TB Leon Washington (PHOTO CREDIT - FSU Sports Information)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Bobby Bowden
278-70-4, 29 years
2004 Record: 9-3
at Miami FL LOST 10-16
UAB WON 34-7
at Syracuse WON 17-13
at Wake Forest WON 20-17
at Maryland LOST 17-20
at NC State WON 17-10
vs. West Virginia WON 30-18

2004 Final Rankings
AP-15, Coaches-14, BCS-16

2005 Outlook

Florida State possessed more seniors on their 2004 starting lineup than any other top 25 team. As happens, they will now return the least. How far has the dynasty fallen? Since 2001, their average AP ranking in the final poll has been No. 16. Given these facts, it is illogical to consider Florida State as a preseason top 10 based on such recent past performance. Ironically, Bobby Bowden has not struggled raking in the usual array of high school talent.

However, the problems surrounding this team recently still remain. The QB (inconsistency) issue has not been settled; the offensive line is still one big question mark; and most importantly, the people/coaches calling the offensive plays are still calling the plays. Can FSU ever again put together the total package of offensive and defensive potentials being met? Will FSU ever show an improvement, rather than slip more and more, as the season develops?

Expect the defense to again carry the team, keeping FSU close (14.1 points per tilt) in most games. NationalChamps.net is hedging that, barring injuries, Wyatt Sexton will line up as the starting QB next Labor Day when the Noles face off against nemesis Miami in the opener. The Bowden's are loyal to coaches and players alike, and Sexton will maintain the best grasp of this system regardless of how far he falls short in terms of physical comparisons to the freshman competing for the spot. But personnel won't be the main problem - it will be just how that personnel is utilized.

A trip to Bean Town to face ACC-newcomer and budding program Boston College highlights the only major difference from 2004's slate. Luckily, FSU benefits from being in the weaker side of the new conference split (Atlantic) and will be the overwhelming favorite to make it to Jacksonville on December 3 for the first ever ACC title game. BC will push the Noles, and facing them in week three is a mixed blessing (better to see them up there in September than in November). A 2004 final ranking of No. 15 with only a handful of starters back puts FSU in a rare position of starting lower in the preseason rankings while being forced to work their way up as opposed to down…an unfamiliar scenario in Tallahassee. The Noles could be BCS bound for 2005, but any annual talk of a National Championship run has been cut thin.

Projected 2005 record: 8-3
QB - 3.5 DL - 4
RB - 5 LB - 5
WR - 3 DB - 3.5
OL - 2 ..

Passing: Wyatt Sexton, 252-139-8, 1661 yds., 8 TD

Rushing: Leon Washington, 138 att., 951 yds., 7 TD

Receiving: Lorenzo Booker, 24 rec., 160 yds., 0 TD

Scoring: Leon Washington, 7 TD, 42 pts.

Punting: Chris Hall, 67 punts, 42.1 avg.

Kicking: Gary Cismesia, 7-9 FG, 4-4 PAT, 25 pts.

Tackles: A.J. Nicholson, 88 tot., 39 solo

Sacks: Ernie Sims, 4.5 sacks

Interceptions: Antonio Cromartie, 4 for 40 yds., 1 TD; Pat Watkins, 4 for 63 yds., 0 TD

Kickoff Returns: Antonio Cromartie, 19 ret., 22.9 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Willie Reid, 38 ret., 13.7 avg., 0 TD


DB Antonio Cromartie (PHOTO CREDIT - FSU Sports Information)
OFFENSE: Chris Rix-QB, Chauncey Stovall-WR, Craphonso Thorpe-WR, Dominic Robinson-WR, Paul Irons-TE, Alex Barron-OT, Bobby Meeks-OG, Ray Willis-OT, Xavier Beitia-K, Wyatt Sexton-QB (medical), Lorne Sam-WR (transferred)
DEFENSE: Chauncey Davis-DE, Travis Johnson-DT, Charles Howard-DT, Eric Moore-DE, Ray Piquion-SLB, Bryant McFadden-CB, Leroy Smith-CB, Jerome Carter-ROV, Claudius Osei-ROV, B.J. Ward-FS, Clifton Dickson-DT (academics), Antonio Cromartie-CB (injured)

Although Wyatt Sexton (son of current RB Coach Billy Sexton) handled most of the starting duties (seven starts in '04 while alternating with Rix), the QB job is wide open. The other portion of this three-man battle includes two-redshirt freshman in Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee. Hailing from Daytona Beach, Lee was considered by many to be the nation's No. 1 rated dual-threat QB out of high school. A 2003 Mr. Florida Football, Lee holds Florida's all-time record for passing yards (9,082), completions (549) and TDs (98). His 4.5-forty speed gives FSU another dimension far exceeding the slower Sexton. Weatherford is another in-state recruit that offers similar attributes. Although he does not possess the arm strength or speed of Lee, he did get a few snaps last fall before an ankle injury ended his potential progress. Sexton is the top QB heading into spring and his only hope of holding off the youngsters rests in building on his experience.

