LB Derek Nicholson

2007 Statistics

Coach: Bobby Bowden
300-87-4, 32 years
2007 Record: 7-6
at Clemson LOST 18-24
UAB WON 34-24
at Colorado WON 16-6
vs. Alabama WON 21-14
at Wake Forest LOST 21-24
at Boston College WON 27-17
at Virginia Tech LOST 21-40
at Florida LOST 12-45
Kentucky LOST 28-35

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

If you are an avid Florida State fan reading this outlook, you may want to divert your eyes. We just don't see anything on the field offensively that is going to be better than what was displayed last year, or the year before that, and so on. The nation has seen what Drew Weatherford is capable of after three years. On his best days he looks competent enough to lead this team to a conference championship. His inconsistency on other days - usually due to a marginal (at best) OL - leaves one wondering why the QB plight in football hot spot Tallahassee never improves. Can he lead this team, or is it time to make a change with another guy, who is now Christian Ponder? The debate rambles on with no real answer for better results. The process/situation of procuring QB talent seems to get more confusing every year, and not just with the fans. Players, too, seem to be of mixed opinions as to which possible hurler is best. This continued pattern has proven not a winning formula.

Second year offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is now the heir apparent to head coach Bobby Bowden. Fisher's new contract says so much in hopes of keeping him around to call the plays long enough until Bobby retires. In his first season, no one expected miracles, but the many aspects that have kept FSU "shooting way under par" continued to exist...missed assignments, at times not knowing what to do, burning needless time outs due to confusion of the basics, turnovers, dropped passes, penalties...and the list goes on. Starting QB Ponder admitted as much by saying there are still times when everyone in the huddle is not on the same page, and players do not always know the assignments.

Other schools that regularly attract only two- and three-star recruits have seemingly flown by FSU in the same way Bobby led his Noles past many of the big boys upon their rise in the 70s and 80s. When other teams and coaches were trying to duplicate what made FSU successful, he was the innovator. Now he is not calling the plays and schemes, at least not like he used to from an offensive standpoint. His chosen assistants are now solely left to keep up with the changes in today’s offensive strategies, and they have not gotten it done. Mickey Andrews called the defenses then (the dynasty years) and he calls them now. Although the defense may not be as dominating as it once was, the defense is not the main problem, even when on the field way too much. The use of the TE is a great indicator of how Bowden is no longer changing with the game. He has never utilized the TE as a weapon in the passing attack, despite the fact that TE use has completely evolved. It’s hard to say that Bowden is the problem since he is so “hands-off” when designing the X’s and more important the O’s, or maybe that is precisely the trouble. But since this system has failed miserably offensively, he now gets caught being tabbed a bad administrator as opposed to a bad coach. Which means more than he may realize.

The biggest news for FSU entering the new season will be the three game suspensions of players that were involved in the infamous academic cheating scandal that rocked the entire school's/team's entry into the Music City Bowl. The bulk of these suspensions will be on the defensive side, and depth will be extremely crucial here early. FSU will open their season with back-to-back games against FCS opponents Western Carolina and UT-Chattanooga…kudos to the schedule makers in this regard. The toughest games are at home (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Boston College and Florida). No games are “gimme’s” anymore outside the first two.

In defense of the program, this team is still making bowls - 26 straight - which cannot annually be said for former powerhouses Miami, Nebraska and Penn State. The bottom line is that FSU in 2008 is likely to find another December bowl game as their modest destination. However, like usual on paper, there is enough talent here (as recruiting rankings have indicated) that FSU can contend for an ACC Atlantic crown and thus a bid at a BCS bowl. What it will take to make such a statement more than just preseason talk is a complete turnaround by the OL, getting a QB that can handle the offense when it struggles, and cutting back on an ungodly amount of mental mistakes by the players and coaches. Don't count on a complete turnaround as recent history has shown, but maybe enough to keep Bowden ahead of Paterno in coaching wins (BB has 373 and JoePa is just one behind), a consolation that won't carry much weight for those concerned with the programs direction for the years to come.

Projected 2008 record: 8-4
QB - 3.5 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 4
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 2.5 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Drew Weatherford, 181-318-3, 2049 yds., 9 TD

Rushing: Antone Smith, 192 att., 819 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Preston Parker, 62 rec., 791 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Preston Parker, 5 TD, 30 pts.

