Senior Leaders Needed

Late last week, Florida State tailback Leon Washington flashed a wide grin as he trotted off the practice fields for the first time in nearly three weeks.

Almost fully recovered from a high ankle sprain that has sidelined him in consecutive losses to N.C. State and Clemson, Washington will be back in the lineup Saturday when FSU travels to face rival Florida.

The Seminoles missed him badly, not only on the production front.

"The main thing is leadership," Washington said. "(Backup) Lorenzo Booker has done a great job running the ball. My role this season has just been to basically help guys keep their composure and make some big plays."

Washington is just one of entries that have been logged on FSU's injury report, a listing in which the qualities of leadership and experience have been seemingly equaled by the sheer quantity of the walking wounded.

The presence of defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, the vocal leader on the defensive side of the ball, has also been missed during that same span. Wimbley – doubtful for the game against the Gators – was the Atlantic Coast Conference's leader in sacks before going down with a knee sprain against Maryland.

Guard Matt Meinrod, another influencial presence in the huddle, was lost for the season to a torn ACL after just four games.

"I can't remember another season where so many of our seniors have gone down with injury," sixth-year senior David Castillo said. "It can really have an adverse effect after awhile because those are the guys that all of our younger players look towards because they have been there and done that."

Castillo, wide receiver/punt returner Willie Reid, nose guard Brodrick Bunkley and safety Pat Watkins are three other senior starters that have been forced to miss time at some point this season. That trio is expected to be in the lineup Saturday when the outgoing class attempts to take three out of four contests from the Gators during their FSU careers.

"Just having guys like that out there is comforting, especially in close games," freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford said. "Some are vocal and some aren't, but anytime you lose a leader it really hurts. These older guys have been through a lot of things since they have been here."

Three rivalry games against Florida included.

"I told these guys that I'm known as the 'Gator Killer'," Washington explained. "So it's going to be nice to be back out there in a position to help this team."

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