Florida's Channing Crowder headlines a list of 12 semifinalists named Thursday for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.
There are 12 semifinalists instead of the usual 10 because of a 10th-place tie in the selection committee voting.
Also named to the list: Miami's Leon Williams, Virginia's Ahmad Brooks, Southern Mississippi's Michael Boley, Tennessee's Kevin Burnett, Southern California's Matt Grootegoed, UCLA's Spencer Havner, Ohio State's A.J. Hawk, Texas' Derrick Johnson, Oklahoma's Lance Mitchell, San Diego State's Kirk Morrison and Georgia's Odell Thurman.
Three finalists for the award, given by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, will be named Nov.11, with the winner announced Dec.10.
MENTAL BREAKTHROUGH: After giving his team Monday off, coach Ron Zook was faced with playing catchup. With only today's walk-through remaining before the Gators face Middle Tennessee, it appears he has accomplished the task.
"I think (Monday) helped them more mentally than it did anything," Zook said. "This was a good practice (Thursday night). We are caught right back up where we need to be. Sometimes, as a coach, and you loose that day, you think, "Oh, gosh, we're behind.' But it all worked with a few good practices this week."INJURY UPDATE: With Crowder suspended for Saturday's game, freshman Brandon Siler most likely will start. But a more familiar face could see playing time.
Junior Todd McCullough missed most of preseason camp and the first few games because of an ankle injury. But Zook said this week will be different.
"I think Todd can go as much as we need him, and we plan on playing him quite a few (plays)," he said.
Starting defensive tackle Ray McDonald suffered an ankle injury against LSU and has recovered slowly throughout the week.
"He limped but did a little bit (Thursday)," Zook said. "He won't start, but I think he'll be able to play."
TICKETS: A limited number are available for Saturday's game in Gainesville. Kickoff is at noon. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling (352) 375-4683 or (800) 344-2867.
- BRIAN SHAFFER, Times Correspondent
- TIMES WIRESFSU: Injuries hurt D-line
TALLAHASSEE - Junior nose guard Brodrick Bunkley may miss Florida State's game against No.6 Virginia on Saturday.
The former Chamberlain High standout, who started the first four games, suffered a left ankle sprain Oct.2 against North Carolina and missed last weekend's game at Syracuse. Bunkley said he aggravated it during practices.
"I still got two more days to get better, but right now it's not feeling too good," said Bunkley, who has 10 tackles and a sack. "There were a few times in practices Tuesday and Wednesday when I rolled it up a little bit, irritated it, and it has just been going downhill from there.
"The last couple days has kind of made me feel not as sure about it as I was going into the week."
Defensive end Eric Moore (left ankle sprain) also is questionable, leaving the defensive line without two starters in consecutive games. Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley and nose guard Clifton Dickson filled in last weekend.
MORE INJURY NEWS: The Seminoles expect to have receiver Willie Reid and tight end Matt Henshaw available.
Reid (sore hamstring) missed the Syracuse game and several days of practice.
Henshaw will stay in Tallahassee tonight for treatment of his sprained ankle. The team stays in Thomasville, Ga., the night before home games.
FRIENDLY RIVALRY: Virginia guard Elton Brown did not wait long to let FSU tackle Alex Barron know what the Seminoles will face. Brown called Barron shortly after FSU squeaked by Syracuse 17-13.
"He said whatever he had to say about his team and I said it about my team," Barron said.
The two met during an ACC banquet last fall and got reacquainted during a photo shoot for Playboy's preseason All-America team.
- ZACHARY SPAIN, Times CorrespondentUSF: Change at guard
TAMPA - Junior Chris Carothers of Clearwater had started all 25 games of his USF career before he missed the Southern Mississippi game Oct. 2 with an ankle injury. He has recovered enough to play in Saturday's homecoming game against Army, but it appears sophomore John Miller will start at right guard.
Coach Jim Leavitt said Carothers was able to practice, but not with the first team. Leavitt has been reluctant to start players who have not taken repetitions with the starters during the week.
"We may use him, but it just depends on what he does in the next 48 hours," Leavitt said.
TOSSUPS: Several other starting jobs could be game-day decisions, including at strong safety, where Danny Verpaele likely will get his second start. The freshman broke his right hand two weeks ago, and sophomore Drametrice Smith started in the loss to the Golden Eagles.
Senior Bruce Gipson and redshirt freshman Trae Williams, who played at Durant High, are competing at cornerback, and Leavitt said Cedric Battles is being challenged for the nose tackle spot alongside Lee Roy Selmon Jr..
- GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer