The FSU All-American is ineligible, presenting a chance for his understudies to shine.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001
MIAMI -- Before tonight's Orange Bowl, Florida State receivers plan to pass around a magic marker so they can write a message on the tape around their wrists:
That gesture is to honor the best among them, senior Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, a first-team All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist who was declared academically ineligible to play against Oklahoma.
Sometime thereafter, sophomore Anquan Boldin and juniors Atrews Bell, Robert Morgan and Javon Walker plan to pass a major test by making an indelible mark on the game.
Just like No. 13.
"We can play as a receiving corps, but Snoop was the most productive so people are asking, "What is FSU going to do now?' " Bell said. "I think of it as a big challenge to go out there on the third and make some things happen."
He and his fellow receivers have before.
Bell and Boldin have combined for 78 catches for 1,339 yards and 16 touchdowns. Walker and Morgan, both of whom missed three games with injuries, added a combined 39 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns.
Not exactly Minnis numbers (63 catches, 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns), but not too shabby.
"We're going to miss Snoop, no question about it," senior quarterback Chris Weinke said. "I'm not going to sit here and lie and say that we're not. He's been our best receiver all year. You lose your top receiver, it's going to hurt you. But the guys we still have have worked hard all year, are working hard right now at practice, are getting more reps than they usually get and are excited about being under the lights, being that focus now."
The Seminoles are no strangers to this situation.
Two days before last season's Miami game, Peter Warrick was suspended and Laveranues Coles dismissed from the team after their shopping spree.
Weinke spread the ball around to 11 players, including Boldin, Bell, Morgan, Talman Gardner and tight end Ryan Sprague. They combined for six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, to Sprague, in a 31-21 win that kept the Seminoles rolling toward an undefeated national championship campaign.
"It's the same way as it was last year when we lost Pete," Morgan said. "Everybody expected us to drop off a notch. They're forgetting we're Florida State. The backups have the same amount of talent."
It doesn't hurt that the Heisman Trophy winner will be the one throwing again.
"Chris is the common denominator in this year's and last year's (Miami) game," receivers coach Jeff Bowden said. "It's still not the same; it's not the same game, we're not playing in Tallahassee. But we've got guys with more than enough ability to step up and play. This game and this situation just makes it the unknown."
FSU's unrivaled 14-year run of 10-win seasons and Top 4 finishes, and its four national championship games in five years, have been predicated on potential All-Americans backing up All-Americans.
"You hate to lose a guy like ol' Snoop, he's just been the guy, but you wonder if somebody else had been playing his position the whole year what would have happened," coach Bobby Bowden said. "We've always said that one man's adversity leads to another man's opportunity. Somebody gets hurt and he can't play or somebody is suspended, then it opens an opportunity for somebody else. I've never seen it fail where somebody else doesn't step up."
Minnis toiled in the shadow of Warrick for three years, but when he had his chance, he ran with it.
"There's no doubt this is a game I could establish myself nationally," Bell said, sounding as confident as Minnis did in the preseason when he predicted he would make folks forget about Warrick. "I've done some things, but I'm still not known around the country. This could be a game to springboard my career."