By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000
WEINKE UNDER CENTER: Okay. There's absolutely nothing new about Chris Weinke, the 28-year-old quarterback, except that he eschewed the NFL draft to return for his senior year. In coach Bobby Bowden's 25-year tenure at FSU, Weinke will be the first three-year starter at quarterback. Some folks have wondered why he came back and if it's fair for FSU to have someone older than most NFL starting quarterbacks. "Let me tell you something," he said. "I was away from the game for six years (playing baseball). That's a disadvantage. That's not an advantage. Sure it's an advantage to have gone through some of the things I've gone through (with baseball) in terms of adversity and overcoming it, but put yourself in my shoes. I was away from football for six years. I committed to this school 10 years ago and this is what I wanted to do. I came back to get my degree and I wanted to play college football. I didn't have a starting job and got it because someone (Dan Kendra) got hurt. Then I laid on an operating table for six hours when someone said I would never be able to walk again or was a centimeter away from not being able to walk again. That's tough. So for someone to tell me that you shouldn't be playing college football, you should move on with your life, you're crazy." Weinke not only is having fun, he's poised to shatter almost every passing record at FSU.
NEW NO. 9: For the last few years, the most exciting player in college football wore No. 9 for FSU. But Peter Warrick is now in the NFL, selected with the fourth pick overall. Who's the next Warrick? "Well, the next Peter Warrick is probably down in some elementary school just coming up; once every 10 years you find one like that," Bowden said. Still, the latest No. 9 might be a big-play specialist, too. Freshman outside linebacker Kendyll Pope, who likely will start in place of injured star Tommy Polley in Saturday's opener against BYU, was hailed as one of the nation's top defensive players coming out of Lake City Columbia High.
KICKING CONCERNS: This time last year, Bowden knew he had the nation's top placekicker, Sebastian Janikowski. Not so this year. Freshman Brett Cimorelli, the former Zephyrhills star, appeared to be the logical heir until he struggled with accuracy and distance at the start of fall practice. Redshirt sophomore Chance Gwaltney, Janikowski's backup, could see action on field goals, and redshirt freshman Matt Munyon might be used on kickoffs. Big surprise that Bowden calls Janikowski's loss the "biggest," potentially more difficult to make up for than the loss of both defensive tackles, All-American Corey Simon and Jerry Johnson.
WELCOME BACK, HOPEFULLY: Officially, the Seminoles have six offensive starters back, but that's deceiving. Fullback William McCray was slated to start last year until breaking his leg after the opener. Tight end Nick Franklin, the former Osceola High standout, entered last fall as the starter, but sustained a knee injury before the second game of the season and missed the rest of the year. And then there's tackle Ross Brannon, who started the first two games of the season but reinjured his chronically ailing knee and needed a radical procedure. McCray and Franklin are back; Brannon is hoping to come back.
RAMPAGE OF RUNNERS: With their top four tailbacks -- Travis Minor, Jeff Chaney, Nick Maddox and Davy Ford -- back, the Seminoles figure to break with recent tradition and use them and not their receivers to return kicks.
ONE OF A KINES: Former Tampa Bay Bucs assistant Joe Kines takes over for Chuck Amato as FSU's linebackers coach. Amato left after 18 years to become the head coach at his alma mater, North Carolina State. Kines had formerly worked with FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews at Clemson, so he is familiar with what Andrews likes to do. But what does he like to do? What will be his stamp? "I'm 56 years old, I'm just going to be myself," he said. "I'm way past (worrying about) that. I'm not interested in setting any kind of ego thing. I'll tell you what I am going to try to do is to pay attention to detail, to make sure our kids are well coached, are enthusiastic, that we've got a lot of kids around the ball and that we don't lower the standard."
FACILITIES FACE LIFT: As part of a $2.6-million renovation project that began last year, FSU has upgraded the locker room area, including the addition of a luxurious players lounge complete with eight leather sofas and a 60-inch television set. "Our players and coaches deserve it," assistant athletic director Andy Urbanic said.
YOU'RE A FLORIDA SCHOOL?: It hadn't happened under Bowden before, but this year's bumper crop of newcomers features more players from outside the state of Florida (12) than from the Sunshine State (eight). Several could play immediately, including Pope, Cimorelli and imports Michael Boulware, Javon Walker and B.J. Ward.
EARLY START: The Aug. 26 season opener is the earliest start ever for the Seminoles. It also is the team's record-setting third straight August opener. FSU played Texas A&M in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31, 1998 and then hosted Louisiana Tech last Aug. 28.
LATE FINISH: Eight of the Seminoles' 12 games begin at 6 p.m. or later thanks in part to television. But FSU officials also played a part in that they are looking to restore a tradition of later-starting home games that will beat the heat and create all-day tailgating parties.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT THE FIRST TIME: For the first time, Sunshine Network will show its own produced replay of all 12 FSU games each Sunday starting at 7 p.m. and again on Monday at 1 p.m.