2007 ACC Football Season Preview: Florida State

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Florida State Seminoles

12 returning starters (5 offense, 7 defense)

Key Players: QB Drew Weatherford, RB Antone Smith, WR Greg Carr, WR
De’Cody Fagg, OT Shannon Boatman, DT Andre Fluellen, DE Everette Brown, LB Geno
Hayes, CB Tony Carter, ROV Myron Rolle

Overall
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After a disappointing 7-6 season in 2006, Florida State made big changes in
the offseason. Offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden resigned, and Bobby Bowden
hired LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher to replace him. FSU’s offensive
line also performed poorly last year, so Rick Trickett was hired away from West
Virginia to get the ‘Noles back on the right track.

Florida State’s defense has always been excellent, and there are no worries
on that side of the ball this year. How far the Seminoles go depends on the play
of quarterback Drew Weatherford and how much the offensive line improves under
Trickett.

Offensive Strength

Florida State’s offensive strength, as usual, is the number of playmakers
they have on offense. At wide receiver, 6-6 Greg Carr has 21 touchdown
receptions, and he’s only entering his junior season. De’Cody Fagg is a talented
and very experienced receiver. FSU also has depth at receiver, with Joslin Shaw
and Damon McDaniel serving as backups.

The Seminoles also have a playmaker at running back in Antone Smith. As a
whole, Florida State’s running game struggled last season. Smith however, did
not. As a backup, he gained 456 yards on the ground and averaged a team-high 5.2
yards per carry. He has the ability to have a big year if the offensive line is
as improved as Florida State fans hope they are.

Offensive Weakness

Florida State must get better production out of the quarterback position this
year, or it could be another long season. Drew Weatherford is a talented pure
passer, but he has struggled with turnovers throughout his career. He has thrown
30 touchdowns, but he’s also tossed 29 interceptions.

Weatherford was in a battle last year with Xavier Lee, who didn’t fare much
better in his three starts. Florida State is always known as a passing team, and
it’s imperative for one of these players to step up his game. Without that
passing element, the ‘Noles will struggle to get back to where they used to be.

Defensive Strength

Florida State is deep and talented along the defensive line. The top player
of the group is defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, who has started 25 consecutive
games for the Seminoles. Joining him on the inside will likely be Letroy Guion,
who started five games last year. Providing depth will be Paul Griffin and Doug
Thacker, both of whom played well last season.

Florida State has talent and athleticism at defensive end. Senior Alex Boston
is the most experienced player, and he can also play defensive tackle. Neefy
Moffett and Everette Brown will be the top pass rushers for the Seminoles. Brown
had three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss last season.

Defensive Weakness

Florida State struggled in pass coverage last season. Cornerback Tony Carter
did a solid job, but no one stepped up and played consistently at the other
cornerback spot. There will be a battle there again this year between Jamie
Robinson and Michael Ray Garvin. Those guys need to improve.

Rover Myron Rolle has the potential to be an All-American, and Roger Williams
had four interceptions at free safety. Florida State has very good talent in the
secondary, but their play as a group was sometimes not up to par last season.

Key Game

The first of the season, on the road at Clemson. The Tigers should have a
pretty good front seven, so we should have an idea from the very beginning of
the season how much Florida State’s offensive line and quarterback have improved
under Jimbo Fisher and Rick Trickett.

If Florida State gets knocked off and the offense performs poorly, there will
be the same questions. If the offense plays well and the ‘Noles win, there will
be big expectations the rest of the season.

Will Stewart’s Take

This is our third preview — BC and Clemson were the first two — and my
inclination again is to talk about the coaching staff of the team we’re
reviewing.

FSU and Miami have both fallen and can’t get up the last couple of years. The
Miami-Florida State matchup was the featured Labor Day game on ABC the last
three seasons, but it was so ugly it was hard to look: 16-10, 10-7, and 13-10.
The Canes and Noles used to score that many points in the first quarter.

I recently watched the Ohio State-Miami championship game from the 2002
season on ESPN Classic, and it’s hard to believe how far the Canes have crashed
from that peak, when they had won 34 straight games before losing to the
Buckeyes.

It’s also hard to believe how far FSU has fallen, because, well, the last
time they played the Hokies, they schooled Tech, in the 2005 ACC Championship
Game. The ease with which FSU won that game belies how incompetent their program
has become, going 13-11 the past two seasons.

FSU’s recent problems at quarterback are obvious– Chris Weinke is long gone
from Tallahassee — but the unanswered question is how much the coaching staff
is responsible for the Seminoles’ declining fortunes. The Noles started to slip
when Mark Richt and Chuck Amato left town, and in an effort to revive things,
Bobby Bowden has cleaned house and brought in some well-respected names. Much
like I’ll be watching BC in the coming years to see if the new regime there can
get it done, I’ll be watching FSU to see if Bobby’s new hires can return the
Seminoles to glory.

One more thing, and you won’t like this: I’m picking the Seminoles to beat
Tech this year, in Blacksburg on November 10th. I’ve picked Tech to win the last
three times — 1999 Sugar Bowl, 2001 Gator Bowl, and 2005 ACC Championship —
and I’ve learned my lesson. Until Frank Beamer proves he can beat Bobby Bowden,
I’m picking the Seminoles.

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