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FSU: extra points

By Times Staff
Published September 1, 2006


NEXT IN LINE

Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen is fully aware of his spot in line.

In 2003, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett had a huge year and was a third-round draft pick. In 2004, Travis Johnson took over in the middle and had a breakout year; he was picked in the first round, 16th overall. Last season, former Chamberlain High standout Brodrick Bunkley had a dominating season and became a first-round selection, 14th.

Now, Fluellen, a fourth-year junior, is the veteran on the interior of the line with the potential to be the next in line.

"Honestly, I would like to," he said, "but I really try to stay humble and try not to say too much about it. Everybody wants to be good who plays football; everybody wants to be great. I want that same thing."

He started 12 of 13 games last season and had 26 tackles, 71/2 for a loss, and tied for third on the team in quarterback hurries with 12. But then he benefited from playing alongside Bunkley, who commanded and demanded a double-team from opponents. That's something Fluellen might see this season, and he's tried to prepare himself for that by learning from his predecessors.

"I'm trying to blend them together, trying to perfect them," he said. "I know I probably won't, but I'll come close."

Close enough to be the next big thing at tackle?

"I'd like to fall on that list, so people will remember me one day," he said, "but I can only do what I can do."

He's got a believer in Bunkley.

"There's going to be another (NFL top pick) with Andre Fluellen," he said. "That guy's got unlimited talent."

AGE-OLD QUESTION

Running back Eric James isn't your typical walk-on.

He turns 34 on Sept. 6. That's right. Thirty-four. Appropriately enough, senior middle linebacker Buster Davis nicknamed him, "Unc," as in short for uncle, which brings a broad smile to James' face.

Heck, he's all smiles these days.

He wanted nothing more than to play for FSU, but at 5-8 and 140 pounds he was undersized as a high school player in South Carolina and saddled with a different nickname, "Junior," a reference to his older cousin, Levon Kirkland, who excelled at the same school, then Clemson and finally the NFL. James went a different road. He joined the military.

Four years in the U.S. Navy included a tour in Desert Storm aboard the USS Mount Vernon. He followed that by enlisting in the Army for another four years.

"But I had told my grandmother I would go to school," he said.

His first hitch, er, stop was at Cerritos College in Southern California, a junior college that has produced more than its share of future major college and NFL players, including Cincinnati receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

He transferred to FSU in 2004, but all of his classes didn't transfer and he was ineligible to play football. He sat out, then was cut in walk-on tryouts last year before breaking through in his final chance this year.

Coach Bobby Bowden said he's pulling for James, who "looks like he's in excellent shape."

YOUTH TO BE SERVED?

Sure, FSU lost five games last year, but the Seminoles did rely on 27 neophytes (12 true and 15 redshirt freshmen). That's more than any other Division I-A school. Here's the top 5 with last year's record:

Team Fr. W-L Bowl

1. FSU 27 8-5 Orange, lost to Penn State 26-23 (3OT)

2. Arkansas 26 4-7 -

3. Northwestern 24 7-5 Sun, lost to UCLA 50-38

4. Texas A&M 23 5-6 -

5. Cincinnati 21 4-7 -

Hawaii 21 5-7 -

Nebraska 21 8-4 Alamo, beat Michigan 32-28

TCU 21 11-1 Houston, beat Iowa St. 27-24

YELLOW PAGES GOES GARNET AND GOLD

When BellSouth officials began mulling over cover options for their first Tallahassee edition of the Real Yellow Pages, they didn't have to let their fingers walk very far.

Just to Doak Campbell Stadium to shoot the Seminoles.

"It's a great opportunity to be seen by thousands of area residents and visitors," said Kay Scott, general manager/assistant director of athletics for marketing at FSU.

BellSouth planned to distribute about 500,000 print and CD-ROM copies.

QUOTABLE

"The last two games we looked like we were as good as anybody in the country. ... You finished with a little momentum and you hope that the kids gained a lot of confidence going into spring training and into the fall, that hey, if that was No. 3 (Penn State) and that was No. 5 (Virginia Tech), where are ya'll? It's something to build on."

- BOBBY BOWDEN, on turning last season's ending into a beginning.