Running Back
"The Washington & Booker Show" highlights this offense. Leon Washington (Mr. Florida Football 2001), a serious senior contender for all-American honors, has the right size-speed package when healthy. Washington is the best returning RB specimen in the ACC. Junior Lorenzo Booker is the opposite of Leon - smaller, but also shiftier, and with a better pair of hands (FSU's leading returning receiver). They will once again split time at TB, which makes getting a 1000-yard rusher difficult in this system. The fullback sees the field often, but carries the ball very little. FSU is blessed with two quality FBs that block as well as any.

With the state of Florida being a hot bed for skill-position athletes and FSU being known for cleaning house in this area, believe it or not, this is the first real year since the mid-80s that FSU does not possess a bevy of experienced stars. Clearly, someone new will have to emerge from the pack of unheralded youngsters. Our choice is junior Chris Davis, who was named the best all-around prep athlete in the nation by Parade Magazine in 2001 before a knee injury sidelined him in his first season. He has already emerged as the leader from spring conditioning drills. Willie Reid is a versatile player who will switch from RB to the slot when needed. Lorne Sam, brother of former-Nole P.K. Sam, and incoming recruit Fred Rouse (nation's No.2-rated WR by Rivals.com) will end up seeing a good deal of playing time.

Offensive Line
The 2004 front line, given all of the senior stars dotting the front wall, failed miserably. Many of those all-Conference type players are no longer with the program and the task of improving this weak link will have to be accomplished with inexperience across the board. A new OL coach has even been assigned - Mark McHale, who most recently served as the offensive coordinator and OL coach at Marshall, provides a much-needed shakeup to Bowden's staff. A bonus can be taken from the fact that center David Castillo has been granted a sixth year of eligibility after battling through multiple injuries over the course of his tough career. Although injuries did affect their lack of success, another such case would be devastating. The depth at this position is bolstered by freshman and sophomores will little to no playing experience.

Tight Ends assume blocking duties as their main purpose in this system. This philosophy is arcane considering FSU has thrown the ball 48% of the time the last two seasons.

Given their potential, it is beyond our comprehension just how poor this side of the ball performed. The coaching seat is getting hotter by the minute for offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. The base set is the I-formation, with a FB and TE for blocking only. Yet they managed 15 rushing attempts versus 48 passing attempts under this scenario versus the Gators all while using play-action on obvious passing downs. Accordingly, it is no wonder the Noles only converted 42 of 177 third-down conversions (dead last in the NCAA!). The hope in January was that more assistant coaching changes would be in store, which never materialized. This side of the ball has question marks at every position other than at RB. When combined with coaching ineptness, on paper, 2005 is shaping up to become the worst offensive production FSU has witnessed in Bobby Bowden's 29-years at FSU. Only an emergence of a star QB will likely save this scenario from happening.


WR Willie Reid (PHOTO CREDIT - FSU Sports Information)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Xavier Lee-Fr (6-4, 230) Drew Weatherford-Fr (6-3, 205)
FB B.J. Dean-Sr (5-11, 253) James Coleman-Sr (6-0, 240)
TB Leon Washington-Sr (5-9, 199) Lorenzo Booker-Jr (5-11, 195)
WR Willie Reid-Sr (5-10, 189) DeCody Fagg-So (6-3, 185)
Kenny O'Neal-Fr (6-1, 195)
WR Chris Davis-Jr (6-0, 180) Greg Carr-So (6-6, 195)
TE Donnie Carter-Sr (6-4, 254) Matt Henshaw-Sr (6-4, 218)
OT Mario Henderson-Jr (6-7, 330) Ron Lunford-Sr (6-5, 340)
OG John Frady-Jr (6-4, 280) Cory Niblock-Jr (6-4, 296)
C David Castillo-Sr (6-2, 301) Dumaka Atkins-So (6-4, 280)
OG Matt Meinrod-Sr (6-4, 300) Jacky Claude-Fr (6-4, 290)
OT David Overmyer-So (6-5, 284) Geoff Berniard-Fr (6-8, 320)
K Gary Cismesia-So (5-11, 209) Chase Goggans-So (5-9, 160)



Defensive Line
The DL is no exception to needs - only one starter returns in Broderick Bunkley. Shoes such as future NFL type Travis Johnson won't be necessarily simple to fill, but do not discount the replacements. Defensive ends once had a feared reputation in this 4-3 scheme, but a lack of pressure has become a marginal problem since the end of the so-called dynasty days. Even though the departed Moore and Davis were the listed DE starters and got the majority of the snaps last season, they combined for only 7.5 of FSU's 39 sacks. A name carrying expectations is (former H.S. Parade all-American from Kansas) Kamerion Wimbley, who has shown ability in spurts. DT Aaron Jones was set to receive quality-playing time as a true freshman last fall before a torn knee ended his campaign. Achieving what they did (nation's third-rated run defense, allowed 2.39yrds per carry and five rushing TDs) won't happen, but holding their own and disrupting will.

