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Original Issue

5 Florida State Coming off their worst season in a decade, the Seminoles can't wait to prove they belong among the nation's elite

You can say this about Chris Rix: He's not afraid to enter the
fray. As a redshirt freshman in 2001, he outplayed then sophomore
Anquan Boldin in the battle for the starting quarterback job left
vacant by Heisman-winner Chris Weinke. He then overcame a shaky
3-2 start and got better each game en route to being named ACC
Freshman of the Year. Finally, in a move that had his coaches
shaking their heads, Rix ran for vice president of Florida
State's 35,000-strong student body last February. "Most football
players would never try the crazy things I do," says Rix, whose
derring-do has included front flips into the end zone for a score
and a dorm-to-dorm political campaign in which he presented
starstruck classmates with tiny, personally autographed
footballs. "I like challenges."

Though Rix's foray into politics wasn't successful--he and his
Garnet and Gold Party running mate pulled just 11% of the votes
to finish last in a three-way race--he came out on top in the
quarterback battle again last spring. After a season in which his
prodigious passing (2,734 yards and 24 touchdowns) was undercut
by untimely turnovers (five fumbles and 13 interceptions), Rix
held off a formidable challenge from two other candidates, thanks
to his strong arm and knowledge of the offense. "Last year we had
to be somewhat simplistic in our play-calling," says offensive
coordinator Jeff Bowden. "Now that Chris has developed a sense
and feel for our system, we can open up a little more."

Racked by injuries and inexperience (15 new starters) in 2001,
the Seminoles gave up 356 yards per game and suffered their worst
record (8-4) in a decade. That situation has been ameliorated by
the return of 17 starters, including junior tackle Darnell
Dockett (22 tackles for loss) and junior linebacker Michael
Boulware (81 tackles and three interceptions).

While Dockett and Boulware are the marquee men on defense, senior
end Alonzo Jackson, who accounted for five of the team's 14 team
sacks last season, will be the Seminole on the hot seat. If he's
as combustible during the season as he was in the team's spring
game, in which he collected three sacks in dominant fashion, the
pass rush should be back up to Florida State's usual high
standards come this fall.

The only unit that could surpass the Seminoles' defensive front
as the ACC's best is their offensive line. The veteran bunch, led
by 6'6", 310-pound All-America tackle Brett Williams, who had 48
pancake blocks before suffering a season-ending knee injury in
November, will make life much easier for Rix. So will the return
of wideouts Robert Morgan, a senior, and Boldin, a junior who's
back at his natural position after his failed trial at
quarterback. Both missed last season with knee injuries, which
left Rix with precious few targets to choose from. The 6'2",
205-pound Boldin, whose confidence and playmaking ability remind
Bowden of former Florida State All-America Peter Warrick, could
turn out to be the most important weapon in the offense. "Last
season was the first time in nine years that we didn't have depth
at the receiver position," says Bowden. "We had to count on
freshmen to make crucial third-down plays. Having a leader like
Anquan back in the mix is huge."

With his teammates eager to prove that last year was an
aberration, Rix realizes that consistently strong play, not
somersaults, is required of him. In addition to watching
videotape nearly every day during the off-season, Rix spent May
developing a quicker release with the help of Los Angeles-based
quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson, the former San Jose State star
who tutors Rix and Tennessee junior Casey Clausen whenever the
young signal-callers are home in California. Equipped with a new,
over-the-top motion--and an internal drive that could be similarly
described--Rix has grand visions for his sophomore campaign.

"When it comes to this season, no expectations are unrealistic,"
says Rix. "As long as we continue to work hard, work together and
stay healthy, I have no doubt that we'll be in the Fiesta Bowl
[playing for the national championship] in January." --K.K.

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS RISK TAKER Not afraid to stick his neck out, Rix made his share of mistakes as a freshman, but he still threw for 2,734 yards.


2001 RECORD: 8-4 (6-2, 2nd in ACC)
FINAL RANKING: No. 15 AP, No. 15 coaches' poll


Straight weeks in the Top 25 for the Seminoles, from Sept. 26,
1989, until Nov. 18, 2001, a day after their 37-13 loss at


QB Chris Rix [Soph.]
3,123 yards total offense as freshman

LT Brett Williams [Sr.]
ACC's top lineman didn't allow a sack

DT Darnell Dockett [Jr.]
Has 41 career tackles for loss

LB Michael Boulware [Jr.]
Churns a team-best 4.36 in the 40

RB Greg Jones [Jr.]
573 rushing yards in last seven games

An opposing coach's view

After taking their licks, the Seminoles are back

"Chris Rix had his rough moments last year, but because they
went ahead and played him, Bobby Bowden is going to have a very
good quarterback for three years.... Their offensive line is as
good as any. Center Antoine Mirambeau and guard Montrae Holland
have excellent lateral quickness and balance, and they handle
twist moves very well.... The defensive line's lack of a pass
rush last year surprised me. They've always had that good
individual rusher. They haven't been a big blitz team because
they haven't had to be. I'm going to guess that they will
generate a pass rush with team pressure when necessary....
Linebackers Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope can move. That's
been the hallmark of their great teams: guys who can chase
people down."

Strength: 6th

Sept. 14 at Maryland
26 at Louisville
12 at Miami
Nov. 2 at Wake Forest
9 at Georgia Tech
23 at North Carolina State

*at Kansas City, Mo.