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April 8, 2006

Garnet & Gold Game - 10 things to watch for

The Seminole football team will don the pads one more time for the annual Garnet and Gold game until two-a-day practices start up in early August. There are a lot of issues, position battles and interesting topics that have emerged this spring and a lot of things to look when the offense and defense matchup today for one last time.

10. Eight projected starters out of action
The starting lineup you see Saturday won't be much like the one you see when the 'Noles take on the Miami Hurricanes on September 4th. At least eight, and possibly nine, projected starters are not expected to take part in today's Spring Game. The list of the walking wounded that could be in the starting lineup in the season opener are WR De'Cody Fagg, WR Chris Davis, OG Cory Niblock, CB Tony Carter, CB J.R. Bryant, DE Darrell Burston, DE Alex Boston and DT Andre Fluellen. In addition, tight end Charlie Graham is battling a hamstring injury and his status for Saturday is uncertain. Also, key backups QB Xavier Lee, DE D.J. Norris and C Dumaka Atkins are not expected to participate. The good news is that none of the injuries keeping these players out are serious and everybody is expected to be fully recovered by the start of two-a-day practices in early August.

9. Recruits and signees expected to be on hand
Florida State held its first ever Junior Day for recruits a couple weeks ago, and as a result, there may not be as many high school prospects on hand. Typically, the spring game is the biggest day for recruits to be on FSU's campus until the July Football Camp. That won't be the case this year but you can still expect a handful of junior prospects to be in attendance including offensive line commitment Antwane Greenlee, defensive end/tight end D'Angelo McCray, tight end Bruce Figgins as well as some Tallahassee area recruits. In addition, some members of FSU's 2006 recruiting class will be there including Anthony Leon, Patrick Robinson, Brandon Davis and some Tallahassee area signees.

8. The battle at strong safety (rover)
One of the more interesting position battles this spring has been at the strong safety (rover) position vacated by Kyler Hall. Junior Anthony Houllis and sophomore Darius McClure have been splitting time between free safety and rover, while true freshman Myron Rolle has been working exclusive at rover. All three are hoping to earn the starting job. For now, Houllis and McClure are generally lining up with the first team defense but Rolle has come on like gangbusters the last few practices. His effort in a recent practice was so impressive that defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews called one of his two interceptions that day "unbelievable".

7. Youth on the defensive line
Based on the most recent NFL mock drafts, it looks like two former FSU defensive linemen could be first round picks. Add to that, Darrell Burston, Alex Boston and Andre Fluellen sitting out because of injuries, and the defensive line is greener than a bar on St. Patrick's Day. Based on the most recent scrimmages, the first team defensive line will either be two redshirt freshman and two true sophomores, or three freshman and one sophomore. Even the eldest of the bunch, is junior college transfer Paul Griffin who has never played in a game for FSU. Even though most of the positions will likely be taken over by more experienced players when the season starts, the noseguard spot is still wide open between Emmanuel Dunbar, Kendrick Stewart and Aaron Jones.

6. Emphasis on the run
The most unusual aspect of spring practice this year is the change in offensive philosophy. Instead of going to the air early and often, which is usually the case in the spring, the emphasis the past few weeks has been on the running game. In fact, in some scrimmages the ratio of run to pass has been nearly two-to-one. There's no reason to expect the heavy reliance ground game to change today. The purpose of running so much is to correct a major offensive weakness from last season (FSU finished last in the ACC rushing). So far, so good as the offense has run fairly well this spring.

5. Stick around for this special presentation
In addition to the spring practice awards being handed out by head coach Bobby Bowden, during a break in the game former Seminole quarterback Gary Pajcic, on behalf of his law firm, will present another former 'Nole, Warrick Dunn, with $100,000 for the Warrick Dunn Foundation. The Foundation, which started in 2002, was an effort to expand the "Homes for the Holidays" program that Dunn started after being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1997. "Homes for the Holidays" assists single mothers in owning their first home by providing the down payment on a house and then filling the house with everything a first-time homeowner would need, from linens to a lawnmower.

4. Progress on the offensive line
The biggest question coming into spring practice was the offensive line and it will be the biggest question going into this season. The 'Noles' Achilles' heel last year was a thin and outmanned line that was dominated in the final three regular season games. This year's unit is a little healthier and added some fresh blood with junior college transfer Shannon Boatman. To give the former JUCO All-American as many snaps as possible with the first team, offensive line coach Mark McHale moved David Overmyer, who was splitting time with Boatman at right tackle, to right guard. If Boatman can learn quickly, it would give the line a major boost this season.

3. Lawrence Timmons' domination
Several players have turned in head-turning performances over the last four weeks but nobody has ruled the defense more than linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Taking over for all-world linebacker Ernie Sims at the strong-side (Sam) spot is a tall order but the South Carolina native has done just that. In several scrimmages he had the biggest hit of the day earning him the "Big Stick" award. Don't be surprised if Timmons wins the Hinesman Award given to the spring's most dominant player.

2. The Booker-Smith one-two punch
Bobby Bowden and his staff's decision to concentrate on the ground game this spring has paid off with some huge running gains. A large majority of those runs have come from the legs of Lorenzo Booker or Antone Smith. In fact, for five straight scrimmages either Booker or Smith turned in at least one run of 30 or more yards. In Wednesday's half scrimmage, neither back had a big gain, but Smith did score on a 14-yard touchdown scamper. It would be surprising if one of FSU's top two backs didn't hit at least one homerun in the spring game.

1. Weatherford's error-free spring
Both his coaches and teammates agree that Drew Weatherford has improved by leaps and bounds since last season. Not only has the sophomore signal-caller completed a high percentage of his passes in scrimmage play, he has done so without throwing a single interception. That's a great sign for a quarterback that threw 18 picks last season. If he can get through the spring game without a defender getting his hands on one of his throws, Weatherford's error-free spring should be a very promising sign for the 2006 season.

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