This will be the bread-and-butter of the entire team. One need only dissect this unit to discover why FSU is still impossible to run against. All three starters return - combined with some heavy hitters as backups - and everybody appears to be in full health. Ernie Sims, A.J. Nicholson and Buster Davis were each all-Americans in high school and a great chance exists the may all be pushing for the same collegiate honors. The trio accounted for 234 tackles last season and represented three of the top four tacklers. And with eight four-star recruits dotting the past two classes and awaiting playing time, there will be trouble only in getting each his on-field due. . LB Coach Kevin Steele has been a huge pillar in getting this team back. Even he claims to never have been around a group such as this.

Defensive Back
A trio of lost starters leaves FSU with names looking for their first time in the spotlight, though each has logged significant game-time snaps. CB Antonio Cromartie, while splitting time, was actually named first-team all-ACC. The rover position, a major concern, is up for grabs. Kyler Hall was given an extra year of eligibility, but has been constantly overmatched. Due to a lack of player numbers, he becomes an integral part of this secondary by default. Another bankable asset is FS Pat Watkins, who considered a jump to the NFL. As long as Watkins and Cromartie remain healthy, this unit is likely to remain a plus. The huge problem…depth will come from a bevy of freshman and sophomores. A visit by the injury bug would be devastating.

Most felt it would be the defense requiring extra time to adjust last fall. The opposite happened, and the confidence amongst these defenders became the battle cry for the team. With the offense struggling miserably, the defense kept FSU alive in every single contest. As with most FSU teams of the past, new names do not equal a reloading delay. The mindset has changed compared to the pressure bump-and-run coverages the Noles became accustomed to during the 1990's. They'll show more zone coverages and a more conservative pass rush as opposed to an all out race to the QB with man-to-man. FSU had issues collapsing down the stretch of a few games while giving up big plays at the worst junctures. Other than these facets, this is a solid group…one good enough to give FSU a chance to win every ballgame once again.


LB Ernie Sims (PHOTO CREDIT - FSU Sports Information)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Darrell Burston-Jr (6-2, 235) Willie Jones-Sr (6-1, 242)
Alex Boston-So (6-4, 250)
NT Brodrick Bunkley-Sr (6-3, 295) Aaron Jones-Fr (6-3, 285)
DT Andre Fluellen-So (6-4, 273) Emmanuel Dunbar-So (6-5, 265)
DE Kamerion Wimbley-Sr (6-4, 232) D.J. Norris-So (6-3, 240)
SLB Ernie Sims-Jr (6-0, 225) Lawrence Timmons-So (6-3, 225)
MLB Buster Davis-Jr (5-11, 232) Sam McGrew-Sr (6-3, 239)
WLB A.J. Nicholson-Sr (6-2, 234) Marcello Church-Sr (6-1, 228)
CB Gerard Ross-Sr (6-2, 197) Tony Carter-Fr (5-9, 175)
CB J.R. Bryant-Fr (6-1, 170) Trevor Ford-Fr (6-1, 187)
ROV Kyler Hall-Sr (6-0, 190) Anthony Houllis-Jr (6-0, 204)
Darius McClure-Fr (5-11, 188)
FS Pat Watkins-Sr (6-4, 210) Roger Williams-So (6-1, 191)
P Chris Hall-Sr (5-10, 215) ..




Four-year starter Xavier Beitia's inconsistencies made way for Gary "The Weed" Cismesia to take the position eight games in. It's his job now and his big leg (3-of-3 from 40+) shows why. And then he played Miami…KO coverage was poor for such a stacked defensive team, so improvement here will be seen.

Senior Chris Hall, a former walk-on, demonstrates worthy leg strength. He has to work on his hang time, though the net results will again be strong here, regardless.

Return Game
With the athletes coming out of the Sunshine State, one would think FSU could find some "Peter Warrick"-type game breakers. Senior Willie Reid fits the PR mold - he has consistently been capable of giving FSU great field position when needed. Antonio Cromartie and his athleticism give "not as dazzling" of an option with KOs. The bottom line is that none of the present return men were able to go the distance with one touch. Opponents managed three scores…a 0:3 ratio not easily dismissed.