The degree to which Bobby Bowden will be "bumfuzzled" this season will largely depend upon how many times he says "daddgummit" in the days and weeks leading up to the season opener against Miami on September 4th.
Behind this simple exploration of the "Mind of Bobbie" is knowing the story of last season's departing starters. The spring 2006 NFL draft outlines this story quite simply. No less than eight Seminoles were drafted in the first five rounds, with four players selected in the first round. Of the eight players drafted, six started on defense for the ‘Noles in 2005. A total of seven defensive starters finished their eligibility in 2005.
So why did FSU finish with an 8 – 5 record (including a rare loss in a bowl game)? In those five losses, FSU surrendered an average of nearly 30 points per game to the opposition. How many defensive starters were drafted by the NFL?
Not only that, but sonny boy, Tommy Bowden (Clemson's head coach), spanked the old man in the annual Bowden Bowl, 35 – 14. Ouch! Looks like Tommy learned the rules of the woodshed quite well. The best quote the homespun and proud papa could muster after the game was, "I'm not worried about anything. I'm too old to worry," said Bowden, who turned 76 that week (Nov. 12, 2005). "Now, concerned….," he said, as his voice trailed off. Save the concerns for this season as well.
The challenge for Coach Bowden in 2006 is finding seven starters on defense that will play as a unit, something the 2005 bunch failed to do. FSU always seems to have the talent on both sides of the ball. It's usually a matter of corralling it on Saturday's and also avoiding the dreaded Seminole saying, "Wide right again, daddgummit!"
The ‘Noles offense will be bolstered by three returning starters on the offensive line including Cory Niblock, who will move from tackle to guard in 2006, along with Jacky Claude and David Overmyer. The skill positions will be stacked with talent, led by running backs Lorenzo Booker and spring game MVP Antone Smith. Returning starter at wide receiver Chris Davis (51 receptions, 666 yards and five TD) and spindly (6'6", 180 pounds) emerging star, sophomore Greg Carr (30 receptions, 618 yards and nine TD's) will provide ample opportunities to stretch opposing defenses.
However, Bowden will have to demand more consistency and effectiveness from returning starter quarterback Drew Weatherford if FSU hopes to win their 13th ACC title in the last 15 years. Weatherford was productive in 2005, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 3,208 yards. Unfortunately, he was equally as productive for the opposing defenses, as he lofted 18 interceptions. Daddgummit Drew!
Weatherford's free wheeling style of leadership will need to give way to more maturity this season if FSU wants to reach a BCS bowl game in 2007.
The ‘Noles's Garnett and Gold spring game required a textbook to compute the complicated scoring system devised by the coaching staff. Suffice it to say that the defense bested the offense. MVP honors were distributed like tomahawk chops found in Doak Campbell Stadium.
Among this spring's emerging stars on defense, who should start in 2006, were defensive backs Myron Rolle and Jamie Robinson, defensive tackle Letroy Guion and linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Jae Thaxton. All except Rolle played last season and gained valuable experience.
So Bobby, how do like the schedule for 2006? If I were to make up a quote and get into the Mind of Bobby, he might say, "Well y'all, I don't make the schedule. I just play ‘em one atta time."
The first four weeks of 2006 season begin with a game at Miami, whom the ‘Noles beat 10 – 7 last year in Tallahassee. Next in line is pancake in the making Troy followed by the 2006 version of the Bowden Bowl against son Tommy and the Clemson Tigers. Do you think Bobby might stick the frying pan in the seat of his pants this time? This home tilt vs. Clemson is followed by perennial cupcake Rice and then the highly anticipated match with open date at Tallahassee.
The ‘Noles are liable to be 3 – 1 at this juncture before they coast through several depleted teams, that being NC State, Duke, Boston College, Maryland, Virginia, Wake Forest and, yes, the lone directional school on their schedule, Western Michigan. Smooth sailing here. Maybe one loss in this group.
FSU closes with bitter rival Florida at Doak Campbell Stadium. Bobby won't let his players forget last year's embarrassment in the Swamp, where first year coach Urban Meyer beat FSU 34 – 7. The home turf will be a big advantage for FSU in this rematch.
I think the 2006 version of the Seminoles will be a vastly improved team that will make a lot of noise in the always brutal ACC conference. The big question is, will the noise be unending cheers of the famous Seminole war chant or will it be the Mind of Bobby scrolling through endless rants infused by bumfuzzlement and daddgummits?
I reckon we'll wait and see.
Five questions for Seminole followers to ponder:
1. How will Drew Weatherford step up his game and become the mature leader that FSU needs him to be?
2. Will confident freshman Myron Rolle be the next in the long line of standout playmakers on defense?
3. Antone Smith showed flashes of brilliance in 2005. Is he ready to add his name to the list of outstanding running backs who have worn the Garnett and Gold? And will Lorenzo Booker really bust out in his senior year?
4. Six defensive starters were drafted by NFL squads in April of this year. With their departure, will FSU be able to find some defensive chemistry this fall to replace what wasn't present on "D' in 2005? All those stars!
5. Finally, Coach Bobby Bowden enters this season with 359 victories, which makes him the winningest coach in Division 1A college football. Could this be his last season as the Seminoles head coach? At age 76, how many more daddgummits does he have left?