Losing his touch?


Published: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 1:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 1:59 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE - Changes are coming to Florida State.

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The Seminoles' 2005 roster and depth chart will be considerably different, naturally, since having players come and go is an annual rite in college football.

Gone will be quarterback Chris Rix, two-time All-American offensive tackle Alex Barron, speedy wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe and plenty of other starters. In their place will be new recruits and holdovers from the 2004 squad who waited patiently for a chance to start.

Yet one thing won't change _ Bobby Bowden's high expectations.

The winningest coach in Division I-A history is hopeful his 30th year at Florida State marks a return to glory, something the Seminoles haven't experienced much of in the last few seasons.

"We've got to get 'em ready to play," Bowden said.

Florida State was 9-3 in 2004, but failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title for just the second time in 13 seasons, and wound up ranked 15th _ its fourth straight year outside the Top 10 in the final Associated Press poll.

"We'll be trying to pick up a great receiver, a great runner, a great cornerback, you know, some outstanding players," said Bowden, who lost to both Florida and Miami in the same season for the first time since 1986.

Bowden won't have Rix to worry about any longer. The enigmatic Californian, who was 0-5 against Miami and threw 40 interceptions during his rocky Florida State career, is gone, graduated with a 28-11 record as a starter. Offensive line coach Jimmy Heggins is also gone, parting ways after 19 seasons with the 'Noles.

Other key players not back for 2005 will be cornerback Bryant McFadden, defensive tackle Travis Johnson and wide receiver Chauncey Stovall.

Bowden's biggest challenge will be rejuvenating an offense that has been in decline for several seasons, slumping to its lowest numbers in 25 years.

"I can never remember a year where our offense just went dry," said Bowden, who's gone a mortal 36-15 in the past four seasons. "We just couldn't get anything going."

With tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker back, Bowden says he wants to run more next season.

The two combined to run for 11 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards in 2004.

"We'll have to change our offensive philosophy a little bit next year," Bowden acknowledged.

Wyatt Sexton will enter spring practice as the projected starter at quarterback; the junior-to-be played in 10 games in 2004, completing 55.2 percent of his passes for 1,661 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had eight interceptions.

His job as the starter isn't etched in stone; freshmen Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee will be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job, Bowden said.

"We're going to play the best we've got," Bowden said.

He wants to see Sexton develop a sense of when to throw the ball away to avoid sacks, plus improve his decision-making in other areas. Bowden said he believes Sexton can develop into a great one _ and knows the quarterback play is vital to making another run at a national title.

"Right now football is going through a defensive phase," Bowden said. "They just blitz, blitz, blitz. You've got to beat 'em with your quarterback. ... If you look at any of the great teams, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Auburn, they're getting great quarterback play."

The Seminoles lose six starters on defense, but return a talented linebacking foursome of Ernie Sims, A.J. Nicholson, Buster Davis and Sam McGrew and defensive backs Pat Watkins and Antonio Cromartie.

Bowden hopes to pick up some help during the final weeks of recruiting this month.

"We're going to try and get the best players we can get," he said.

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