Focus on 2004

<b>FSU's</b> inability to sign a quarterback this recruiting season puts the Seminoles in a precarious position. Well, the 'Noles only have to look two hours away to find one of the country's top underclassmen in junior quarterback <b>Xavier Lee</b> of Daytona Beach Seabreeze. Click here for comments from Lee as well as recruiting coordinator John Lilly's take on the Seminoles' quarterback position.

Florida State's inability to sign a quarterback this recruiting season puts the Seminoles in a precarious position. FSU has no other choice but to secure a quality quarterback next February.

Well, the Seminoles only have to look two hours away to find one of the country's top underclassmen in junior quarterback Xavier Lee of Daytona Beach Seabreeze.

Lee, the Sunshine Sports Network sophomore and junior Player of the Year in Florida, has already been verbally offered by FSU along with Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina State. Look for that list to expand in a hurry.

"I would be very surprised if Xavier wasn't the top-rated quarterback in the country," Seabreeze head coach Mark Beach said. "He's certainly has the arm strength to throw it down the field. He got a lot better at running the ball and reading defenses. He got a lot smarter. I would think Xavier will look at schools who throw the football a lot."

FSU fans will be glad to hear that Lee has ties to FSU. Former Seminole quarterback Thad Busby is Lee's position coach at Seabreeze. Additionally, FSU 2003 signee Anthony Kelly is Lee's half-brother.

"I'm interested in Florida State," Lee told TheTerritory. "I'm not really sure who else I'm looking at now. It's so early."

The 6-4, 210-pound Lee, who says he's interested in early playing time but wouldn't mind a redshirt season, passed for 3,077 yards and 33 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions as a first-team Class 3A all-state selection last season. He passed for 2,900 yards and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore. Mobility is also a strength – he added 470 rushing yards and 12 scores. Lee credits Busby for improving his game.

"Coach Busby does a nice job of teaching to be patient and calm," Lee said. "He also taught me to take what the defenses are giving."

Expect the Seminoles to be the state's frontrunner for Lee, especially since childhood-favorite UM and Florida each landed high school All-American quarterback prospects two days ago.

TOP PRIORITY

FSU missed out on a quarterback Wednesday, when highly-touted JaMarcus Russell of Mobile, Ala., signed with LSU over the Seminoles. While that wasn't much of a surprise, it certainly accelerated FSU's search for an impact signal caller.

"The way recruiting is with a lot of guys, if you are not on them on the beginning you are not going to be able get in on them at the end," FSU recruiting coordinator John Lilly told The Territory Friday afternoon.

"From that standpoint, it wasn't a disappointment because we kind of got a little bit of a late start probably as far as making that a priority position. Still, that's a position you would still like to be able to sign somebody every year because we've seen how quickly you can get down to where you don't have any anymore. When I say that, you can get down to your third or fourth guy in a hurry and not have a lot of depth there."

Quarterback was not a priority for the Seminoles heading into the recruiting season, not when FSU's roster featured five players at that spot – sophomores Chris Rix, Adrian McPherson and Fabian Walker as well as redshirt freshman Matt Henshaw and true freshman Wyatt Sexton, son of FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton.

Of course, that landscape quickly changed.

Henshaw moved to tight end during fall practice, McPherson was dismissed from the team in November and Rix was suspended for the Sugar Bowl defeat against Georgia for failing to take two exams. Walker, meanwhile, was largely ineffective against the Bulldogs in his first career start and was replaced by receiver Anquan Boldin, who has left early for the NFL.

"Last year you sit there and you look at it – we had three sophomores who were our top three guys. All of them, we feel like are very good quarterbacks," Lilly said. "And then we had Wyatt (Sexton) and Matt Henshaw. Matt was going to be a redshirt freshman, Wyatt was going to redshirt that first year. So, you are looking at it you got five guys sophomores and below. So, quarterback is not a huge priority.

"You go out there and, hey, if you get an unbelieveably great one then you try to get him. If not, you worry about him next year. Matt moves to tight end and A.D. (Adrian McPherson) is gone and all of a sudden, you are down to three. And you are looking for somebody and trying to get on great players as the year as progressed."

The main piece of the puzzle this spring will again be at quarterback, where Rix will return as the starter, according to coach Bobby Bowden. Walker will be No. 2, though he's not expected to available following arthroscopic surgery on his right throwing shoulder.

Sexton enters at No. 3, while redshirt freshman Lorne Sam will be given the chance to compete at quarterback as will walk-on David Koral, who initially signed with Vanderbilt and played at Santa Monica (Calif.) Community College last season. Bowden said following the Sugar Bowl Walker would have gone into the spring drills as No. 1 if the Seminoles had beaten Georgia.

"We've been very fortunate, having had to play bowl games, I think, two of the last five years with third-team quarterbacks," Lilly said. "We've been very fortunate that we had a quality guy at third team who could do it. Have we not had a very good third teamer, we would have had a disaster. We weren't able to win either one of those games, but certainly neither one of them was a disaster on offense."


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