TALLAHASSEE - Florida State coach Bobby Bowden jokingly dubbed Fred Rouse the "Extension."
During his four punt returns and then a 54-yard reception against the Citadel last weekend, the speedy freshman too often held the ball in one hand or the other far away from his body, which is as dangerous as it is flamboyant.
He tried to explain that's just how he's comfortable carrying it and finds it unnatural to cradle the ball snugly. The coaches had him run the stadium steps to induce a change and if he gets it, Bowden might come up with a new nickname, "Excitement." Rouse has an almost palpable electric aura to match an effervescent confidence.
"It's just natural, man," he said. "I'm going to bring funk to the field. I told you when I first signed, I'm bringing funk to the field. Once I learn the system, it's going to be real ugly."
In a good way for FSU.
"It's catchy," Bowden said. "He's exciting and he excites people around him. ... It's what you try to get your seniors to do and some of them do it but they do it in a quieter way. But this guy can't hold it back. I think it's good."
With Willie Reid out with a knee injury until at least the Oct.1 game against Syracuse, expect Rouse to get more plays at receiver and, perhaps, as the top punt returner.
"That's Mickey's call," Bowden said referring to assistant Mickey Andrews , "but I'd think that'd be pretty smart."
"I'm here for a reason and that's to make a contribution," Rouse added. "If it's running down and stopping a punt or (being on) punt returns and get a little funky with it, just bringing something to the table to get my team hyped."
HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE: Bowden chastised the fans who booed his offense during a turnover-plagued first half against the Citadel.
"We were going through adversity," he said during a booster luncheon. "That's not when we need booing. We need cheers. ... I don't want to start becoming like others."
BIG TEST: Women's soccer coach Mark Krikorian hasn't had to be in Tallahassee long to realize the importance of Friday's game extends far beyond a shot at a Top 10 team.
It's Florida, after all.
"Clearly, there is a difference when you talk about Florida vs. Florida State, probably in every sport," he said. "In virtually everything, it's probably one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports."
Aside from state bragging rights, the Seminoles (6-0-0), ranked No.9 in SoccerBuzz, the showdown with No.7 UF (4-1-0) will have a chance to see just how well they hold onto the ball, deliberately build an offensive attack and generally dictate the tempo. The Gators use speed and aggressiveness to pressure teams in the back.
"They are the most athletic team we'll have faced to this point in the season," Krikorian said, "and whether we'll be able to break them down and move the ball quickly enough, we'll see."
A SNEAK PREVIEW: Even the most optimistic basketball fan might be cautious to not read too much into FSU's four games in Trinidad and Tobago last weekend. The competition wasn't exactly ACC-caliber and the pace was more reminiscent of a playground, but the three newcomers sure looked good.
Freshman forward Uche Echefu averaged 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds, freshman forward Casaan Breeden averaged 11.0 points and 4.0 rebounds and junior-college guard Jerel Allen averaged 8.5 points and 2.0 steals.
"I was pleasantly surprised by how much they absorbed (in four practices)," coach Leonard Hamilton said, adding all three showed they were "more than capable of helping us as first-year players."
PRESEASON HYPE: The women's basketball team, coming off a second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, is No.25 in Athlon Sports ' preseason poll.
--Brian Landman covers Florida State athletics. Reach him at 813 226-3347 or by e-mail at email@example.com