New Rivals

<b> Ernie Sims</b> is not the least surprised by <b>Chris Leak's</b> success at Florida. Sims and Leak got to know each other during last year's recruiting process. Sims, of course, selected the Seminoles over the Gators on National Signing Day 10 months ago, lifting an FSU cap out of his book bag. The Seminole Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when Sims placed the hat on his head and announced his decision.

Sims, of course, has made his presence felt since arriving at FSU, filling in nicely at linebacker and on special teams. The importance of this week hasn't escaped Sims.

"This is just like the Miami game. This game right here is one of the games you come to Florida State for," Sims told TheTerritory following Wednesday's practice as the Seminoles continued preparations for their showdown at The Swamp. Kickoff for Saturday's showdown against Florida is 3:30 p.m.

"This is the game that will put Florida State back on the map," Sims added. "We can't win the Florida trophy, but this will be big if we beat Florida."

Much of the Gators' success rests with Leak, who is 6-1 in his seven starts for the Gators this season.

"His success really hasn't surprised me at all," Sims said.

"We spent a lot of time together (during recruiting) and I got to know him. You know, when I watched his highlight tape, I knew he was very talented. I knew wherever he went he was going to be successful. He's doing extremely well. That's what makes this game so exciting because I think this is going to be the start of a big rivalry, especially when you look at the two recruiting classes. I got to know the coaches on a personal level down there as well. Plus, we (players) all know each other so this is going to be very big, very emotional."

Leak has helped UF rank fourth in the Southeastern Conference and 43rd nationally in passing offense (238.1 yards per game). In addition, UF is fourth in the league and 44th in the country in total offense with an average of 361.7 yards per game.

Leak's greatest attribute, however, has been his ability to perform under pressure.

Leak's also the only freshman (true or redshirt) in school history to defeat three ranked opponents in consecutive games, picking up three wins away from home against top-11 ranked teams -- LSU, Arkansas and Georgia. (Kerwin Bell also defeated three ranked teams in 1984 as a redshirt freshman. However, the wins did not come in consecutive games).

In UF's win over South Carolina two Saturdays ago, Leak passed Rex Grossman's redshirt freshman total of 1,866 passing yards. Leak has 1,894 passing yards on the season along with 12 touchdown passes -- Danny Wuerffel holds the UF freshman record with 2,230 yards passing in 1993.

"The key is going to be our ability to pressure him -- everyone is going to mess up," Sims said. "But, to me, I see him as a real poised athlete, really focused in what he's trying to do. We are just going to have to do down there and take care of business."

Sims also has kept tabs on friend Gavin Dickey, the former Lincoln High standout who was one of three quarterbacks to compete for the starting position eventually won by Leak.

"I haven't talked to Gavin since probably the start of the season, but it's going to be good to see him and all the guys," Sims said.

PRACTICE NOTES

While Dominic Robinson will start at flanker in place of the injured Craphonso Thorpe, look for redshirt freshman Chris Davis to see plenty of action as well. Robinson's experience and practice consistency were the key factors in offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden's decision.

Also, freshman Antonio Cromartie, as promised, believes he's ready to play against the Gators after suffering an MCL sprain against North Carolina State. He continues to wear a brace.

"I just got done running on it, so it feels good to get out here and practice," Cromartie said.

"It didn't bother me at all and I am looking forward to playing on Saturday. It's alright. I will be able to play. There's a little pain where I cut, but that's about it. My speed is there."


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