Common Threads

The Florida State faithful hope that when senior quarterback Chris Rix looks in the mirror this season, he might catch a glimpse or two of Carson Palmer. Currently the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, Palmer is a fellow Californian and former high school teammate of Rix's. And just like Rix, Palmer was a magnet for criticism early in his college career as Southern Cal – much like FSU – fell short of expectations.

When Florida State quarterback Chris Rix looks at Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, he sees a little bit of himself.

"We have some common threads," Rix said.

"They go beyond us going to the same high school. We both underachieved during our first three years on campus and we both got a chance our senior years to turn it around."

Palmer, of course, accomplished more than a mere turnaround. In 2002, he rewrote the school's record book on his way to becoming the most prolific passer in Pac-10 history and the Heisman Trophy winner. More importantly, USC was back on the national radar.

Rix says he hopes the parallels continue.

"The (coaches) have it set up this year where if I do my job I can accomplish some of the things he accomplished," said Rix, who will become the only four-year starter under center in school history.

It's true a revamped offensive attack – featuring an emphasis on shorter, more controlled routes – will help, but Rix insists mental strides have been made as well.

"I think that towards the end of last year I became more in tune with my role and I realized that I didn't have to do everything," he said.

"Execute, put the ball in the hands of my playmakers. The thing that I've been focusing on is over the past few years in consistency. If I can execute my job and execute it well, we will win games."

A lack of execution is partly to blame for Rix's 0-4 record against rival Miami. Turnovers and poor decisions forced FSU coach Bobby Bowden and his staff to retool their gameplan to take the pressure of their maligned signal caller in seasons past. As a result, Rix has thrown for under 100 yards in his last two trips to Miami as the ground game shouldered most of the attack.

This season expectations are higher.

"We're taking the road that we're not going to hold anything back," Bowden said. "Whatever we want to do, we're going to try it because he's ready for it. In other words, there aren't any limits like in the past."

The optimism isn't limited to Tallahassee. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit recently predicted Rix would, indeed, follow Palmer's footsteps to the Downtown Athletic Club and claim college football's top prize.

The question lies in how Rix will respond. In each of his three seasons behind center, he's been mentioned in preview shows and columns as a Heisman hopeful and has turned in a pedestrian 24-10 career record as starter. The numbers do attest that Rix is slowly catching on – just 13-7 in his first 20 starts, he's 11-3 since.

"He's where he needs to be," junior center David Castillo said.

"He won eight games as freshman and we got nine the year after that. Last season we're up to ten. With all the experience we have back and a fifth-year senior at quarterback, there's no reason we can't improve even more."

FSU's season hinges on Rix (backup Wyatt Sexton has played just 21 snaps) as much as Rix's legacy in Tallahassee depends on this season. A strong finale would go a long way toward erasing the memories of his benching in 2002 and the myriad of off-field problems Rix has encountered on campus.

"Everyone wants to be remembered among the best," he said.

"Everyone wants to be remembered for what they've done and I'm just thankful that I've been given an opportunity to be part of this.

"Numbers and individual accolades will take care of themselves. The number one thing – a national championship for coach Bowden – is what I want. That's in my heart. If I can be a part of that, it's enough."


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