2008 Florida State Seminoles
Two national championships (1993 and 1999). Top-five finishes in the AP Poll for 14-straight years from 1987 through 2000. An incredible 109-13-1 win-loss record in the 1990s.
Two Heisman Trophy winners: quarterbacks Charlie Ward in 1993 & Chris Weike in 2000.
12 ACC championships.
20-13-2 in 35 bowl games.
50 former Seminoles currently on NFL rosters.
In 2007, several FSU football players, including some starters, were accused of cheating in a music history class. 22 of the 36 football players missed the Music City Bowl. Additionally, those same players will also miss up to the first four games of the 2008 season.
No. 18-ranked Wake Forest comes to Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the Seminoles would summarily dismiss the Deacons as not being worthy of their having to break a sweat in order to win.
My, oh my, have times changed. Two straight wins, including a 30-0 shellacking at Doak Campbell in 2006, have both players and coaches using Saturday's game as a measuring stick for the state of the program.
Pundits are saying the Seminoles must win to advance their credibility and their claim of a changed program. "I think it could be a turning point because it would be winning another football game," Offensive Coordinator Jimbo Fisher said.
The Seminoles' two quarterbacks, Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson, both redshirt sophomores, rank first and second in the ACC in pass efficiency. However improved their play has been over the Drew Weatherford/Xavier Lee years, it hasn't gone without its hiccups.
The "bad" Ponder has often made the wrong read and thrown to the wrong receiver. The "bad" Richardson has fumbled numerous snaps but managed to turn a negative into a positive with his superior athletic prowess.
The "good" Ponder has six TDs in his first two starts. Those numbers are equal to Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward's first two starts.
Nevertheless, I’ll take their hiccups over the 51 touchdowns and 53 interceptions we got from “WeatherLee”.
The resurgence of the Seminoles offense is further exemplified by the fact that they have already produced five plays of 40 or more yards. A year ago, they had only four such plays all season. Two years ago, they had only two.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a marked improvement from the offensive line. The depth chart at this position could resemble a daycare because of its youth. The line is anchored by sophomores Ryan McMahon (a converted D-lineman) and Rodney Hudson. They were both freshman All-America in 2007.
The other three starters are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. The lone senior is Joe Tonga, who just transferred to FSU before the season started. Otherwise, the two deep consists of two sophomores and six freshmen.
A whole lot of commentary isn’t needed on this side of the ball. As any astute football fan knows, a weak offense makes even a stellar defense all of a sudden become mediocre. Of course, that’s not to say this side of the ball isn’t without its issues.
Defensive Coordinator Mickey Andrews loves to play what I called the Oakland Raiders defense. For those fans old enough to remember, the Raiders defense was simply horrifying to opponents.
Their corners—Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes—were in-your-face, man-to-man defenders. They maimed and mauled receivers and funneled them to the middle, where menacing safety Jack Tatum made their visits very unpleasant. This was all made possible by an unblockable and relentless front seven.
That was FSU during that remarkable & unmatched run in '90s. This was FSU in 2000-2001. Since then, and while the 'Noles' defense has been very good, it hasn’t reached the level that made FSU the college football team of the decade.
Lack of elite talent at the defensive positions contributed mightily to this decline. At the same time though, the linebacker position became the strength of the defense.
The two most-recent recruiting classes have addressed the defensive-end position. Junior college All–America transfer Markus White, along with returning starter Everrette Brown, are being mentioned as the second coming of Peter Boulware & Reinard Wilson.
The interior of the line is anchored by strong man Paul Griffin and madman Budd Thacker. That is, once they get back from suspension.
Again, youth is well served on defense. The three-deep depth chart lists only eight seniors. Of those eight, only four are starters and/or significant contributors.
Excitement reigns about the 'Noles’ future. The shaking up of the coaching staff has brought back a bounce in the steps of 'Noles fans around the country.
The attitude of the players, as well as coaches for the first two games of this year is a 200 percent turn around from the years 2001-2007. Credit for that goes to coaches Jimbo Fisher, Dexter Carter, Lawrence Dawsey, James Coley, Todd Stroud, and Terrell Buckley.
They are a group of young coaches who understand and can relate to today’s athletes. Young coaches who have the energy to hit the recruiting trail and set the kids up for final visit from the granddaddy of them all, Bobby Bowden.
Young coaches who played in the NFL in the not too distant past. Young coaches who have credibility when they say, “Son, I’ve been there.” Young coaches who have returned back to Tallahassee to coach under the man many called “dad” during and after their college days at FSU.
Yes, FSU is 2-0 after playing against Western Carolina and UT-Chattanooga. But it’s the way they won those games that excites the 'Nole Nation. They flat-out dominated like the 'Noles of the '90s. They emptied the bench and played everybody (including walk-ons) like the Noles of the '90s.
A message from the players to the rest of the teams on this year’s schedule. You’d better get us this year, because we'll be all grown up and experienced come next year...And for many years to come.