begins his second year at FSU as the backup to Seymour at left end. Walk-on Ed Mitchell moves from linebacker to the left end to provide depth.

Linebacker
The linebacking corps was hit hardest by graduation with the departure of a four-year starter at middle linebacker, Daryl Bush, and a consensus All-America, Sam Cowart. Coach Chuck Amato will experiment all spring with a number of talented players who hope to fill some mighty big shoes.

The good news for FSU at linebacker is that Lamont Green returns at the weakside for his senior season after starting on the strongside last year. An outstanding performer over the last two years, Green appears anxious to lead this young group and he is capable of earning a place on All-America squads next year as well. Backing up Green as the spring drills begin are a pair of talented players who figure to earn playing time somewhere next fall. Theon Rackley is a junior from Tallahassee who will work at all three positions this spring. Sophomore Tommy Polley has proven his big play ability and will get even better with more experience.

Former walk-on Bobby Rhodes earned a scholarship last year and has a chance to earn the start at middle linebacker in the spring. He’ll battle senior Demetro Stephens who must avoid injuries to reach his potential. Also in the mix in the middle will be redshirt freshman Bradley Jennings who gets his first real shot at playing time this spring.

Senior Deon Humphrey begins as the man to beat at strongside linebacker. Pushing him for the position will be sophomore sensation Brian Allen.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Defensive Coordinator Mickey Andrews will also have a busy spring trying to replace departed starters Samari Rolle and Shevin Smith, but his practice of playing a lot of people during the course of a season should pay off this year.

Returning to a Seminole defensive backfield with the potential to be one of the best in years are senior free safety Dexter Jackson and standout sophomore cornerback Tay Cody. Jackson should emerge as one of the overall leaders of this FSU team and his ability to play the run and pass from safety makes him an All-American candidate. Cody, who earned a place on several freshman All-America teams, had as good a freshman season as any FSU cornerback of the Bowden era. Talented and physical, Cody is a superb defender with excellent speed.

Todd Frier had a huge sack on a blitz in the Sugar Bowl and he will likely backup Jackson at free safety. Shawn McCorkle has played very well on special teams, but needs to show coaches he has the discipline to play as a sophomore.

Behind Cody at the right corner will be sophomore Clevan Thomas and junior college transfer Reggie Durden. Thomas showed great potential last year and will be involved in his first spring drills. Durden originally signed with the Seminoles two years ago and is eager to work his way into the starting lineup.

Senior Troy Saunders has the edge at left cornerback after playing the nickel-back most of last season. He will be backed up by sophomore Abdual Howard and transplanted running back Dee Feaster. Howard could earn a lot of playing time with a solid spring, while coaches are anxious to see what Feaster can do in the secondary.

Sophomore Derrick Gibson will be given the first chance to take over for big-play specialist Smith at the Rover position. He has the talent, but must prove to coaches he can make things happen from the position. Walk-on Jean Jeune has worked his way up the depth chart and is in contention for a spot in the defensive backfield.

SPECIALISTS
If having a good kicking game is like having an ace as Bowden said, the the coach is holding four of a kind in 1998 with the return of his entire special teams units.

Back are standout placekicker Sebastian Janikowski and sophomore punter Keith Cottrell. Also back are special teams snapper Clay Ingram and holder Marcus Outzen. Adding to the riches on special teams are Peter Warrick, Germaine Stringer and Laveranues Coles who come back to their positions as the primary punt and kickoff return specialists.

1998 Personnel Chart

STARTERS RETURNING  16
OFFENSE     7
DEFENSE     5
SPECIALISTS 4

Offense: OT- Ross Brannon, FLK- Laveranues Coles, FB- Lamarr Glenn, OG- Donald Heaven, RB- Travis Minor, WR- Peter Warrick, OG- Jason Whitaker.

Defense: CB- Tay Cody, FS- Dexter Jackson, DT- Jerry Johnson, LB- Lamont Green, Larry Smith, DT

Specialists: PK- Sebastian Janikowski, P- Keith Cottrell, PR – Peter Warrick, KR – Laveranues Coles, KR- Germaine Stringer.

STARTERS LOST   12
Offense     5
Defense     6
Specialists 0

Offense: QB- Thad Busby, WR- E.G. Green, C- Kevin Long, TE- Melvin Pearsall, OT- Tra Thomas.

Defense: LB- Daryl Bush, OLB- Sam Cowart, CB- Samari Rolle, ROV- Shevin Smith, DE- Greg Spires, DE- Andre Wadsworth.

Specialists: None.

LETTERMEN RETURNING 56
Offense     27
Defense     27
Specialists 2

Offense: OG- Justin Amman, OT- Ross Brannon, OG- Jeremy Brett, OT- Jerry Carmichael, WR- Laveranues Coles, OT- Tarlos Crumitie, TE- Carver Donaldson, OT- Otis Duhart, WR- Ron Dugans, RB- Dee Feaster, WR- Jason Floyd, RB- Davy Ford, FB- Lamarr Glenn, OG- Donald Heaven, C- Clay Ingam, TE- Myron Jackson, QB- Dan Kendra, FB- William McCray, WR- Marvin Minnis, RB- Travis Minor, C- Jarad Moon, QB- Marcus Outzen, TE- Ryan Sprague, C- Eric Thomas, WR- Peter Warrick, QB- Chris Weinke, OG- Jason Whitaker.

Defense: LB- Brian Allen, DE- Tony Bryant, DB- Jeff Chaney, CB- Tay Cody, DT- Char-ron Dorsey, FS- Todd Frier, RV- Derrick Gibson, LB- Lamont Green, CB- Abdual Howard, LB- Deon Humphrey, FS- Dexter Jackson, DT- Jerry Johnson, DE- Bryne Malone, FS- Shawn McCorkel, LB- Tommy Polley, LB- Theon Rackley, DE- Jamal Reynolds, NG- Billy Rhodes, LB- Bobby Rhodes, CB- Troy Saunders, DE- Roland Seymour, NG- Corey Simon, DT- Larry Smith, LB- Demetro Stephens, WR- Germaine Stringer, RV- Clevan Thomas, DE- Chris Walker, DE- David Warren.

Specialists: P- Keith Cottrell, PK- Sebastian Janikowski.

LETTERMEN LOST  16
Offense     7
Defense     9
Specialists 0

Offense: FB- Khalid Abdullah, QB- Thad Busby, WR- E.G. Green, WR- Damian Harrell, C- Kevin Long, TE- Melvin Pearsall, OT- Tra Thomas

Defense: LB- Daryl Bush, LB- Sam Cowart, DT- Juliam Pittman, CB- Samari Rolle, DB- Mitch Scharf, RV- Shevin Smith, DT- Greg Spires, DT- David Tulloch, DE- Andre Wadsworth.

Specialist: None

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