When the scoreboard clock read zeros in the Superdome late Wednesday night in the Seminoles' 26-13 defeat to Georgia, FSU coach Bobby Bowden admitted he could finally breath a sigh of relief.
``It's the kind of season where you're glad it's over,'' Bowden said.
Of course, eyes are already cast towards next year. With seven starters returning on offense and possibly 10 back on an ever-improving defense, the Seminoles have good reason to believe next season will be different.
The main piece of the puzzle will again be at quarterback, where Chris Rix will return as the starter in spring drills, Bowden indicated Thursday. Rix was suspended for the Sugar Bowl when he failed to take two final exams. Rix said he was worried aobut his father's health and when he overslept and missed one test.
Bowden said Walker would have gone into the spring drills as No. 1 if the Seminoles had beaten Georgia. Additionally, Bowden said there were no plans to move Anquan Boldin, who provided a late spark against the Bulldogs, from receiver to quarterback.
The Seminoles' struggles this season centered on a number of issues, highlighted by the near mutiny after a second-half collapse against Notre Dame. Many players were vocal in their belief that Rix needed to be replaced in the starting lineup.
Rix was benched in favor of Adrian McPherson for four games, only to step back in the starter's role for the win against Florida following McPherson's dismissal. Rix had appeared to regain favor among his teammates, only to be suspended for the Sugar Bowl. Rix returned home to California but is expected back for the start of school next week.
Team chemistry could once again be an issue upon Rix's return.
"I have all the confidence in him (Rix)," senior offensive lineman Brett Williams said Thursday.
‘The athletes we have are unbelievable. It's just going to come down to whether or not the guys want him. That's something I won't be able to tell, because I'm not going to be in a position. Once again, it's going to come down to how bad they want him."
While Bowden had to scramble to hold things together this season, Williams doesn't see any reason why the Seminoles shouldn't stop their recent slide. FSU has lost nine games the past two years – one less than FSU did from 1993 to 2000, a span that covered a pair of national championships.
"They're not losing a lot of people. You get a fresh start," Williams said.
"Defensively, I think they're going to be very good. Offensively, if they can just get those holes plugged into the offensive line, I think they'll be fine. I think they're solid at tackle, and they've got a center who got some playing time. The guards will need to step up."
Tailback Nick Maddox also pointed to the program's talent pool, saying FSU is simply too good not to get back on the right track.
"This program will be come back strong," Maddox said. "There is a lot of great, young talent on this team. They will be great players. We just haven't gotten some of the breaks in games that maybe we got before."
The main question mark on defense surrounds Darnell Dockett, who was also suspended for the Sugar Bowl and is the lone underclassmen who appears to be seriously considering whether or not to enter the NFL draft. If not, he has an Achilles' injury to repair, along with clearing up any possible charge for his alleged role in getting an authorized discount on sports apparel.
Another injury of note is Walker, who may need work on his right (throwing) shoulder in the offseason, even if it means missing spring practice during a recovery period. Walker's throwing motion is slightly shorter than when he competed for FSU during spring practice in 2000, before leaving for Jones (Miss.) Community College. Walker said he feels no pain when throwing but acknowledges his motion is different.
``It looks like after the season it's something where he may have to go in and have it cleaned up,'' offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said.
There's also FSU record that needs attention, and that's expected to come soon enough from all areas.
"I think we all felt like this could be a recovery year where we would not lose four games again, but we did,'' FSU athletic director Dave Hart Jr., said. "We have a lot of good athletes in this football program. The perception that maybe we don't have good athletes is absolutely way off the mark. We have a lot of good athletes. ..."