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Jones Among Stars Ok With Lesser Roles

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

October 6, 2003 TALLAHASSEE — Former Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward was talking about the things that made the Seminoles' 1993 national championship team special. “It was probably not the most talented team that Florida State put on the field,” Ward said. “But the one thing we did do was work together.” Ward specifically mentioned the sacrifices made by talented players, such as fullback William Floyd and tight end Lonnie Johnson. Floyd and Johnson, who went on to enjoy solid NFL careers, accepted lesser roles with the Seminoles for the good of the team. Senior tailback Greg Jones found himself in a similar position heading into FSU's showdown against Miami. A year ago, Jones powered his way to a career-high 189 rushing yards on 31 carries in a 28-27 loss, spoiling a most memorable performance. “Before the season, I probably talked about that game every day,” Jones said. “I don't get tired of thinking about it. Even though we came real close, we didn't get a chance to finish it up. Now we get a chance to play them again, and this year hopefully it will be a different outcome.” One thing that is clearly different is the role Jones has accepted this season. Returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Jones has been brought along slowly. He also has been relegated to a support player, in part because the Seminoles have put more emphasis on the passing game as defenses have been stacking eight players in the box. “We haven't gone into a game where we have said, ‘We're going to establish the run as a priority,' I think once this year,” FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. “That attitude may have to change going into this game … and maybe not.” Through five games, Jones led the team with just 53 carries for 265 yards, to go along with a team-high five rushing touchdowns. Those aren't the kinds of numbers that would suggest he'd get another opportunity for a 31-carry day against the Hurricanes, not that he doesn't want the chance. “I'd love it again, but it's not my decision,” Jones said. “It's the coaches' decision. They get paid to call the plays. Whatever they say, I do.” Jones set some lofty preseason goals, including a 1,000-yard rushing season and a run at the single-season rushing record, but they no longer appear attainable. “As a football player, it's kind of disappointing because you always want to help the team out a little bit more than what you're doing,” Jones said. “It's different from this year to last year. It's kind of disappointing but, hey, we're winning and that's the good thing coming out of it. As long as we keep winning, I'm fine. One of the goals was to keep winning.” One of the reasons Jones has not been as effective is FSU's reliance on the shotgun formation. A north-south runner, Jones doesn't excel at the cutback moves most useful for picking through traffic. To that end, the Seminoles relished the return of tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker for the Miami game. Washington had been sidelined with an elbow injury suffered in the season opener, while Booker missed three games with a knee sprain. Their returns may, in fact, mean fewer opportunities for the 250-pound Jones. “We need ‘em,” Bowden said of Washington and Booker. “You can even go back to last year's (Miami) game. Greg did have a big game, but Nick (Maddox) had some key runs for us in that ballgame. Just that change of pace. And the difference in Leon and Booker and Nick is just that they're faster. They're even better than Nick was. So that's saying a lot. It's different when Greg bounces a run to the outside and when Leon or Lorenzo bounces a run to the outside. They go 0-to-60 a lot quicker than Greg. Those two guys are more dangerous than maybe any players on our entire offense.” If the Seminoles can spread the Hurricanes' defense with the shotgun formation, Washington and Booker should have the opportunity to rip off some big plays between the tackles. And with Jones anxiously waiting in the wings for the chance to get the ball in his favored I-formation, FSU has the ability to expand its offensive arsenal. Dockett Merits MVP Consideration No one in the ACC has had a more profound impact on his team this fall than senior defensive tackle Darnell Dockett of FSU. Not only has he returned to the form that made him an All-ACC performer as a freshman and sophomore, he has shed his label as a malcontent and emerged as a team leader. “He's always been a leader,” FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. “The biggest thing now is he's been a positive leader.” Dockett's on-field statistics speak volumes. With 27 stops through five games, he was one tackle off the team lead, and his 10 tackles for loss led his closest competitor by four. And though he had only 1.5 sacks, his six quarterback hurries tied end Eric Moore for the team lead. What didn't show up on his personal stat sheet was how Dockett's dominance of the interior line opened up paths to opposing quarterbacks for the Seminoles' ends. FSU piled up 20 sacks through five games, six more than they totaled in all of 2001. Moore led the team with 3.5 sacks, while fellow ends Kevin Emanuel, Charles Howard and Kamerion Wimbley combined for eight more. Moore and Emanuel each cashed in on big days by earning ACC defensive lineman of the week honors. “Every week they come in they say, ‘I appreciate it Dockett,'” Dockett said, breaking out in a laugh. Not since Corey Simon terrorized opponents during FSU's 1999 national championship season has an interior defensive lineman had as big an impact on the Seminoles' defense. “Now I actually look at game film and I'll see two guys on me, and one guy will block down on me and leave the defensive end one-on-one to make the play,” Dockett said. “Last year it wasn't like that.” A year ago Dockett was still recovering from offseason ankle and knee surgeries that seriously limited his quickness, which — along with his seek-and-destroy attitude and overall nastiness — is his greatest strength. “Truth be told,” Andrews said, “he probably shouldn't have been playing.” Now that he's healthy, the school's all-time leader in tackles for loss is having the time of his life. He credits some of that for the off-field turnaround that came after he was nearly kicked off the team for duplicating Peter Warrick's department store theft with a sporting goods store employee as an accomplice in December. “Now that I've overcome all these obstacles, now it's straight in front of me, what I can really do,” Dockett said. “It makes you really thankful.” On the field, the old zeal has returned. “I honestly believe that everything starts around me up front,” Dockett said. “I'm willing to accept it. I'm not a selfish guy. At one point, I probably would (have said), ‘I ain't making no plays.' Now I don't worry about that stuff. It it takes two guys to block me, I take that as an honor and let everyone create off me. My time will come if I just keep playing hard. … I think if I can get going, I can get everybody going.”