Every year we talk about the same thing," Florida State senior
quarterback Danny Kanell says. "Winning the national
championship is the only...."
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Come on, Danny, that tired
line is used by every quarterback this side of Rutgers.
"No, I'm serious," insists Kanell. "We think we can win it every
The Seminoles, whose No. 4 ranking in 1994 gave them a record
eight consecutive years in the final Top 5, are one of the few
teams that have been able to back up such preseason yap in
Until Kanell provided some late-game heroics during the
regular-season finale against fourth-ranked Florida last year,
however, the seventh-ranked Seminoles' record streak was in
jeopardy. Down 31-3 after the third quarter, Kanell hit 18 of 22
passes for 232 yards in the final period, leading the Seminoles
to their greatest tie ever--and the Gators' most bitter. In the
Sugar Bowl rematch a month later, FSU dumped Florida 23-17.
"The media and fans still talk about the tie, but we really
don't bring it up much," Kanell says. "That was just one game.
Our goal is still to be wire-to-wire Number 1...."
O.K., O.K. Once again, Florida State is a national title
contender, and Kanell is the key. He's the third consecutive
Seminole quarterback to return after starting his junior year;
the last two, Casey Weldon and Charlie Ward, quarterbacked
top-ranked teams for a combined 28 weeks during their senior
seasons. This year, with Central Florida on the schedule instead
of Notre Dame, there is less out-of-state competition to slow
the Seminoles' pursuit of the top spot.
Kanell's numbers from his junior year are impressive enough to
suggest that Florida State is a contender no matter whom they
play. His 2,781 passing yards were the fourth-highest
single-season total in school history, and his 227 completions
ranked second. He is 11-1-1 as a starter; the lone loss came
last year at Miami when coach Bobby Bowden pulled him at the end
of the third quarter with the Seminoles down 31-17.
"If I had one thing to do over from last season, I would not
have taken Danny out against Miami," Bowden says. "He just might
have pulled off the comeback."
Kanell, who was the first-team All-ACC quarterback last season,
has already been hyped as a Heisman candidate. However, he may
be overshadowed in '95 by junior tailback Warrick Dunn. Dunn
rushed for 1,026 yards last season, averaging 6.8 yards per
carry. He became only the fifth back in Seminole history to rush
for 1,000 yards and the first since Sammy Smith accomplished
that feat in 1987. Dunn, who is 5'9" and 178 pounds, rarely
takes a direct hit. He relies on jukes and quickness, which
leave defenders vulnerable to his surprising power.
"Warrick has that little extra move that puts a defender
off-balance," senior Seminole linebacker Todd Rebol says.
"That's how he breaks so many tackles."
Dunn may not have to break too many tackles to pick up big yards
this season. Four of five offensive linemen return, led by
three-year starter Clay Shiver at center.
Florida State's receivers will be short only on experience.
Junior wide receiver Andre Cooper (6'2", 194 pounds), who caught
five touchdowns as the No. 3 receiver last year, will be called
on to carry much of the load. Kanell's favorite target may turn
out to be sophomore tight end Melvin Pearsall (6'1", 242), who
tied Cooper for the team lead with five scoring grabs in '94.
Bowden even gave placekicker Scott Bentley a look at receiver
this spring. According to Kanell, Bentley, who has 4.52 speed,
regularly burned the defensive backs in seven-on-seven passing
A lowly kicker burning Florida State defensive backs? What would
Deion think? Although Bentley is fast, his success in this
spring's drills was more a reflection of the Seminoles'
liabilities in the defensive backfield than of Bentley's prowess
as a receiver. For the first time in five years, Florida State
will be without a preseason All-America at safety or cornerback.
There is talent and potential among players such as sophomore
cornerback Samari Rolle (4.37 speed, tops on the team) and
junior safety Sean Hamlet, but not much game experience.
The defense lost six starters from '94, with three of them going
in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft: defensive end Derrick
Alexander, safety Devin Bush and linebacker Derrick Brooks.
Still, with the exception of the backfield, the Seminole defense
should be solid.
The strength of the unit lies in the linebacking corps, led by
Rebol and sophomore Daryl Bush. Rebol, who at 6 feet, 215
pounds is undersized but fast, will move to the free-roaming
"bandit" position, replacing Brooks. Bush, meanwhile, will
remain at inside linebacker, where he made a team-leading 86
tackles last season.
Senior defensive tackle Orpheus Roye may make some Seminole fans
forget Alexander. A proven run-stopper, Roye displayed a monster
pass rush this spring. If he and his fellow linemates can put
pressure on opposing passers and take pressure off the young
secondary, the Seminoles will once again be in the thick of
things come New Year's Day. Right, Danny?
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER If Kanell's deeds match his words, the Seminoles will cop another title. [Danny Kanell in game]
THE DATA BOX
Head coach: Bobby Bowden
Career college record: 249-79-4
20th year at Florida State (176-47-4)
1994 RECORD: 10-1-1
ACC record: 8-0 (first)
W Virginia 41-17
W at Maryland 52-20
W at Wake Forest 56-14
W North Carolina 31-18
L at Miami 34-20
W Clemson 17-0
W Duke 59-20
W at Georgia Tech 41-10
W Notre Dame 23-16 (at Orlando)
W at N.C. State 34-3
T Florida 31-31
W Florida 23-17 (Sugar Bowl)
Final '94 ranking: 4 AP, 5 CNN/USA Today
Lettermen lost: 17
Lettermen returning: 54
Returning starters, offense: 7
Returning starters, defense: 5
Sept. 9 at Clemson
Oct. 7 Miami
Nov. 25 at Florida
PLAYER TO WATCH
On a team whose players major in lip-flapping and minor in
talking smack, the best defensive player on the field for the
Seminoles is a reticent would-be artist who would rather draw
sketches than attention. "Art makes me focused," says 6'4",
275-pound senior defensive tackle Orpheus Roye. "It's relaxing,
and I don't need the company of others to do it."
Voted most dominating defensive player this spring by the
Seminole coaches, Roye will most likely replace Derrick
Alexander as the dominant player on Florida State's defensive
"Orpheus was unreal this spring," says senior linebacker Todd
Rebol. "Every time I could have had a tackle for a loss, he'd
beat me to the play. He is just so fast."
Roye, an aspiring police sketch artist who majors in criminology
and minors in art, knows that art and football are an odd mix.
"Football players aren't supposed to have an artistic side," he
says. "But on the field, I have a different personality--I'm not
an artist, I'm a warrior."