Punting: Graham Gano, 59 punts, 43.4 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Derek Nicholson, 99 tot., 46 solo

Sacks: Everette Brown, 6.5 sacks

Interceptions: Patrick Robinson, 6 for 87 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Michael Ray Garvin, 35 ret., 19.9 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Preston Parker, 31 ret., 10.6 avg., 0 TD


WR Preston Parker
OFFENSE: De'Cody Fagg-WR, Jacky Claude-OG, Shannon Boatman-OT, David Overmyer-OT, Gary Cismesia-K, Xavier Lee-QB (NFL), Daron Rose-OT (academics)
DEFENSE: Andre Fluellen-DT, Alex Boston-DE, Roger Williams-FS, Letroy Guion-DT (NFL), Geno Hayes-LB (NFL), Marcus Ball-WLB (dismissed)

The race for starting QB duties just got muddled...again. The job is likely going to be fifth-year senior Drew Weatherford's, who has started 33 games in his career. But others have also thrown their names into the hat since Weatherford received a slight tear in his right knee during spring practice. He should be ready to go for August after surgery. With Weatherford sitting out most of spring, Ponder has made a case with good decisions and toughness in the pocket (barring the spring game). The best athlete of the QB group (scrambling ability) is D'Vontrey Richardson. Because of his ability to make plays with his legs, he will get some looks in August with the first group, but Richardson seems to be more of a situational QB when the need's for speed. Coming in this fall will be highly regarded Virginia Beach recruit E.J. Manuel ( No. 2 rated dual-threat QB). Manuel is hoped to be the future of the program, but for 2008 he is likely going to be watching and learning from the sidelines. Weatherford is not a QB that can handle, on a consistent basis, the fact that this offense has to be one-dimensional since the running game has disappeared and the OL isn’t giving him the time. Weatherford is not a scrambling-and-throwing guy while being harassed, not many are. The lack of production with Drew at the helm is not going to change dramatically without some blocking. Ponder is also a dropback type passer in style and not experienced enough to take over yet and change what has been killing this offense. If the run game is gone, a QB with better feet is probably the best choice, and neither Drew nor Ponder is physically that type of scrambler.

The horror that has become Florida State's offensive freefall can be directly attributed to their inability to run the football. Since 2005, FSU has finished ranked 109th, 103rd and 91st nationally in rushing offense, respectively. Running with the football is the most basic gridiron concept, and yet this dimension has totally been lost in Seminole Country, even though the names in the backfield have been a list of top rated five-star prep talent. Some of the blame surely goes to an inept OL, but some also has to be handed out to the guys carrying the ball. Case in senior Antone Smith (rated the No. 1 overall running back recruit in the country by SuperPrep) has looked slow at times. Even more important is that arm tackles bring him to the ground. With the off-season transfers of Russell Ball and Jamaal Edwards, Smith is the only full-scholarship TB on the roster. The search for depth won't be put to the test until JUCO-transfer Tavares Pressley arrives on campus this summer. Pressley (215 pounds) is a big back and may be the most important recruit FSU has ever had based on need. The fullback spot is actually in good hands with three guys likely to see action in this offense, one where FBs fill nothing more than a blocking role. Expect some minor improvement with Smith now being a senior, but not enough to change the rushing woes that keep opponents from respecting the run. If Smith gets nicked and Pressley doesn’t catch on pretty quickly, this area has the potential to be disastrous. And coordinator Jimbo Fishers hands are still tied.

Junior Preston Parker is the closest thing to being a game breaker, leading the team with 1513 all-purpose yards and 62 receptions a year ago. He was also second on the team in receiving yards, second on the team in rushes and rushing yards as well as the team's leading punt returner. Maybe the worst thing that could happen to this team would be the loss of Parker, and that is just what happened as Parker’s status with the team now becomes an issue since his felony arrest in April. Transfers and dismissals have ruined this unit. The big disappointment has been the progression (or lack thereof) of 6'6 Greg Carr. He was an All-ACC selection his freshman year and seems to be the perfect fit for an offense that predominately uses the deep "jump ball" pass as part of its main arsenal. However, Carr has become nothing more than that, and through this spring he has shown nothing in terms of an ability to finally step up and become a guy that can be counted on as a possession type. The next biggest contributer is likely going to come from two-sport star Taiwan Easterling (also plays baseball), another frosh in Bert Reed or speedy 6-5 JUCO transfer Corey "The Smurf" Surrency, who was also roommates with fellow RB transfer Tavares Pressley at El Camino C.C.
in California. At TE, hopes started to grow that this offense may finally have a guy who can be more than a blocker in 6'7 Caz Piurowski. Caz moved from OT back to his original position in 2007 while earning six starts. Last year's co-starter, Charlie Graham, is off at junior college working on academics, and Caz is out on suspension for three more games. This leaves the door open for other players that have yet to show they can contribute. The tight end is still going to be an area that doesn’t make-or-break this team due to their historical lack of use in the passing scheme.

WR Preston Parker was arrested in April for felony possession of a firearm and marijuana at his home in the Miami area. His status with the team was left up in the air. Parker has since resolved his legal issues through a plea agreement and will now be suspended the first two games of 2008 as part of his punishment handed down by the university. TE Charlie Graham has started 13 games the past two seasons but fell behind in the classroom, which forced him to enroll at nearby Tallahassee Community College. After a JUCO semester, Graham appears to be on pace academically to return to the FSU team this summer.

