Time to Shine for Young Guys

During a recent scrimmage, Florida State tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker parked on a bench and watched as their backups took some licks from the first-team defense.

They cheered big hits, bantered with fans and combined to carry just three times on the afternoon.

"This is for the young guys," said Booker, a redshirt junior without much to prove in his third – and possibly final – spring with the Seminoles.

"This is their NFL Europe. Right now they are like we were – all wide-eyed and ready to go."

The past three Aprils, spring football has given FSU coaches and veteran players an excellent chance to witness the changing of the guard before it actually has to happen in a game that counts.

Saturday's Garnet and Gold game will be no different – eight projected starters will sit out of the contest nursing injuries. If the rotation from scrimmages earlier this spring holds true, it won't take long for half a dozen more marquee names to become spectators next to Booker and Washington as younger reserves jockey for playing time.

"There's a different frame of mind between the younger guys and the older guys," said redshirt freshman Drew Weatherford, one of three signal callers with a chance at the starting nod on Labor Day when FSU hosts Miami. "The older guys are trying to get out of there without getting hurt. We're (young players) out there competing for starting jobs."

True, the Garnet and Gold game (2 p.m. Doak Campbell Stadium) will be no more than a glorified scrimmage due to injuries which – most notably – have claimed the first four centers on the depth chart. The offense (garnet) and defense (white) will go head-to-head for a predetermined number of plays from certain positions on the gridiron during the game, which will be preceded by a kicking practice (1:15 p.m.) and followed by goal line drills.

But fans who show up will get to witness a few budding positional battles that should continue into August two-a-days.

First and foremost, talented freshmen quarterbacks Weatherford and Xavier Lee have impressed and are giving Wyatt Sexton – a part-time starter last season – a push. Youngsters J.R. Bryant and Trevor Ford have their eyes on Gerard Ross's left corner spot, and an array of young talent is looking for backup roles at receiver.

"Saturday is different for those guys," Booker said. "This is a chance for them to get better and prove that, ‘yeah we can be out there with you guys'. It's hard to crack the lineup, especially when you got guys in front of you. Hopefully they'll take advantage of it."

Booker and Washington, meanwhile, should be able to take advantage of what should amount to a day off.

"This is most the fun I've had here at Florida State," Booker said. "I want to enjoy this while it lasts."


Booker said he applauded the ACC's move to adopt instant replay.

I like instant replay because an official's job is hard so whether it is a good call or a bad call they are under tremendous pressure just like we are. Their job is just as hard as anyone on the field. It will take some of the heat off of them. If there is a call made and it's up in the air they can get it right. Both teams work to hard to have a game called whether it is in their favor or not just based on what someone thinks they saw. Not to say that the refs need to do a better job, but it will make everybody feel better."

He pointed to Ohio State's 2003 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami, in which the Buckeyes benefitted from a controversial pass interference call on their way to the national championship.

"I watched that game and I didn't think it was PI," Booker said. "Had instant replay been in there, maybe Miami would have won. Who knows. Bottom line is both teams have worked too hard to have a game called - whether its in their favor or not - on what somebody thinks they saw. This will make everyone feel better."

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