The Big Picture
When a window of opportunity presents itself against a program with FSU's history of success, one must act quickly. Last season UNC and N.C. State seized that opportunity, slipping through the crack that was the Seminoles' worst season since 1986. A year later, that window is probably closed. FSU returns 17 starters, marking the first time in 11 ACC seasons it will lead the league in that category. Young regulars have matured, talent is abundant, depth has improved. This team likely will have more players drafted in the first round next June than they had in the entire 2002 draft (two). It all points to a return to normalcy in the ACC, and a 10th title in 11 tries for FSU.
There is no way to precisely calculate the impact of linebacker Devaughn Darling's Feb. 27, 2001, death on the FSU program last season. There's also no denying it played a part in an 8-4 campaign. As if losing 25 seniors from the 2000 squad wasn't enough, the players and staff approached conditioning cautiously. Mix in a lack of leadership and simmer, and you have a recipe for disaster by FSU standards. The significance of Darling's death wasn't lost on Bobby Bowden, who noted that promising Northwestern and Minnesota Vikings teams struggled mightily following deaths on their teams.
Done For Me Lately
|1992||8-0 (1)||11-1||Orange Bowl (W)|
|1993||8-0 (1)||12-1||Orange Bowl (W)|
|1994||8-0 (1)||10-1-1||Sugar Bowl (W)|
|1995||7-1 (1)||10-2||Orange Bowl (W)|
|1996||8-0 (1)||11-1||Sugar Bowl (L)|
|1997||8-0 (1)||11-1||Sugar Bowl (W)|
|1998||7-1 (1)||11-2||Fiesta Bowl (L)|
|1999||8-0 (1)||12-0||Sugar Bowl (W)|
|2000||8-0 (1)||11-2||Orange Bowl (L)|
|2001||6-2 (2)||8-4||Gator Bowl (W)|
ACC: 76-4 (.950); No. 1 in ACC
All: 107-15-1 (.874); No. 1 in ACC
For the first time in Bowden's 27 seasons at FSU, he may return his entire offensive line. Even if Milford Brown loses his eligibility battle, the Seminoles have unsurpassed experience and a wealth of talent up front, led by preseason All-America tackle Brett Williams and guard Montrae Holland. For a program that over the last decade has thrived in the passing game, the behemoths averaging almost 6-5, 310 provide a security blanket. With a commitment to a zone blocking scheme, the Seminoles will be ready and willing to bloody the noses of opponents when the need arises.
Coming On Strong
If Greg Jones were playing in the SEC, he might already be mentioned in the same breath as Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker. At 6-1, 248, Jones is the most impressive physical specimen on the team, a downhill runner with a taste for contact and the ability to make one cut and pull away. Jones, who paced FSU with 713 rushing yards last season, is merely the stud in a stable of thoroughbreds, which is why he must share the wealth. Nick Maddox and Willie Reid can change the pace with their elusiveness and good hands, and a trio of freshmen Lorenzo Booker, Leon Washington and Thomas Clayton provide a little bit of everything.
Cause For Concern?
Bowden likely never expected he would live to see the day that Notre Dame was the weakest non-conference opponent on his schedule. That day has arrived. The Irish, who will make their first appearance in Tallahassee in October, are the only non-conference foe that didn't have a winning record in 2001. The schedule is brutal, with a neutral-site opener against Iowa State and a dangerous Thursday game at Louisville. There's also a trip to defending champ Miami, the home finale against Florida and road games at Maryland, Georgia Tech and N.C. State.
The Whole Truth
"That might be the only place we are better experience. I would just as soon have that than anything else I can think of. You can't coach experience. It has to happen. We've got it."
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden
CHART BY: THE FSU INSIDER