9 Florida State

With a healthy one-two punch out of the backfield, the Seminoles look to fight off the ACC’s newcomers
August 15, 2004

Plenty of players are students of the game, but Lorenzo Booker was the rare elementary school student of football. “I wanted to learn the right way to play ever since I could pick up a ball,” says the sophomore tailback. “So when I was 11 years old, it was three sets of pushups before bed, and later it was film study of college and pro games after homework. I did it because nobody else did. I wanted to be great.”

At St. Bonaventure High in 2001, Booker was rewarded with a 2,878-yard, 50-TD senior season and a scholarship to Florida State. But after he sprained a knee ligament two weeks into last season and then missed three games, his desire began to wane. Like starter Greg Jones, who was recovering from a November 2002 ACL tear, and Jones’s backup, Leon Washington, who missed four of the first five games of ’03 with a dislocated elbow, Booker played through pain even after he was cleared to compete. In losses to Miami and Clemson, the gimpy threesome totaled only 60 rushing yards. “We never got a chance to get rolling,” says Booker. “I remember my cousin telling me around the Miami game, ‘You never talk football, you never watch film. What’s wrong with you?’ I was already looking ahead to a new year.”

Now Booker is getting the fresh start he was hoping for. With Jones gone to the NFL and Washington recovering from ankle surgery, Booker’s nifty runs were the highlight of the spring. Coordinator Jeff Bowden says he’ll keep opposing defenses on their heels by platooning the two players as much as possible. “Leon is stocky and physical, and Lorenzo is more of a slasher who’ll make you miss, and they both have incredible speed,” says Bowden.

Creating more plays for the backs will be a priority, says Bowden, because even in an offense that features senior quarterback Chris Rix and a veteran line and receiving corps, Booker and Washington “could be our two biggest talents.”

Booker doesn’t mind sharing the stage, especially if it cuts the risk of another injury-plagued season at tailback. “I just want Florida State’s running game to be back where it ought to be,” says Booker. “All off-season I’ve kept thinking that I wished we were playing Miami tomorrow.” --K.K.

FAST FACTS

2003 RECORD 10–3 (7–1, 1ST IN ACC)

FINAL AP RANK 11

RETURNING STARTERS 13

KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)

QB CHRIS RIX (SR.)

First Bowden QB to start four years at FSU

WR CRAPHONSO THORPE (JR.)

ACC track champ had 994 receiving yards

DE ERIC MOORE (SR.)

Led team with 71‚ÅÑ2 sacks; added 15 QB hurries

T ALEX BARRON (SR.)

First-team All-America last year

CB BRYANT MCFADDEN (JR.)

Standout cover corner had nine breakups

TELLING NUMBER

2,315

Passing yards needed by Chris Rix to overtake his predecessor, Chris Weinke, as the alltime leader in Seminoles history.

BREAKOUT PLAYER

Tallahassee rejoiced in ’03 when linebacker Ernie Sims followed his dad, a former fullback and linebacker, and mom, a former track star, to Florida State. Now the rest of the nation will see what the fuss was about. A special teams standout as a freshman, Sims plays bigger than his 6 feet, 220 pounds, and his monster hits made him spring ball MVP.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 6 at Miami

        18 UAB

        25 CLEMSON

Oct. 2 NORTH CAROLINA

        9 at Syracuse

        16 VIRGINIA

        23 at Wake Forest

        30 at Maryland

Nov. 6 DUKE

        11 at N.C. State

        20 FLORIDA

COLOR PHOTOICON SMI FLYING START Booker has been preparing since childhood for his dream role: carrying the ball for Florida State.

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)