Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Since the early '90s, the ACC has been
owned by Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles. However, that all came
to a crashing halt in 2001, as the league title that FSU held onto for so
long, left Tallahassee, for a more seasonable climate in College Park,
Yes, the Terrapins did the unthinkable last season, as they won their first
conference crown since the mid-80s, but more importantly, they struck a blow
for the rest of the league, as the ACC has been Florida State's playground
since joining in 1992.
No team has dominated league play like the Seminoles have for the past decade.
Florida State has posted a 76-4 record in ACC action since joining the league,
with half of those losses coming last season.
In 2001, a letdown was expected, as Bobby Bowden had just five senior starters
returning and had to put his offense in the hands of a freshman quarterback
for the first time. While the team's fall from its lofty conference perch was
not quarterback Chris Rix's fault, an inexperienced team did have a rather
average 2001 season.
Bobby Bowden's Seminoles look like a team without a real weakness at
Florida State fans saw many lengthy streaks come to an end. The team's 14-year
streak of at least 10 wins ended with an 8-4 season. Also, FSU's 54-game home
winning streak was halted against eventual national champion Miami, not to
mention the flawless home record against league foes, with a loss to NC State.
In addition, the Seminoles also experienced their worst defeat to an unranked
opponent (41-9 loss to North Carolina) since Bobby Bowden's first season in
Still, there was reason for optimism, as Chris Rix did have a solid season.
The 6-4, 215-pounder was named the ACC Freshman of the Year, after completing
over 57 percent of his passes, for 2,734 yards and 24 TDs. Rix was responsible
for more yards of total offense (3,123) than any freshman in league history
and picked ups some All-American honors in the process.
When Anquan Boldin and Robert Morgan both went down with injuries, it looked
as if the receiving corps would struggle, especially with a raw talent under
center. That of course, didn't happen, as wideouts Javon Walker (49
receptions, for 1,139 yards and nine TDs) and Talman Gardner (35 receptions,
for 670 yards and 11 TDs) made the most of their opportunity. Walker has moved
on to the NFL, but Gardner returns in 2002 and should be Rix's top target this
season. Boldin and Morgan are back in the mix, as is sophomore Craphonso
Thorpe, who showed glimpses of brilliant play as a true freshman last year.
All in all, the passing game has a chance to flourish in 2002.
A seasoned offensive line will undoubtedly play a big part in the team's
success. The Miami Hurricanes relied heavily on their massive offensive front
to win a national championship in 2001. The same might be said of FSU's line
in 2002. All five starters return from a year ago, including All-American
Brett Williams (6-6, 320) at tackle. The other bookend is senior Todd Williams
(6-6, 315). The interior of the line is big and strong with seniors Milford
Brown (6-4, 320) and Montrae Holland (6-3, 325) at the guard positions and
savvy Antoine Mirambeau (6-4, 290) at center.
Chris Rix was responsible
for more yards of total offense (3,123) in 2001 than any freshman in league history.
The ground game should see significant improvement as well, as the cupboard is
full in the backfield. Both Greg Jones and Nick Maddox are back after
combining for 1,277 yards and nine TDs last season. Jones averaged 5.3 yards
per carry, while Maddox added 4.4. Not satisfied with those numbers, Bowden
landed the nation's top offensive recruit in Lorenzo Booker, who will be hard
to keep off the field this season.
The defense returns eight starters from last year, so this unit should be much
improved as well. The defense was uncharacteristically soft in 2001, allowing
26.1 ppg (43rd nationally) and 356.4 yards of total offense (32nd nationally).
Boasting perhaps the nation's top defensive line in 2002, this defense has a
chance to put up incredible numbers. Rush ends Kevin Emanuel and Alonzo
Jackson will get after opposing QBs from the outside, while tackles Darnell
Dockett and Jeff Womble will blow things up in the middle. The linebacking
corps is solid as well, with the emergence of juniors Kendyll Pope and Michael
Boulware. Pope is coming off a 2001 campaign in which he amassed 113 tackles
(two sacks and two interceptions), while Boulware finished with 86 stops (one
sack and three interceptions).
The secondary must replace veteran safeties Abdual Howard and Chris Hope, but
returns starting cornerbacks Stanford Samuels and Rufus Brown, With a dominant
front seven, the new safeties should be able to ease into their roles as the
season goes on.
Even the kicking game should be one of the best in the ACC. Sophomore
placekicker Xavier Beitia had a remarkable freshman season, earning Second-
Team All-ACC honors, after leading the team in scoring (83 points) and
converting 16-of-17 field-goal attempts.
At first glance, the Seminoles look like a team without a real weakness at
this time. Solid at all the skilled positions, while being led by one of
college football's legendary coaches, could very well add up to a date in the
Fiesta Bowl this season.
The Seminoles will take it one game at a time however, as getting back their
ACC title is first and foremost on their minds. Since 1992, the road to the
ACC crown has ended in Talahassee. Last year, that road took a detour through
Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles are out to prove that is exactly what it was --
a brief detour.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at email@example.com.