Chris Rix is FSU's No. 1 QB for now, but faces a lot of work to repair relationships.
By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003
NEW ORLEANS -- If the Florida State Seminoles are to rejoin the national elite after consecutive subpar seasons, much will hinge on quarterback Chris Rix.
Even though Rix served a one-game suspension for missing a final exam and was home in California during Wednesday's 26-13 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, coach Bobby Bowden has him at the top of the depth chart.
"Right now, it looks like Chris is No. 1," Bowden said Thursday. "If we would have won that ballgame, I would have had to put Fabian (Walker) No. 1 and said, "Chris. You have to come back and try to take the job from him because he's the quarterback.' "
But Walker, starting because Rix and Adrian McPherson were gone, committed predictable mistakes. He turned the ball over three times and the Bulldogs turned those errors into 10 points, including a 71-yard interception return.
"I think he stayed calm through the whole thing; I didn't see him panicking," Bowden said. "I think he might need a little scope on his (right, throwing) shoulder to get something cleaned out of there. He doesn't throw as well as he did before, although it's not bad when you give him time."
Walker finished 7 of 12 for 69 yards before leaving with a bruised right knee.
"I learned a lot in last night's ballgame," he said. "I'm really looking forward to the spring."
Bowden said the spring promises to be competitive at quarterback with promising freshman Wyatt Sexton getting his chance, too. (Anquan Boldin, who relieved Walker and threw a touchdown and had another one dropped, will remain at receiver.) Still, with 21 career starts, Rix figures to be difficult to unseat.
"Next year is the year he's supposed to have been starting, not last year, not this year," Bowden said. "You don't (usually) start for us until you're a redshirt junior. He's got two years under his belt, so that's a plus."
Rix might not have to win the starting job back, but he will have to win his teammates back.
The third-year sophomore alienated many teammates from the outset by coming off as arrogant and aloof. He also skipped early morning workouts, which didn't endear him to others.
He appeared to be making inroads until FSU, coming off its first four-loss season since 1986, began to lose this season. His three-turnover performance in a 34-24 home loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 26 ignited a postgame tirade from senior defensive end Alonzo Jackson, who publicly called for Rix's benching. Others, including many seniors, agreed.
Bowden already had decided to try McPherson, who started the next four games. But Bowden dismissed him from the team on Nov. 25 for his part in the theft, forgery and cashing of a $3,500 check. A more humble Rix regained the job and led FSU to a convincing 31-14 win against Florida.
"We never got our quarterback stable until the last game against Florida and then we lose him," Bowden said.
Drained by concern for his ailing father, Rix overslept and missed a final. Rix returned home to California the next week and had to take his father to the hospital. His teammates empathized with his personal problems but see it as irresponsible.
"He let us down," junior linebacker Michael Boulware said. "He lost a lot of ground. He'll have to start from zero. He'll have to be the first one there and the last one to leave. He'll have to do the little things right and slowly but surely, with time, he'll get his respect back. But at first, there's going to be very little there."
Bowden said he and his staff will be more diligent in monitoring Rix, but he knows it ultimately falls on the player to do the right thing and will tell him so.
"Don't miss anything; that's been his problem is missing things," Bowden said. "I know why he misses them, but that's no excuse. You've simply got to be there."