2005 ACC Preview/Prediction: Florida State, Atlantic Division #1

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Previews Thus Far
Atlantic Division Coastal Division
Maryland Virginia
Clemson UNC
Wake Forest Duke
For a breakdown of the ACC’s football
divisions, click here.

Florida State Preview

Eye View:
The days of the ACC being FSU and the seven dwarfs seem like a
distant memory now, and, judging by the turmoil this offseason in Tallahassee,
competitive balance is here to stay. It�s one thing to lose to Miami for a
sixth consecutive year, but FSU lost to five-win Maryland and struggled mightily
to beat Wake 20-17 last year.

This was supposed to be the return to glory for
the Noles, but then starting quarterback Wyatt Sexton was diagnosed with Lyme
Disease, the best defensive lineman on the roster, Clifton Dickson, was declared
academically ineligible for the season, and the best corner in the ACC not named
Jimmy Williams (Antonio Cromartie) tore his ACL and is out for the season. Even
Florida State�s vaunted linebacking crew had its two best players, Ernie Sims
and A.J. Nicholson, charged with crimes that could have, in theory, jeopardized
their availability for the opener against Miami. However, neither of them shot
the President, so Papa Bowden is going the �internal discipline� route.

Areas of Strength (offense):�No team in the ACC has a better set of tailbacks than FSU.
Senior Leon Washington is a 5�9� tank who runs exceptionally well between
the tackles, while junior Lorenzo Booker excels in space. Washington is the best
back in the conference, but they both are capable of making a big play at
anytime. Don�t be surprised if blue chip freshman tailback Antone Smith is
incorporated in a variety of ways as the season progresses. He�s too talented
not to get touches this fall, and he ran a blistering 4.36 (second on the team)
during summer workouts. He could be a Warrick Dunn type. The wide receivers have
a lot to prove, but they should be more productive than last year�s group.
Willie Reid and Chris Davis were both stud recruits who have been waiting their
turn while fighting injuries, while incoming blue chipper Fred Rouse could have
a Calvin Johnson type impact if he learns the system. The fastest player on the
team that tested during the summer was redshirt freshman wide receiver Kenny O�Neal
(4.31 forty) so expect him to be a factor down the field. While this is a far
cry from the vintage FSU offenses of the late 1990�s, the speed at the skill
positions is staggering.

Areas of Concern (offense):
While Sexton had his limitations on the field, he did have some experience. The
quarterback job will now be handed to one of two redshirt freshmen, either
Xavier Lee or Drew Weatherford, and it looks like Weatherford is pulling ahead
in fall practice. (Lee has a gimpy shoulder that he keeps aggravating, and
Weatherford is scrimmaging well.)
Lee is a physical marvel, as he has the speed to play any
skill position and has a strong enough arm that he�s said to have thrown passes
as far as 87 yards in high school. Weatherford isn�t the athlete that Lee is,
but he is definitely above average and has a better grasp of the position right
now. Both of them are mobile enough to buy time if they struggle to read
coverage. However, as with any freshman quarterback, they will make key
mistakes. While quarterback has gotten the most attention, if I were a Seminole
fan I�d be most concerned about the offensive line, particularly the tackles.
They may develop, but on paper this group is, at best, average in the ACC. A
questionable line with young quarterbacks is a recipe for trouble.

Areas of Strength (defense):
Arrests or no arrests, Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson are both high level talents
who will collect NFL paychecks for a long time. Once you add in steady middle
linebacker Buster Davis, you may have the best linebacker trio in the country.
Sims runs well enough to conjure up images of Derrick Brooks, and he hits like
he�s 250 rather than his listed 220. Senior free safety Pat Watkins is an all
ACC candidate who makes big plays and is experienced enough to help a young
group of corners understand their responsibilities.

Areas of Concern (defense):
Dickson was being counted on to help offset the loss of first round draft choice
Travis Johnson at defensive tackle, and his loss is a big blow. Broderick
Bunkley, the best remaining defensive tackle on the roster, also had some
academic question marks but it appears he�ll play this fall. Senior Kamerion
Wimbley is the name to watch at end, but there doesn�t seem to be a stud pass
rusher anywhere on the roster. The corners are very young with Cromartie�s
absence, and the 2004 corner class of J.R. Bryant, Trevor Ford and Tony Carter
probably will experience major growing pains.

Key Game: At Boston College.
Even though the Noles are at home, it�s tough to see them beating Miami in the
opener with this many inexperienced players. That means they will need to
rebound at Chestnut Hill � historically, a tough place for Miami to play �
or FSU will be staring at 0-2 in the conference and the Atlantic Division will
be wide open by the middle of September.

Fearless Predictions: The
Noles will be maddeningly inconsistent this year, capable of brilliance one
moment and frustration the next. I expect FSU to use a quarterback rotation as
both freshmen will split time, but ultimately I think FSU�s offensive line
concerns will give the bulk of the snaps to Lee. Smith and Rouse will provide an
immediate impact, first in the return game and later on plays from scrimmage.
FSU will be more vulnerable to deep passing this year than in any in recent
memory. I expect two regular season ACC losses for the Noles plus a defeat in
the ACC title game.

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