2 Florida State The painful memories of a title that got away will be a powerful motivator for Chris Weinke and the Seminoles

August 15, 1999

Don't think of 1999 as a new season for Florida State, think of
it as the resumption of an old one. Before quarterback Chris
Weinke was dumped on his head and suffered a season-ending
ruptured disk in his neck in a 45-14 win over Virginia last Nov.
7, no team in the country was playing better than the Seminoles,
who had bounced back from an early-season defeat at North
Carolina State. So how cruel was this? Upset losses suffered by
Ohio State, UCLA and Kansas State sent 11-1 Florida State to the
national title game in the Fiesta Bowl, but without its best
quarterback. The Seminoles and backup signal-caller Marcus
Outzen struggled on offense and lost to Tennessee.

The plan this year is to pick up where they left off before
Weinke went down and to fulfill their title obligation. "It's
not a learning thing anymore," says junior tailback Travis
Minor. "We'd put that slogan on a T-shirt if it was a little
more catchy." It is never difficult to find cause for preseason
optimism in Tallahassee: Florida State has finished no worse
than No. 4 in the nation for a mind-boggling 12 consecutive
seasons and continues to accumulate talent. But this season
brings even more promise than usual. Of the 22 players who
started the Fiesta Bowl, 14 are expected to start in the
Seminoles' opener against Louisiana Tech. At two of the
remaining eight positions, Florida State is stronger this season.

The first is defensive end, where 6'4", 240-pound junior Jamal
Reynolds replaces the solid Tony Bryant. Reynolds generated
major buzz by dominating spring practices, and he looks very
much like the heir to the Seminoles' defensive end legacy
established by Peter Boulware, Andre Wadsworth and Reinard
Wilson. Reynolds joins three front-four veterans--Jerry Johnson,
Roland Seymour and All-America Corey Simon--to form the best
front wall in the nation and the backbone of a defense that was
the best in the country a year ago.

The second positional improvement is at quarterback. The
27-year-old Weinke has come through a long and painful
rehabilitation to reclaim his position and resume the strange
journey that he undertook when he came to Florida State in the
winter of 1997, following a six-year minor league baseball
career. After leading the Seminoles to a 23-14 win over Texas
A&M in last year's Kickoff Classic, Weinke threw six
interceptions in the 24-7 loss to N.C. State. "When I got home,
I had 161 E-mails telling me I was horses---," says Weinke. He
threw his next 218 passes without a pick, a streak that was put
on ice by the injury. He underwent surgery, beginning two months
of agony.

"The period of time after the [Nov. 10] surgery was hell for
me," says Weinke. Spinal fluid leaking from the area of the
injury caused crushing headaches and left Weinke so weak that
his roommates had to carry him from his apartment bed to the
bathroom. His rehabilitation didn't begin in earnest until the
headaches subsided in February, when he began soft-tossing a
tennis ball and lifting weights to restore some of the 25 pounds
he had lost. Yet once he started on the road back, he became
voracious.

"We were hoping he'd make it out during the spring and just lob
a few passes," says offensive coordinator Mark Richt. Instead,
Weinke did everything but participate in contact drills. Since
then, the 6'5" Weinke has pushed his weight up to 245 pounds and
has made every throw that he was making a year ago.

He'll have help in getting to the Sugar Bowl, site of the season
finale between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Senior wideout Peter
Warrick, who caught 61 passes for an average of 20.2 yards per
catch and is also a threat throwing, running and returning
punts, stunned everyone from draft experts to teammates to coach
Bobby Bowden by coming back for his senior year. "I followed my
heart and followed God," Warrick says. Apparently, he also
followed Liberace, given the haul of gold-and-diamond jewelry he
was wearing one midsummer afternoon, but that's just in keeping
with his future take. For now, he's the most dangerous offensive
threat in the country.

Minor has rushed for 1,480 yards over two seasons and could be
joined in the backfield by former quarterback Dan Kendra, the
hard-luck fifth-year senior who is making one last bid to
salvage something from a once-heralded college career undone by
injuries. "If his knee is sound, he's going to be a heck of a
catch for some NFL team," Richt says of Kendra, who heads into
preseason drills as the No. 2 fullback behind junior William
McCray. "He can do everything that [Tampa Bay's] Mike Alstott
can do." To confound opponents, Bowden and Richt have filled
their playbook with sets that use both Warrick and Kendra as
passers. They have one other offensive weapon as well: Junior
kicker Sebastian Janikowski is among the best in the nation.

