FSU coach Bobby Bowden dropped that possibility during Wednesday's ACC teleconference, citing injuries to Greg Jones, Willie Reid and Nick Maddox. Booker, considered the nation's top prep running back last year, had hoped to redshirt as long as FSU tailbacks remained healthy.
That has not happened.
Jones suffered a torn ligament in his right knee against Wake Forest Nov. 2 and is lost for the season. Maddox has taken on the the primary role in the backfield, rushing for consecutive 100-yard games. However, he also suffered a slight ankle sprain in last weekend's win at Georgia Tech, though he will play in Saturday's homecoming against North Carolina. Maddox was held out of most drills in Wednesday's practice.
Reid, a redshirt freshman who sustained a separated shoulder on his first carry against Georgia Tech, will miss this game, and possibly the next one. That means freshmen Leon Washington and Thomas Clayton will play behind Maddox. Washington has been elevated into the No. 2 tailback position. Bowden said Tuesday night he is also considering more playing time for freshman fullback Torrance Washington, who has the versality to line up at tailback.
Booker will be added to the mix following a meeting with Bowden Tuesday night.
"Here's the way we are thinking about that," Bowden said Wednesday.
"You lose Greg and you lose Willie. Alright, you still have Nick Maddox, who had a slight sprain last week. And then you got Leon Washington and Tommy Clayton. Booker kind of halfway suggested it to us that he would be willing to go if asked. I talked to him last night – had a long talk with him – I said I told you we were going to hold you out and I hate to waste you but he said, ‘Oh no, no, no. I will be ready to go.' Here's what we are going to do.
"We are gonna practice him. We are gonna get him into the rotation. We will practice all the tailbacks. So, if Saturday if we don't put him in, he's still okay as far as a redshirt is concern. But if we still have four games to go and there's still lot riding on this season, as long as he's willing, you may or may not see him."
Booker ran for 2,878 yards and 50 touchdowns as a senior at St.. Bonaventure in Ventura, Calif. He also added 16 receptions for 300 yards and three scores. Booker registered 3,103 yards and 49 touchdowns as a junior. He selected FSU over Notre Dame, USC and Washington during a live ESPN telecast on national signing day. While Booker had indicated he had hoped to play as a freshman at FSU, he said his mind began to change to the point where he knew he would rather sit out if possible due to the Seminoles' depth at tailback.
"He (Bowden) said you can redshirt if you want to, but the fact that I am the fourth guy, if Willie or Nick or Greg go down, I am going to have to come out of my redshirt," Booker said during preseason drills. "Which, in a way, if it happens later on in the season it's really an inconvenience to me. But we are all here for the same goal, and you have to take that into consideration. As long as we get where we want, then it really doesn't matter."
Booker echoed those same statements following Wednesday's practice. He also believes he has a "60-percent chance" of playing against the Tar Heels, though Bowden stressed that Booker will play only further injuries dictate it.
"We have a chance to do some good things, if that requires me to come out of my redshirt then that's fine with me," Booker said.
"We talked about it, but it looks like it's going to be a game-time decision. We are going to see how everyone is doing and how everyone is feeling. We want to hold me back if we can. We have to figure out what's best for the team. I am not going to know coming into the game. I am going to suit up, I am going to warm up and he told me to practice just like I am playing. It has been tough the first half of the season, but I am starting to finally deal with watching and learning and not be hurt by it. We are gonna try to hold me out but if they need me to go in, then the redshirt has got to go. The team comes first."
In other lineup changes, sophomore Bobby Meeks will make his first start at offensive guard, filling in for senior Montrae Holland (high ankle sprain), who may miss the next couple games. Meeks gets the start over redshirt freshman Matt Heinz.
Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said he hopes to get more playing time for several of his young defensive linemen like tackle Broderick Bunkley,who had a sack against Georgia Tech and Donnie Carter, who made a big stop during the game. Safety Yohance Buchanan forced to play when Kyler Hall Claudius Osei (broken hand) were out, forced a fumble that Tech recovered, but it was a positive sign for Andrews.
"We're making some plays and making the most of opportunities," he said.
Additionally, senior cornerback Malcom Tatum, who walked off the practice field two weeks ago prior to the Wake Forest game, has returned to the team, Bowden said. Tatum met with Bowden earlier this week and practiced Tuesday with the scout team. Bowden said Tatum, who has played mainly on special teams, will have to work his way back into the rotation.