When Florida State coach Bobby Bowden isn't reading his
playbook, he's usually losing himself in a book about World War
II. Though he's partial to Patton and Rommel, generals who
didn't hesitate to go for it on fourth down, Bowden recently
read a biography of Field Marshal Montgomery, the British
commander who wouldn't proceed until everything was just so.
"They all hated Monty," Bowden says, referring to the other
Allied brass hats. "I just figured I would see why."
With the team Bowden has this fall, the last guy he needs to
bone up on is Monty. If Bowden were to wait for this team to be
ready, the Seminoles wouldn't play until late October. "I'd
rather have talent and inexperience than experience and no
talent," Bowden says. "I'll take my chances with talent."
The talent that he'll be taking the most chances on is sophomore
quarterback Chris Weinke, who became the starter this spring
after Dan Kendra, heir apparent to the graduated Thad Busby,
tore the ACL in his right knee. Weinke, who spent six years
playing first base in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, turned
26 in July, an age more typical of graduate assistant coaches
and BYU postmission tackles. He is physically and literally a
man among boys: When fifth-year linebacker Lamont Green sacked
Weinke (6'5", 225 pounds) from the blind side during spring
practice, it was Green (6'3", 230) who came away with the bloody
Weinke's size and strength--and smarts--should help compensate
for his lack of experience. "There are no throws that will put a
burden on Chris's arm," offensive coordinator Mark Richt says.
"Part of his game will be to get us out of bad looks
[formations] into good looks at the line, and from good looks
into great looks. Whereas Kendra used his athletic ability to
make big plays happen, Chris is a student of the game. He
prepares like no other quarterback I've had."
Weinke has been such a take-charge guy that he persuaded enough
teammates to participate in voluntary workouts this summer that
the Seminoles frequently ran 11-on-11. By the end of July the
offensive players had learned the code names and the hand
signals for their plays, something that usually doesn't happen
until well into two-a-days. "I'm older than these guys," says
Weinke. "If I'm yelling down their throats, they don't want to
hear it. But I want them to know I'm willing to lead, willing to
say something when things aren't going right."
Bowden plans to right a running game that finished 94th in
rushing (112.1 yards per game, only 3.6 per carry) last season.
Until this year he had held out against the trend toward big
linemen. In the Seminoles' national championship season of 1993,
the offensive line averaged 6'4", 272 pounds. This season the
numbers are 6'6", 305. "We still try to recruit good feet,"
Bowden says, referring to quickness, not anatomy. "We just
weren't a very physical team up front last year."
There's a proven tailback in sophomore Travis Minor, who rushed
for more than 100 yards against the two toughest defenses he
faced--North Carolina's and Florida's. There's also fifth-year
senior fullback Lamarr Glenn, who will get a chance to add to
his 19 career carries. His main duty, however, will be to open
holes for Minor. In other words, Florida State has enough
running game to return occasionally to the old-fashioned I
formation with a tight end and two wideouts, a convention that
last season's inexperience didn't allow. "It don't matter what
you do if you can't make third-and-short," Bowden says.
"Wishbone, shotgun, whatever. After that, if you can't play
defense, you can't win."
While defensive end Tony Bryant will attempt to extend to six
years the Seminoles' streak of having an All-America at his
position, the anchor of the line will be tackle Jerry Johnson, a
6'2", 280-pound junior. He tried to break the school
bench-pressing record this summer but maxed out at 535 pounds,
15 short of former offensive tackle Tra Thomas's mark. Despite
the loss of two starters, there's a wealth of talent in the
secondary, thanks to the reinstatement of junior corner Mario
Edwards and junior safety Sean Key, both of whom missed all of
last season. Edwards was suspended by a university judiciary
committee last fall for slapping a female acquaintance. Key was
suspended by Bowden after being charged with aggravated assault,
stemming from a fight with another student. (Key pleaded no
contest and served a short jail term.)