In all, the Seminoles are loaded. Yet they have been loaded for
more than a decade and have only one national title (1993) to
show for it. With that in mind, Florida State has tinkered with
its well-oiled machinery. Upperclass offensive linemen--four of
whom were starters last season--have been told to lose 10 pounds
per man, after several years of trying to get bigger. (All four
starters from a year ago weighed more than 300 pounds.) "I got
bigger every year, and last year I felt slower and more tired,"
says senior guard Jason Whitaker. Defensive coordinator Mickey
Andrews demoted, at least temporarily, cornerbacks Mario
Edwards, a probable first-round selection next spring, and
junior Tay Cody for poor academic performance. After two losses
in the last three bowl games (following 11 straight wins),
Bowden has vowed to change his longstanding bowl-preparation
schedule to get more work out of his troops during the roughly
40 days they have off between the end of the season and their
bowl game.

After all, it's about time the Seminoles won another title. "Five
years ago I checked into Burt Reynolds Hall and figured I'd leave
with two or three rings," says Edwards. "Well, I don't have any
rings. This year I say, 'Don't talk about it, be it.'"

Sounds like a slogan.

--T.L.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Coming of age With Minor back for a return engagement, Florida State should finish in the top 4 for the 13th year in a row.

Fast Facts

1998 record: 11-2 (7-1, tied for 1st in ACC)
Final ranking: No. 3 AP, No. 3 coaches' poll

1998 Averages Scoring Rushing Passing Total
Yards Yards Yards

OFFENSE 32.1 149.8 251.6 401.3
DEFENSE 11.5 79.8 135.0 214.8

Projected Lineup

Coach: Bobby Bowden
24rd year at Fla. St. (219-53-4); Career Division I-A record:
292-85-4

OFFENSE

WR Peter Warrick Sr. Heisman and Biletnikoff candidate
LT Ross Brannon Sr. Missed spring with knee injury
LG Jason Whitaker Sr. FB writers' first team All-America
C Eric Thomas Sr. Holding off push by Jarad Moon
RG Donald Heaven[*] Jr. Replacing injured Jerry Carmichael
RT Tarlos Thomas[*] Jr. Formerly known as Tarlos Crumitie
TE Nick Franklin[*] Sr. Longest of 3 catches for 31 yards
WR Ron Dugans Sr. 38 catches second to Warrick's 61
QB Chris Weinke Jr. Averaged 17.2 yards per completion
RB Travis Minor Jr. Gained 100 yds. 4 of last 5 games
FB William McCray[*] Jr. 22 carries, 73 yards, 2 TDs
K Sebastian Janikowski Jr. All-America won Lou Groza Award

DEFENSE

LE Roland Seymour Jr. Credited with two safeties
NG Corey Simon Sr. Made 16 tackles for losses
DT Jerry Johnson Sr. In Simon's shadow, but just as good
RE Jamal Reynolds[*] Jr. Honored for dominant spring camp
OLB Brian Allen[*] Jr. Ability compared to Derrick Brooks
MLB Bradley Jennings[*] So. 4.6 speed and benches 430 lbs.
OLB Tommy Polley Jr. 37 solo tackles leads LB corps
CB Mario Edwards Sr. Team record 4 int. vs. Wake Forest
SS Derrick Gibson Jr. Big-hit style keeps wideouts wary
FS Sean Key[*] Jr. 52 tackles and 2 forced fumbles
CB Tay Cody Jr. 11 of 35 tackles came on 3rd down
P Keith Cottrell Jr. Averaged 41.3 yards on 62 punts

[*]New starters
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from 1998 season.

Key Games
Schedule strength: 24th of 114

Oct. 9 vs. Miami
The heat is back in the hottest rivalry of the early '90s.
Rebuilt Miami will be trying to beat the Seminoles for the first
time since 1994.

Nov. 20 at Florida
Florida State hasn't won in Gainesville since 1993, the same
year, coincidentally, that the Seminoles won their only national
title, with an Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska.

The Bottom Line

If the Seminoles can avoid their usual costly slipup and Weinke
can stay healthy, the Sugar Bowl should come calling.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)