When looking for the reasons this offense has lost its effectiveness over the course of the new millennium, look no further than the guys up front. FSU has continued to ignore the plight of (top) recruiting on the OL, and results speak for themselves. Missed assignments, the inability to open holes and protect the QB have all been a part of the formula. To fix the problem, FSU lured line coach Rick Trickett from WVU last year in hopes that his “Marine-like” mentality (stress on discipline) would change things. Now in his second year, after radical changes to the lineup in 2007, Trickett finds himself short in the depth and experience department. With only seven scholarship linemen available this spring (ouch!), the challenge to find players sticking at one position has proved difficult. The best of the bunch is Freshman All-American Rodney Hudson, the only returning FSU player to dot the 2007 All-ACC team. He has now been shifted to left tackle, but coaches are thankful that they are capable of playing him in any position up front. He and another Freshman All-American, Ryan McMahon, are the only secure starters for now, hence reflecting Trickett's new philosophy of building the OL from the ground up. This OL will show some signs of being better...not sure it could get much worse, as the process of rebuilding at this level is considered a long term adventure. Ergo, immediate results are not going to be seen in 2008, but it can be sufficient enough to make this offense better, yet not good enough to make winning a given.

The news keeps getting worse for the Seminole OL. Starting OT Daron Rose has been declared academically ineligible for the 2008 season. Depth is already a major problem and the loss of Rose now means coaches will be scrambling to find first year freshmen capable of earning immediate playing time. In fact, this OL unit now does not contain one single player on the two-deep depth chart listed higher than a sophomore. Antwane Greenlee will now take over at right tackle. The former four-star recruit was listed as the third-best prep prospect in Georgia at any position. He redshirted in 2007 after suffering a cervical sprain in his neck during practice. The health of the entire OL and in particular at this tackle spot will be extremely crucial. Evan Bellamy has been diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg and will also miss the entire season.


QB Drew Weatherford


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Drew Weatherford-Sr (6-3, 216) Christian Ponder-So (6-2, 212)
FB Seddrick Holloway-Jr (5-10, 247) Marcus Sims-So (6-0, 230)
TB Antone Smith-Sr (5-9, 190) Tavares Pressley-Jr (6-1, 215)
Preston Parker-Jr (6-0, 190)
WR Greg Carr-Sr (6-6, 210) Richard Goodman-Sr (6-0, 186)
Rod Owens-Jr (6-0, 181)
WR Preston Parker-Jr (6-0, 190) (susp.) Bert Reed-Fr (5-11, 165)
Taiwan Easterling-Fr (5-11, 192)
TE Caz Piurowski-Jr (6-7, 277) Bo Reliford-Fr (6-6, 235)
Jabaris Little-Fr (6-4, 240)
OT Zebrie Sanders-Fr (6-5, 273) Josh Tate-Fr (6-5, 310)
OG Rodney Hudson-So (6-2, 283) David Spurlock-Fr (6-4, 280)
C Ryan McMahon-So (6-3, 274) A.J. Ganguzza-Fr (6-3, 269)
OG Will Furlong-Fr (6-5, 262) Brandon Davis-Jr (6-2, 273)
OT Antwane Greenlee-Fr (6-6, 302) Andrew Datko-Fr (6-5, 285)
K Graham Gano-Sr (6-1, 197) Zach Hobby-Jr (5-11, 200)



Due to the suspensions of Budd Thacker, Paul Griffin and Justin Mincey, plus the early departure of Letroy Guion to the NFL, the DL is extremely thin to open the new season. By the fourth game, when the suspensions are over and the newer faces have had time to learn the ropes against some easier opponents, this group should be better overall for the process. In the meantime Kendrick Stewart and Emmanuel Dunbar may be the only returning scholarship tackles available, and Stewart sat out the spring recovering from a shoulder surgery. To help with depth, senior Dumaka Atkins has moved over from the OL. Now is the time for Paul Griffin to step up. The former Butler C.C. (Kansas) transfer completely dominated before he tore his knee in 2006. He should be 100% healthy and could be the difference maker this defense needs, but he has yet to again show it (through the spring). Another positive is that sack leader Everette Brown is fully healthy and expected to provide a pass-rushing weapon. Joining him at DE is the return of Kevin McNeil, who sat out all of last season due to suspension, after he was beginning to make a case for full-time duties. Look for incoming JUCO recruit Markus White to push for that assignment on the other side, too. As stated, this group is going to get better as the season progresses and as more bodies become available. Depth at that point will be plentiful enough to provide that large rotation that has devastated opponents in the past. The pass rushing has to improve, which is likely to occur with quicker wheels that will play both on the outside and inside.