Though their schedule is typically difficult, the Seminoles will
play what appear to be their toughest games at the end of the
season. That will give Weinke and the other inexperienced
players time to get their footing. "If this team can put it
together, we're going to be pretty good," Bowden says. "We got
players as good as anybody in the country. We get most of them
back next year." Montgomery never planned that far ahead.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDY LYONS/ALLSPORT Bruiser Primarily a blocking back, Glenn will look to carry more of the load as Florida State tries to rejuvenate its ground game. [Lamarr Glenn diving with football]
B/W PHOTO: RYALS LEE/FSU PHOTO LAB Whitaker [Jason Whitaker]
1997 record: 11-1 (8-0, 1st in ACC)
Final ranking: No. 3 AP, No. 3 coaches' poll
Rushing Passing Total
1997 Averages Scoring Yards Yards Yards
OFFENSE 39.7 112.1 340.0 452.1
DEFENSE 15.2 51.9 189.5 241.4
Coach: Bobby Bowden
23rd year at Florida State (208-51-4); career Division I-A
WR Laveranues Coles Jr. Broke right ankle in the spring
LT Ross Brannon So. 6'8", 300 lbs., bright future
LG Jason Whitaker Jr. Second-team All-ACC in '97
C Eric Thomas[*] Jr. Was backup at guard-center
RG Donald Heaven So. Started 12 games as freshman
RT Char-ron Dorsey[*] So. Played DT last season
TE Myron Jackson[*] Sr. Best known for blocking ability
WR Peter Warrick Jr. 53 rec., 884 yds., 8 TDs
QB Chris Weinke[*] So. 82 passing yds., 2 TDs, 1 int.
RB Travis Minor So. 623 rushing yds., 5.6 avg., 9 TDs
FB Lamarr Glenn Sr. 3 rushes, 19 yards, 1 TD
K Sebastian Janikowski So. Passed on pro soccer career
LE Roland Seymour[*] So. 6 sacks as '97 backup
LT Larry Smith Jr. Turns 24 by bowl season
RT Jerry Johnson Jr. Most starts on defense (15)
RE Tony Bryant[*] Sr. 7 sacks, leads returners
OLB Tommy Polley[*] So. At 6'5", also a kick blocker
MLB Brian Allen[*] So. Starred on special teams
OLB Lamont Green Sr. Moves back to weak side
CB Troy Saunders[*] Sr. Started 4 games as sophomore
SS Derrick Gibson[*] So. Scored TD on blocked punt
FS Dexter Jackson Sr. 81 tackles, 2 int.
CB Tay Cody So. 46 tackles, 3 int.
P Keith Cottrell So. 58 punts, 38.4-yd. avg.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from 1997 season.
Bobby Bowden signs junior college players only to fill a need.
Senior defensive end Tony Bryant, from Marathon, Fla., signed
with Pittsburgh in 1995 but didn't qualify academically. After
Bryant starred at Copiah-Lincoln J.C. in Mississippi, Bowden
gave him a ticket home to the Sunshine State for the '97
season.... Corner Tay Cody came out of redshirt-freshman
oblivion last season to turn a questionable secondary into a
strength. Nine times in 12 games the coaches named him to the
Victor's Club, an honor given to the best performers in a
game.... The biggest example of the increased size on the
offensive line is guard Jason Whitaker, who was worn down from
275 pounds to 265 during the season and, Bowden says, "got
tossed around like a rag doll." Whitaker will play at 300 pounds
this year.... Free safety Dexter Jackson is better at knocking
the ball down than at catching it. He has broken up 15 passes,
but his interception in the Sugar Bowl was only the fourth of
Schedule strength: 4th of 112
Aug. 31 vs. Texas A&M at East Rutherford, N.J. Of FSU's six
road foes, only the Aggies won more than seven games in '97.
Faint praise: A&M went 1-3 against teams that got bowl
Oct. 31 vs. North Carolina The Tar Heels' offense needs to get
in gear. It has scored only one field goal against the Seminoles
in the last two years.
Nov. 21 vs. Florida The most noticeable of the few blemishes on
Steve Spurrier's record: He's 0-3-1 in Doak Campbell Stadium.
The X Factor
September 5 is the Seminoles' last open Saturday. Surviving
games in 11 consecutive weeks, with the toughest on the back
end, is difficult, but this team has the talent to do it.
The Bottom Line
Go ahead and circle the Gators on your calendar. The Seminoles
have. And it's a home game. Lose this one and there's little
chance of playing for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl.