IT'S BACK TO THEBASICS FOR THE SEMINOLES, WHO ARE DETERMINED TO REESTABLISH THEIR RUNNINGGAME
2005 RECORD 8-5(5-3 in ACC Atlantic)
KEY RETURNEES QBDrew Weatherford (Soph.) Threw for 18 touchdowns and ACC-high 3,208 yards lastyear WR Greg Carr (Soph.) Averaged 20.6 yards per catch and had a team-highnine TDs CB Tony Carter (Soph.) Led Seminoles with 12 pass breakups
BIG MAN ON CAMPUSA budding star, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen had a memorable first startlast fall, sacking Miami's Kyle Wright in Florida State's season-opening 10-7victory. He finished the year with 71/2 tackles for loss. The 6'4",286-pound junior will be the leader of a front four that's talented but lacksexperience.
Since arriving inTallahassee in 2002 as the nation's No. 1 recruit, running back Lorenzo Bookerhas been redshirted, suffered knee and ankle injuries, and split playing timewith other tailbacks. He has averaged only 10.1 rushing attempts a game and hasnever had even a 900-yard season. Yet when pressed about his unspectacularfour-year stay, the 5'11", 193-pound senior accepts his fate. "With asmany athletes as we have," he says, "this has never been a place whereyou get 25 carries a game."
Florida State isalso a place where contending for the national championship is expected everyfall, and Booker acknowledges that the Seminoles have lost too many gameslately. For 10 straight seasons, beginning in 1991, FSU won 10 or more games,took home two national championships and never finished out of the AP's topfive, but last year's 8-5 record marked the fifth straight season in which theschool lost three or more games and finished outside the wire service's top 10.The Seminoles were hampered by an out-of-balance offense that threw too much(58.4% of the plays) and averaged an ACC-low 94.0 rushing yards per game. Thetrouble started when an already suspect line was hit hard by injuries, mostnotably to guard Matt Meinrod, who went down with a dislocated ankle andfractured fibula in the fifth game of the season. Without reliablerun-blockers, offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden turned more and more tofreshman quarterback Drew Weatherford and a gifted corps of wideouts. Booker,who had 887 yards rushing in 2004, finished with only 552 yards and was sodisillusioned that he considered declaring for the NFL draft. (Expertsprojected him as a second-round selection.) Only a promise from coach BobbyBowden to recommit to the run kept Booker in Tallahassee.
In anticipationof a heavier workload, Booker redoubled his efforts in the weight room duringthe off-season, adding six pounds of muscle and testing out as the strongestman on the team pound for pound. Though sophomore Antone Smith will get somework, Florida State will begin the season with Booker-who was recently timed at4.40 in the 40-as its featured back. "There's nothing not to like abouthim," says tight ends coach John Lilly, who recruited Booker out of St.Bonaventure High in Ventura, Calif. "He's got great change of direction andacceleration. He's a complete package."
How well Bookerdoes will depend in large part on the retooled line, which will have three newstarters and will be using the more physical run-blocking style that wasemphasized during spring practice. The unit should get a boost from 6'7",309-pound right tackle Shannon Boatman, a transfer from Tyler (Texas) JuniorCollege. "It's simple," says Booker. "If we can't run, welose."
PHIL COALE/AP (BOOKER)