Gumbel's Machine: Sayonara, Seniors

The 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes have but one more opportunity to strut their stuff in front of their home crowd, as Saturday's final ACC matchup with Virginia is also Senior Day for 16 Seminoles.

Even with the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, smells of roasted turkey and cranberry sauce aren't the main focus for a Florida State football team anxious to record its eighth win of the season.

FSU's weekend plans feature both Homecoming and the home finale. The 7:30 p.m. battle against Virginia will serve as Senior Day for 16 talented upperclassmen. Names like Zebrie Sanders and Terrance Parks will put on the home uniform for the final time in their garnet-and-gold careers.

Star linebacker Nigel Bradham will also be part of the sentimental Saturday. The Crawfordville native spent his high school days crunching opposing teams as a member of the Wakulla War Eagles. At the time, he was being compared to former Wakulla and FSU linebacker Sam McGrew, who played four years under former coach Bobby Bowden and then one season with the Miami Dolphins. But the 6-3, 240-pound Bradham has eclipsed his predecessor and is on the verge of tackling a greater feat.

Combining both speed and size, he has put his golden smile on top of the FSU tackle column each of the past two seasons. He had 98 total tackles in 2010 and 93 in 2009. This year, he has 62 tackles with -- assuming a bowl invite, of course -- three more games to play. Should Bradham again lead the 'Noles in tackles, he'd be the first player since Marvin Jones (1990-92) to lead FSU in that category three straight years.

The Virginia game will also feature a few handoffs to FSU's latest 2,000-yard rusher. Jermaine Thomas moved past that milestone earlier this season and is the first Seminole tailback to go over 2,000 for the career since Antone Smith.

You can't forget about Bert Reed, who has as much personality as he does talent. Overflowing with both, the Panama City product has spent five years in Tallahassee because he redshirted out of high school. His speed on bubble screens helped give Bowden his final bowl victory and current coach Jimbo Fisher his first. His charisma made him a magnet in the FSU locker room and a natural leader for the rest of the receiving corps.

Unfortunately, not every senior will be able to get playing time against Virginia. Stud offensive tackle Andrew Datko, who's shown both physical and mental toughness during his college career, has been sidelined for weeks now with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

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One senior Seminole Nation hopes doesn't get a lot of playing time Saturday is Shawn Powell, the team's strong-legged punter. However, should the 'Noles need his services, the Rome, Georgia, native can boot it with the best of them. Last week against Miami, Powell averaged more than 54 yards on five punts. His leg earned him ACC Specialist of the Week honors and should have him on the national radar for punting purposes. His jovial gimmicks, pregame and in-game rituals and humor are just barely edged by his ability on the field.

So as the 'Noles prepare for their 11th game of the season, I'll be watching closely for a final home memory from some of the standouts that made great contributions to Florida State over the last few years. The remnants of the 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes get one final night at Doak Campbell Stadium to leave their mark.

It's been fun seeing them on Saturdays. Here's to seeing a few of these seniors play on Sundays in the very near future.


Elton Gumbel is a sports anchor and reporter for WCTV in Tallahassee, as well as a regular contributor to NoleDigest.com.


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