ACK: Look for an improved FSU

Although the Florida Gators are the center of attention right now, let’s take a step away from Gainesville and look around the state. Today we look at Florida State. I hope to keep a weekly college notes column as part of my Gator Reports and will share many more thoughts on our television show, College Kickoff which airs Friday Nights on Sun Sports during the season.

In Tallahassee, the Seminoles are coming to camp after a banner offseason. From the coaching hires to recruiting, the Seminoles were able to get fan interest back up after a disappointing and exhausting 7-6 season in 2006. Before anyone accuses me of being brainwashed by my friend Terry Bowden, let me be the first to say I believe the Noles have a chance to be real good. What is real good? Win their division and challenge for a BCS berth in the ACC title game. Both the Noles and Canes are finding out how important it is to win a conference title and FSU will have to do their damage on the road.

FSU’s program had gotten stale and rather than make a complete change at the top, the choice was made to shake up things on staff. As difficult as it was for Bobby Bowden to can his own son as the offensive coordinator, he could not have brought in a more experienced staff than the one he has now. Jimbo Fisher has been a winner and teaming up with Rick Trickett will pay immediate dividends. The naysayers will point to last season’s struggles on offense at Florida and Auburn but the fact remains Fisher has been an offensive coordinator on a team that won 11 games two consecutive seasons and a national championship earlier this decade in 2003.

One thing FSU does not have is an “elite” quarterback. I think both Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee will be improved, but they may not be special. I think Weatherford wins the job and he is more of a natural leader during the offseason. He needs to cut down on his mistakes and get back to playing more like he did his freshman year.

This year he may have a running game to go with him. The focus on Antone Smith could take a lot of pressure off the passing game. Smith reminds me of Emmitt (Gator great) because he will avoid the direct hit on contact and just when you think you have him figured out he will rip a big run on you. Smith needs to be fed the ball and will be the feature back. He is my breakout player of the year in the ACC. The passing game will need to find more weapons and coming out of spring Richard Goodman is listed as a starter. Look for Preston Parker to emerge as the gamebreaker while Damon McDaniel (Percy Harvin’s high school teammate) will get a shot to make something happen. Greg Carr is falling out of favor with the coaches and needs a good camp while D’Cody Fagg is a solid receiver.

The offensive line is getting a makeover similar to the one Urban Meyer put on at Florida two years ago. They want flat-bellied athletic guys who can run in Tallahassee. In the new scheme athleticism will replace size for Rick Trickett. He won’t reap the benefits of this until midway in 2008 but the line will be improved. Keep an eye on Darren Rose in camp to see if he can be the guy to protect Weatherford’s backside

The defense gets Chuck Amato back which will help Mickey Andrews avoid getting stale on defense. Andrews who is a great coordinator has not been as sharp without Amato who will challenge him on some ideas. This is healthy for the defense and you will see the immediate impact on the front four. This team if it can stay healthy will finally have some numbers to put up a great pass rush. Paul Griffin on the inside and Everette Brown my not be listed as starters day on but both have the potential to be All-ACC. At the linebacker spot Geno Hayes is a terrific pass rusher while a healthy Marcus Ball would push the Noles right back to where they have always been in the front seven. In the secondary Tony Carter and Myron Rolle are All Star Candidates . Keep an eye on Michael Ray Garvin at cornerback. He has great speed and has had good summer workouts.

Three things to focus on in Camp for the Noles:

1.Tighten up the run game which will help take pressure off the QB’s.

2.Keep the front seven healthy for the opening of the season.

3.Find playmakers at receiver and work the ball to them.

I think it will benefit the Seminoles playing on the road this season. It reminds me of the early Bowden teams of the 80’s who had to prove themselves. I like FSU (without injuries) to finish 9-3 and play in the ACC Title Game in Jacksonville.