Countdown To Kickoff

<b>Lorenzo Booker</b> is marking off the days until his collegiate debut Saturday against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Despite that excitment, his thoughts and prayers are also with his roommates. The group was involved in a car accident early Saturday morning in downtown Tallahassee that left two of his closest friends in critical condition. "I'm playing not only for myself and my teammates now, I've got a lot more to play for,'' Booker told TheTerritory. Click here for all the details.

Lorenzo Booker is marking off the days until his collegiate debut.

"The closer is gets the more unreal it gets," Booker told TheTerritory. "Honestly, just a year ago I never thought it would be here and now it's three days away."

Booker, one of the most highly acclaimed recruits in the country after his senior year of high school in Ventura, Calif., sat out the 2002 season as a redshirt.

Knowing he wasn't ready to compete, Booker opted to learn and study the Seminoles' playbook. His time has finally arrived.

With starter Greg Jones coming along from reconstructive knee surgery and backup Leon Washington nursing a bruised thigh, Booker, saying he's fully recovered from nagging ankle sprain, is expected to get plenty of action in FSU's opener at North Carolina.

"I've been asked if it's a different mentality and at first I said no," Booker said. "After that first game (Iowa State) last year I wasn't guaranteed playing time. Now I am. So, yes, it is different. It's just a matter of us going in and executing. I can't wait."

Jones will be the likely starter against the Tar Heels but his snaps are expected to be limited. Washington, a triple-threat at tailback, punt return and kickoff return, says he will be just fine after re-aggravating his thigh bruise in last Friday's scrimmage. Booker, meanwhile, received a bulk of the snaps Monday and Tuesday.

"Obviously, we have always had great wideouts here," Booker said.

"But I don't think we ever had the quality and depth that we have now (at tailback). As long as we go out there and do what we do in practice, there shouldn't be a backfield or an offense better than us."

Booker also has more on his mind than football at the moment.

The roommates Booker shares an off-campus home with were involved in a car accident early Saturday morning that left two of his closest friends in critical condition at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. All four passengers in the vehicle are expected to recover, but two remain hospitalized in the neuro-intensive care unit

According to the police report, Keith Schmalz, 21, was driving a Mercedes SUV at an unsafe rate of speed when he lost control and hit a parked car, knocking it 160 feet down the street. The Mercedes went airborne, flipped and hit seven other parked cars, ejecting three of the four people onboard, including Schmalz.

``I'm playing not only for myself and my teammates now, I've got a lot more to play for,'' Booker said.

Of course, all eyes have been on Booker since his arrival at FSU, dazzling coaches and teammates alike with his ability. Even FSU coach Bobby Bowden admitted he's "anxious to see (Booker). He hasn't done anything to disappoint us, I know that." Now even a crowded backfield can dampen Booker's upbeat personality.

"That's why I turned down Notre Dame, Washington and USC. For one, I wanted to compete," Booker said.

"What good is it getting a job if you didn't have to work for it. And at the same time, there there really isn't a legitimate starter at Florida State. The rotation is thick. Even when Warrick Dunn was here, he didn't have a huge amount of carries. He just broke long ones. He made something happen when he got it. He made the most of his opportunities. I knew coming here my teammates welcomed challenges and welcomed competition. We have a mutual respect and we understand that winning is more important than individual stats."

While FSU's main concern offensively remains its young offensive line, Booker says fans shouldn't worry.

I think they are doing great," Booker said.

"That was one of the things I stepped back and thought of. Our line is supposed to be our weakest element but, if you ask me, I really haven't noticed a change from last year. The holes are still there. Personally, I don't think it's their job to give us gaping holes. I think all they should be able to do is stand in the way and we should be able to set it up. It also no the way we run and the way they block. We just can't expect it to be a huge hole every time. I think they are coming along great."

The countdown continues.

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