Spring Fever

Coaches have returned from their annual cruise. Spring break is ending for players. Spring football starts Tuesday and questions must be answered. Take the wide receivers, for instance. "It's time for these guys to step up. Okay, you've played behind so and so and so and so. Now, it's your turn. What can you do? This is a challenge for them. We must have Craphonso (Thorpe) and P.K (Sam) and some of the others really come on and do it every day," Bobby Bowden said. Click here for much more.

When Bobby Bowden reflects on last year, he sees a Florida State team that lacked chemistry due to instability at quarterback. He sees a team that was plagued by bad luck. He sees a team that missed opportunities.

"You look back and I think you can definitely say we were a very unlucky football team last year," Bowden said.

"Play in a driving storm in Louisville, lose that game in overtime. Miami, lose that game on a kick. Notre Dame, don't turn the ball over six times and you might win that one. N.C. State, now we all know about (Adrian) McPherson's situation. And the bowl game. You don't have your quarterback.

"So we were very unlucky. I cannot remember a year when we had that kind of bad luck."

While Bowden would welcome some good luck this season, one thing is for certain - he expects to see changes. Bowden and his staff returned today from their annual cruise after seven days in the Western Caribbean. Players also began arriving back in Tallahassee following their spring break. For all, it was a time to rest, relax and recharge.

Now it's time to get back to work.

FSU opens spring drills Tuesday. Quite simply, this just might be one of the most important springs in Bowden's 28-year tenure. Despite Bowden's wonderful accomplishments and the program's dynasty status, the Seminoles' star does not burn as bright.

FSU went 9-5 last year, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title but losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Seminoles also stumbled in 2001, finishing 8-4 to snap a lengthy list of records that included 14-consecutive 10-win seasons. Of course, FSU's recent off-the-field problems have not helped matters.

Still, Bowden remains determined, focused and enthused. The past can not be changed. The future can be shaped.

FSU returns a seasoned defense, though the unit -- namely the interior line - won't be close to full strength in drills to injury. The Seminoles' offense returns plenty of talent but must replace four starters along the line and find the right combination at receiver. And Bowden welcomes a new staff member in linebackers coach Kevin Steele.

"I'm very excited about this team now," Bowden said.

"We had a good winter conditioning. All the coaches, everything they said and the feedback from the kids was very positive. The attitude was good. The boys worked hard. I think they all want to get this thing rolling again. I think they realize what it takes.

"We just have to get the chemistry right. We never had it right. But I think it all goes back to the unstable situation at quarterback. We were never stable there. Just when you get it stable, just when it seems like you finally got it right (Chris Rix after Florida win), you lose your quarterback again. And you're back to where you started."

RIX A KEY

And where FSU starts this spring is with Rix, who enters drills No. 1 on the depth chart in front of Fabian Walker, Wyatt Sexton, Lorne Sam and walk-on David Koral. Bowden believes Rix has made positive strides this offseason.

"He seems to be doing all the right things," Bowden said.

"I see it out there, working with the players (informal passing stuff in afternoons). What Chris has to do is show 'em. Be on time. Don't be late. Be there when they're there. He's got the tools. He just has to be accountable and show the players. I'm not worried about that. I think Chris is determined to be a good leader. He's working hard so far. He's got that part down pat. He's winning the players over. Now, he has to win the coaches over.''

Others need to do the same as they compete for starting roles, but depth will be a concern.

"My biggest concern, my number one worry going into it is the number of boys we won't have out there," Bowden said.

"I think we've got 11 players who won't be there due to injuries. This is the thinnest spring training I can every remember. Most of them are on the line. So that means you really don't have enough to scrimmage. I mean, you're talking an entire group. But we're going to have to scrimmage. We just have to hope that no one gets hurt. We can't afford to lose anyone on the line because we're so thin there.

"And the other thing, you need spring training. And these boys not out there, they can't get the reps they need. But the thing about it is, everybody else is going through the same thing. We always seem to have a number of players who can't get through spring. You just hope you don't have any more injuries during spring."

Here's the rest of Bowden's comments:

ON LORNE SAM

"We told him when we signed him that he'd have a shot at quarterback. We want to give him that opportunity. He was a pretty darn good quarterback in high school. But it could be that receiver is the best place for him. We have to find out. That's what spring is all about. We'll get a chance to see what he can do.

ON RUNNING BACKS

"I feel very good about that. Again, going in, that looks like the strength of your team. Your offense. Leon Washington, what he did last year was exceptional. Then you know Greg (Jones) is coming back. Now you have (Lorenzo) Booker in the mix and Willie Reid. I feel very good about our backfield. We have some mighty fine players there."

ON RECEIVERS

"It's time for these guys to step up. Okay, you've played behind so and so and so and so. Now, it's your turn. What can you do. This is a challenge for them. We must have Craphonso (Thorpe) and P.K (Sam) and some of the others really come on and do it every day."

ON OFFENSIVE LINE

"We lost some good players, some great players. But the one thing is that we were able to get some of these other boys some experience last year. They got into the fire. But you don't have Brett and Todd and Mirambeau and Montrae. These guys had done it and played so many games. We'll need a good spring with these new guys to get them ready. Again, you have to stay healthy. We've got to hope they all can hold up."

ON DEFENSE

"We're going to be missing so many guys on our defensive line during spring. You won't have Dockett, you won't have Bunkley, you won't have Womble, won't have Travis Johnson. That's your two deep right there. So I really don't know how that's going to work. That's where we are the thinnest. Hopefully some of these young guys can come through. You look at it... great defense has to start up front. It has to. And so, I don't know in the spring how we will do there, because we're missing so many key guys."


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