The good news...leading tackler and third-year contributing senior Derek Nicholson will hold down the middle. The bad news...again, suspensions, this time Marcus Ball and Dekoda Watson aren't available to start, ostensibly creating more early concerns. When all three are available, the FSU linebacking tradition will continue to be a big positive. Dekoda Watson has really stepped up, shown in the fact that he was named the Spring Defensive MVP. But all eyes thus far have been on Nigel Bradham, an early enrollee who was ranked the No. 1 linebacker in the country. Bradham will be impossible to keep off the field despite the learning curve he will have to go through. This group, when stocked with the team's best candidates, is capable of running sideline-to-sideline while taking on bigger offensive linemen. In fact, the corps boasts the best set of talent(s) on either side of the ball. At times, they tend to play like many hungry, superior athletes and they are overly aggressive, which has not helped in pass coverage support. Watson is the only guy on the LB roster to record an interception in ’07. Expect this group to make plays and keep the FSU defense in a position to be one of the ACC’s best, especially at stuffing the run, which will, in turn, keep State in many games when the offense sputters.

Projected starting LB Marcus Ball has been released from scholarship. The better news is the return of Toddrick Verdell, who had to watch spring ball from the sidelines due to an academic snag. Verdell suffered a broken foot at the close of ’07 but is now healthy and cleared academically to return this summer and step into the starting lineup replacing Ball.

Most of the secondary positions seem to have been solidified by veterans with the exception of free safety. Fifth-year senior Darius McClure made some great strides this spring at the spot while being called out for his achievements by Bobby Bowden. McClure will be pushed by former CB Jamie Robinson. The heralded Myron Rolle will continue to man the strong safety position. His promise out of high school (No. 1 ranked player nationally at any position by ESPN) has been somewhat met at the collegiate level in his first two years, but he has a great deal of room to go before being named the All-American he was expected to be. Two-year starter Tony Carter is back at corner, and Michael Ray Garvin continues to miss much of spring while running track. Many feel Carter has the potential to be a lock-down corner, but such has not occurred yet. Throw in interception leader Patrick Robinson and the CB spot on paper looks to be as good as FSU has had in a while. But the reality is that the secondary completely underachieved last year. In the most crucial situations, this secondary has not been able to shut down opponents when desperately needed. For this defense to cross the line between being an average unit and one that handles its business in classic FSU style falls on longtime coach Mickey Andrews' shoulders. Knowing Mickey and the experience factor, this group will be much improved in terms of giving up the big plays on crucial downs. The main barometer for seeing this will be whether the fourth quarter scoring - which was a combined 103 points, 25 more than the next highest quarter for scoring allowed - is stemmed.


DB Myron Rolle


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Neefy Moffett-Sr (6-1, 255) Kevin McNeil-Jr (6-2, 255)
DT Budd Thacker-Jr (6-2, 282) Justin Mincey-Jr (6-5, 265)
NG Paul Griffin-Sr (6-2, 278) Kendrick Stewart-Jr (6-2, 269)
DE Everette Brown-Jr (6-4, 246) Benjamin Lampkin-Sr (6-0, 212)
SLB Dekoda Watson-Jr (6-2, 222) Kendall Smith-So (6-1, 224)
MLB Derek Nicholson-Sr (6-2, 234) Recardo Wright-Jr (6-2, 223)
WLB Toddrick Verdell-Jr (6-3, 222) Nigel Bradham-Fr (6-2, 227)
CB Tony Carter-Sr (5-9, 166) Ochuko Jenije-So (5-10, 185)
CB Michael Ray Garvin-Sr (5-8, 183) Patrick Robinson-Jr (5-11, 189)
ROV Myron Rolle-Jr (6-2, 218) Roosevelt Lawson-Sr (5-11, 202)
FS Jamie Robinson-Jr (6-2, 187) Darius McClure-Sr (5-11, 201)
P Graham Gano-Sr (6-1, 197) Shawn Powell-Fr (6-5, 212)




Graham Gano is the top returning punter in the ACC after earning Honorable Mention in 2007. The question now becomes whether he takes over the kicking duties of departed four-year starter Gary Cismesia as well? He appears to have the leg (handled all of the kickoff duties the past three seasons). As a high school senior, he was a USA Today All-American and kicked a state record 65-yard field goal with two more over 55 yards. But, as Bobby Bowden has painfully found out during his Tallahassee coaching career, getting more accuracy will be the big key with Gano. With all of the highly rated (skill) talent that pours out of the Sunshine State, none has made a recent mark returning kicks and punts here. In fact, FSU has not returned a kickoff for a TD since 2002. And in the past two seasons, the Noles have failed to return a punt for the same. Michael Ray Garvin enters his third nod as the KO return man. If there is an electrifying player capable of taking a return in for six, Preston Parker is it (if available). The good news is that FSU has also not given up a special teams TD the past three seasons.