Territory Q & A

The Territory.org Publisher Jim Henry has been covering the Seminole football team since 1986. Jim looks to answer some of your questions as Florida State continues its practice preparation for the season-opener at Miami on Labor Day, Sept. 6. The Seminoles also will hold their second full scrimmage on Saturday night in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Do you see anything different with this team's makeup?
I've covered this program since 1986 and have visited with many booster clubs over the years, and this question is often asked. Each year, there is unbridled enthusiasm amongst coaches and players as the summer winds down. This preseason is no different. Yes, the team unity is wonderful and the camaraderie impressive. However, a team's character is molded over the course of the season. FSU's team of two years ago did not handle adversity very well. Last year's team was much better in that department. I think this year's team will be even better due to its leaders and experience.
More Leaders or more talent?  And if so, whom?
A little of both. For starters, Chris Rix seems very determined to make a difference this season -- in the right way by relying on his teammates. The offensive line also features plenty of talent and experience, anchored by All-America Alex Barron. Craphonso Thorpe has also developed into a a solid leader, which is key since Cro is not afraid to speak his mind. I think the work habits of a number of players also have improved, beginning with Travis Johnson on defense. The linebackers can be superstars, and they are void of egos at the moment. The secondary is very seasoned and determined to let their actions, not words, a.k.a. Stanford Samuels, set the the tone.
How does Rix look so far and has he improved his game?
The biggest difference is in Chris' teammates -- they are speaking glowingly of him and not shaking their heads in a "No comment" mode. Honestly, I've always enjoyed chatting with Chris and watching him play. Peter Tom Willis once said Chris had more athletic ability of any QB recruited by FSU. PT is absolutely correct, but we all know that athletic ability only looks good coming off the bus if you can't make good decisions on the field. I think Chris will make good decisions on the field, and he has demonstrated that thus far this preseason. Fans need to pull for Chris.
How are the backups looking?  Do you think the freshmen will challenge for  the starting roll in 2005?
Quality depth is always important. Defensively, Mickey Andrews is going to shuffle players in and out like a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. That's good for now, and good for the future. Jeff Bowden's approach on offense is a tad different, but offensive line reserves like Brian Ross, David Overmyer, John Frady, Mario Henderson and Cory Niblock have made noticeable strides. I think Brian Ross is one of the preseason's best stories, a former defensive lineman who suffered a broken leg two springs ago and was working with the first unit in Monday's half-scrimmage. As far as the freshmen, it's very difficult for a first-year player to step into a starting role. Much has been made of quarterbacks Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee. They are wonderful talents and impressive young men. However, it's going to take time to learn the system and feel comfortable with the Seminoles' scheme. Defensively, freshman cornerbacks J.R. Bryant and Trevor Ford have fit in very nicely. They are very talented and appear to have solid futures.
Is there anyone on offense that looks like they are ready to step up?
Actually, freshman running backs Jamaal Edwards and Lamar Lewis have looked very good. Neither is intimidated when running the football, though they both need to improve on pass-pro. Hopefully, Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker will be injury-free this season. But it's always good to have somebody in reserve. Receiver DeCody Fagg also is playing well after a sluggish start. He caught another touchdown on goal-line drills in Friday's a.m. practice.
How about the defense?
My man, Buster Davis. Davis is proving he belongs out on the field.  He has played well behind Sam McGrew at middle linebacker. If that's not enough, he was the star of the show in Monday's scrimmage, stepping in at weakside linebacker for the injured A.J. Nicholson and Marcello Church. I also think Gerard Ross has been impressive this preseason, stepping in for starter Bryant McFadden at left cornerback. McFadden has missed some time due to family reasons.
Is it possible that even with seven starters lost from last year, that this year's version good be better?
Indeed. Your quarterback is a four-year starter; tailback Lorenzo Washington consists of two of the most exciting tailbacks around; the O-line returns all five starters; and your receivers feature a nice blend of speed and strength. While questions remain along the D-line, look for Eric Moore to have another solid year and Travis Johnson backs up his yapping. FSU's linebackers are athletic and quick, and the secondary is top-heavy with experience. Xavier Beitia has converted 70 percent of his field goals, and Chris Hall should be effective as the Seminoles' punter.
Does the offensive philosphy look any different?
Judging by the first scrimmage, the Seminoles appear determined to get their running backs and tight ends into the passing game. The approach is far more controlled, though FSU will surely take advantage of Craphonso Thorpe's home-run ability as well. I also like the running combination of Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington. Chris Davis has wonderful potential, but he needs to stay healthy.
Do you see any All-Americans on this team?
Alex Barron, for sure. Craphonso Thorpe should make some noise as well if he starts off hot. Defensively, FSU has a number of solid players but I am not sure if any will earn All-America honors. If A.J. Nicholson is not slowed by any knee aches, he's going to turn some heads.
Does this team have what it takes to finally beat Miami.  And if so, what has to be done on the field?
Honestly, FSU should beat Miami by at least a touchdown. The Seminoles return their studs, the 'Canes lost too many of theirs. FSU is better on defense and at the skill positions. It's the Orange Bowl, but so what? It will make for a fun charter flight home for the 'Noles.

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