Key Elements

Summer workouts are considered an important component to a football team's success. More than 50 players participated in Florida State's opening session Tuesday on the Seminole practice fields. By all accounts, it was a positive start. However, former FSU All-American Jason Whitaker says players must also have exhibit leadership and discipline to get back on the national championship track. "It's about loyalty to your teammates, the coaches and the program," Whitaker said. Click here for more.

Summer workouts are considered an important component to a football team's success. More than 50 players participated in Florida State's opening session Tuesday on the Seminole practice fields.

By all accounts, it was a positive start.

In reality, this team's goal is no different than past teams – to be physically prepared for the start of practice in August. Workouts are expected to be spirited and productive. Attendance should not be a concern.

However, that's just one piece to the puzzle.

More importantly, many believe the Seminoles must also somehow recpature the chemistry of past teams.

Coach Bobby Bowden has said last year's group was one of the few he's had at FSU that struggled in that department. At least one former Seminole -- offensive lineman Jason Whitaker -- believes leadership and discipline will be vital if the Seminoles also want to recapture the success and camaraderie of past teams.

As the ol' saying goes, Whitaker points out it takes only a few rotten apple to ruin an entire basket.

"It's not that long ago," Whitaker said of FSU's national championship run and NCAA-record of 10-win seasons. "How did it get to this point? Basically, turds came in and messed things up."

Now keep in mind the colorful Whitaker, 27, was the Seminoles' quintessential leader, a throwback who spoke his mind and played the game with one purpose -- to win. He was an All-American offensive guard for the Seminoles from 1996 through 1999. He was a team captain with the 1999 undefeated national championship team at FSU and started his final 24 games.

After an unsuccessful attempt to play in the NFL, Whitaker gave up football and returned to his hometown of Panama City to sell mobile homes. After seven months, Whitaker decided he missed football and moved back to Tallahassee to coach. He's entering his second season as the head football coach at Munroe High School, a small Class 1A program in nearby Mt. Pleasant. Whitaker and his wife Maria also are expecting their first child.

"It's kind of hard to win when you're fastest kid runs a 5.4," a smiling Whitaker said of his Bobcat football team. "When you are slow and you make a mistake, it just doubles each second that you go by. We have to be perfect, or we can't get it done. It's hard to be perfect."

Of course, FSU also has been far from perfect in recent seasons. Whitaker has kept a close eye on the Seminoles and remains in contact with the coaching staff, as well as current and former players. Whitaker admits the program's struggles, on and off the field, have been difficult to stomach at times.

"It's more embarrassing because it used to be so much pride – ‘Yeah, I played at Florida State." Now, there are times when you want to say it very quickly," Whitaker said.

"All the accusations going on. I think it's a lack of discipline. Some of the comments I read in the paper, I know back in the day there were some boys who would have pulled those guys aside and whipped their #*% and that would have solved them from talking off the way they do in the media now. It's about loyalty to your teammates, the coaches and the program."

Whitaker doesn't mince words when comes to his alma mater. He says pointblank one key to this year's team will be quarterback Chris Rix, who has lacked consistency on the field and responsibility off of it during his first two seasons.

Rix, however, demonstrated improvements in both areas this past spring when he was named the team's Hinesman Award winner (Most Valuable Player). Rix also has said he feels far more comfortable in a leadership role.

"That offense, in my experience, if the quarterback is not worth a hoot your offense is not going to be worth a hoot. If he's not a leader, you are not going to produce like Florida State should produces," Whitaker said. "It's something to have talent but it's also just as important, if not more important, to have that leadership quality as well. He needs to step up."

Whitaker watched FSU's spring drills and came away impressed with redshirt freshman Wyatt Sexton. Sexton is expected to push veteran Fabian Walker for the backup job behind Rix.

"I was very excited to watch the spring drills and seeing little Sexton," Whitaker said. "I am pulling for him to get the starting job. I think he will get it done and that's the most important thing. He might not be the most talented one but I think he will be the best leader and get the job done."

Whitaker also said it's the team's responsibility to get back on track. That work starts now with summer drills.

"It's sad. Coach (Bowden) should be ahead of Joe Pa (in all-time wins)," Whitaker said. "The boys are letting him down. He seems just to be trading off (wins with Paterno). The boys aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing. People figured this (struggles) would happen sooner than later, but it's a little sooner than they had hoped."


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