On the Job

Looking tan and fit, FSU coach Bobby Bowden is back in his office planning for the upcoming season. With a bevy of talent returning, Bowden doesn't see any reason why the Seminoles shouldn't compete for a third national title. Bowden also scoffs at suggestions that FSU's struggles last season were a result of a dip in talent. "I think it was a matter of all of a sudden we became an inexperienced football team with inexperienced team leaders," Bowden said.

Bobby Bowden plans to unveil a new speech when he meets with his Florida State Seminoles later this month for the opening of preseason drills. And don't worry about any added pressure of erasing last year's memory.

"The No. 1 place we started the last 14 years was don't be complacent," Bowden said Tuesday from his office. "This year I won't have to bring that up, not after the year like we had. What is there to be complacent about at 8-4?

"I don't think there's much more pressure than what we put on ourselves. If they had Bye-bye Bobby signs up there, that would be a little bit more pressure. I think another year like that there would be some Bye-bye Bobby signs up there (laughing). I want there to be an urgency about it. I hope the kids feel there's an urgency. And there seems to be as I hear them talk."

Bowden, 72, and his staff are back at work following a summer reprieve. Naturally, FSU is looking to regain its status among the nation's elite following last season's struggles. Additionally, Bowden continues to chase Joe Paterno in his quest to become the all-time winningest coach in Division I-A history. Bowden is currently tied for second with Paul "Bear" Bryant at 323 victories, four behind Paterno.

Looking tan and fit -- Bowden has dropped close to 20 pounds and hopes to shed five or six more by season's start -- the veteran coach has been studying video of Iowa State, the Seminoles' opening opponent in the Eddie Robinson Classic in Kansas City on Aug. 24. Bowden also continues to hear good reports about his team, which, by all accounts, has enjoyed a solid offseason.

In fact, Bowden doesn't see any reason why the Seminoles shouldn't compete for a third national title. FSU, which finished ranked 15th nationally in 2001, has been a consensus top-four selection by most prominent preseason pickers. Athlon tabbed the Seminoles first in front of Texas, Miami, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

"I think what you have to do is put it in odds," Bowden said.

"I think it would be like this. Right now, if you knew everybody's personnel in the country, you would probably could say these 10 teams right here are good enough to win (national title). These 10 teams. And one of them is going to get lucky. One of them is gonna stay (injury-free) and they are gonna win it. I think we would be one of those teams. It's still only one out of 10 but I would have to say we are in that category."

While inexperience and injuries plagued the Seminoles last season, critics cried that FSU suffered a dip in talent, especially on defense. While defensive questions remain, primarily in the secondary and at middle linebacker, Bowden believes the Seminoles don't lack talent.

"It's hard for me to say our talent level is under what it has been," Bowden said.

"I think it was a matter of all of a sudden we became an inexperienced football team with inexperienced team leaders. Like I told our boosters, it's hard to apologize for 8-4. I am sitting up there apologizing for the bad year. We won eight. We won the bowl. We won our last two. It's not what we are used to, that's true. We are not used to that. Still, it's hard to apologize for an 8-4."

Bowden admits he likes his team for obvious reasons, beginning with the Seminoles' experience level. FSU returns 17 starters -- seven on offense, eight on defense and its kicker and punter. Of course, Chris Rix is back at quarterback and FSU returns seven of its top nine scorers, paced by leader Xavier Beitia (83 points).

"Yes, it's based on the potential that's coming back," Bowden said in reference to his upbeat outlook. "And to be honest with you, it's probably about as good it will be the next year. (Defensive coordinator) Mickey (Andrews) and them still might need another year. Offensively, I think we are going to be a pretty mature bunch of guys other there. You have your kicker and punter back. The question marks you had a year ago are not there. Now you have to hope you stay healthy."

Bowden also hopes to take advantage of Rix's athletic abiltiy. Rix was second in the ACC last season in total offense (283.9 yards per game) behind Clemson's Woody Dantzler. After early struggles with turnovers, Rix settled down to set a league record for freshmen with 3,123 yards of total offense. Rix also blistered the 40-yard dash Monday in 4.61 -- 4.41 adjusted.

"A lot of it is do you have depth behind him in case something happens," Bowden said.

"You don't want to expose him anymore than you have to, because it's such key position. You simply don't want to expose him anymore than you have to. But it's such a dimension, such a positive thing for him. Whew. You'd hate to just throw it away. Look at what Michael Vick did. Look what the kid (Seneca Wallace) at Iowa State does. It drives those defensive coaches crazy if a quarterback can run. But we have to use our head about it -- we don't want them running when they should be throwing. If you can run it at the right time, it sure does bail you out of some bad plays."

Bowden also plans to keep a close eye on the quarterback race, as Rix attempts to hold off reserves Adrian McPherson and Fabian Walker. Bowden said he doesn't plan to redshirt McPherson if he contends for playing time.

"If he's No. 2, I think he's got to play," Bowden said.

"If he's tied with him and Fabian or somebody, I would probably talk to him and see how he felt about it (redshirt season). I would talk to him first, if that were to happen. But if he's a solid No. 2, I think he's got to play. The only reason A.D.'s name keeps coming up about redshirting is he's the only who can redshirt. The logical thing would be to redshirt him. But if were not for injuries, I would have already talked to him about it probably. Get his feeling on it."

FSU's high preseason rankings are based on FSU's returning talent, which includes six players who earned preseason All-America recognition and 12 who rate among the nation's top 25 at their respective position. And it goes without saying that all eyes will be on the Seminoles, just to see if last year was an aberration.

While last year has changed Bowden's welcome back speech to his team, it hasn't changed his outlook.

"What we do is we forget about how other teams. ... how did Miami rebound after the year 2000, how did they rebound? Pretty darn good, lost one game since then," Bowden said. "How did Florida rebound when they lost three or four games two years ago? Pretty good, they nearly won the national championship. I expect us to rebound."

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