Spring Practice

Can it be time already? The Orange Bowl doesn't seem that long ago, does it? Florida State opens spring practice on Tuesday, and most eyes expect to be on the Seminoles' defense. FSU lost six of seven starters on a front seven that played a pivotal role in the Seminoles' first 10-win season since 2000. The Seminoles concluded their conditioning drills last Friday, and all involved graded them a success.

Florida State enters spring practice on Tuesday with plenty of optimism.

Despite losing six of seven defensive starters on their front seven, experience amongst the backups is expected to play a key role in their development.

In fact, FSU's young linebacking unit of Ernie Sims (strongside), A.J. Nicholson (weakside) and Sam McGrew (middle) should have fans on the edge of their seats with excitement.

The trio replaces Kendyll Pope, Allen Augustine and Michael Boulware.

Linebackers coach Kevin Steele also plans to cross-train his group, with Nicholson also seeing time at middle linebacker with backup Buster Davis.

FSU's defensive front will also get a facelift of sorts, as right defensive end Eric Moore returns as the only full-time starter on that front seven.

Still, talented reserves Brodrick Bunkley, Kamerion Wimbley and Travis Johnson all have starts along the defensive front for the Seminoles.

There's also plenty of youth, from Andre Fluellen, Clifton Dickson, Alex Boston, who is returning from knee surgery and was redshirted last season, and D.J. Norris.

The Seminoles' secondary, meanwhile, will be anchored by six seniors, all of whom have seen quality playing time during their careers -- Bryant McFadden, B.J. Ward, Jerome Carter, Kyler Hall, Claudius Osei and Leroy Smith.

Offensively, the Seminoles will be without four linemen for the start of drills due to injury, and questions swirl at receiver following the loss of P.K. Sam to professional football.

FSU also will be without tailback Leon Washington due to surgery. At quaterback, redshirst freshman Wyatt Sexton, who enjoyed a stellar 2003 spring, will get an opportunity to display his talents behind starter Chris Rix.

Coaches also will keep a close eye on the competition at kicker. SeniorXavier Beitia returns but the staff is interested to see if redshirt freshman Chase Goggans can mount a challenge.

Of course, the Miami Hurricanes remain on the minds of the Seminoles.

UM upeneded FSU 16-14 in last Janaury's Orange Bowl. It was No. 10 Miami's fifth consecutive victory in the heated series - its longest winning streak since 1957. No. 9 FSU lost consecutive bowl games for the first time since the 1979 and 1980 seasons.

It was the second of three meetings in less than 11 months between the instate rivals. Miami beat FSU 22-14 in October, and they are scheduled to open the 2004 season in Miami - the Hurricanes' first game as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

No one wanted that rematch in the Orange Bowl. And when the Bowl Championship Series announced the pairings early last month, coaches, players and fans were disappointed.

But once the initial shock wore off, everyone realized what they were getting - an intense rivalry game between two of college football's top programs.

In the end, however, it came down to another missed field goal, when Beitia missed a 39-yarder wide right with 5:30 to play. It was the fifth time a FSU kicker has missed a decisive kick in this rivalry. Beitia also missed a 43-yarder wide left against Miami as time expired in 2002, and the Hurricanes won 28-27.

OUT FOR SPRING
Alex Barron (shoulder surgery)
David Castillo (shoulder surgery)
James Coleman (shoulder surgery)
Willie Reid (ankle surgery)
Craphonso Thorpe (leg fracture)
Leon Washington (ankle surgery)
OUT FOR FIRST PORTION OF SPRING DRILLS/WILL BE RE-EVALUATED AFTER SPRING BREAK
Chris Davis (ankle casted)
Jerome Carter (shoulder scope)
Bobby Meeks (shoulder scope)
Ray Piquion (shoulder scope)
Ray Willis (shoulder scope)
NO CONTACT AT START OF PRACTICE
B.J. Dean (knee)
Willie Jones (Achilles)
Brian Ross (leg fracture)
Roger Williams (knee scope)
Bryant McFadden (groin)
Torrance Washington (knee)


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