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© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 5, 2001

SCOUTING REPORT: Alabama-Birmingham started Division I-A in 1996, but the FSU coaches want to make sure their players don't treat the Blazers like neophytes. They conspicuously hung a photocopy of the recap of last season's UAB-LSU game on the door to the locker room.

UAB 13, LSU 10.

And that was at Baton Rouge.

"UAB's no pushover," FSU junior tailback Nick Maddox said.

Especially on defense, where the Blazers return 10 starters, including standout senior defensive end Bryan Thomas, from a unit that finished sixth nationally against the run (83.55 yards per game) and 11th in total defense (290.91). After one game, a 41-13 win against Montana State, the Blazers' aptly named "Steel Shield" is second nationally in rushing defense (-1.0) and sixth in total defense (155).

"They look like they're probably more physical than a lot of teams we play, especially the defensive front," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "They've got some good looking football players on their team."

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: As he stepped toward the ball to kick off the season Saturday, Florida State's Jesse Stein couldn't help but think about how long he had waited for that moment.

"Five or six years; practicing every day for five or six years," the former Shorecrest Prep star said.

Stein, 20, a redshirt sophomore, signed with Air Force in 1999 but wasn't happy. After one semester he transferred to FSU uncertain if he wanted to play football.

"But I decided I really wanted to do it because I missed it, I missed the team," he said.

Stein, a finance major who still might join the Air Force so he can fly jets, won the kickoff duties a couple days before the opener. His first kick sailed to the 1-yard line, and his former prep teammate, junior Patrick Newton, made the tackle. Stein sent nine of 10 kickoffs to at least the 5.

"It felt great," he said. "It is finally paying off."

QUOTABLE: "They started three guys who started in the Orange Bowl. Eight new faces. I didn't know what they would do. But under the circumstances, it was a typical Mickey Andrews defense." -- Bowden on FSU's new-look defense that allowed Duke 226 yards, 102 on 42 plays after the first quarter.

OFFBEAT: In the September issue of Esquire, Bowden offers his wit and wisdom on a wide range of subjects. In case you don't want to spend the $3, here's a sampling of the "What I've Learned" interview:

"At this point, I don't want to see a problem unless it's big."

"I don't know what e-mail looks like. The Internet? Don't know what it is. Maybe if I retired I'd have time to learn."

"If Steve Spurrier were coming over for dinner, what could I cook for him? Nothin', I don't cook. I don't cook cereal. Not even cold cereal. I'm tellin' ya, I don't cook nothin'! I might take him out to a good restaurant, though."

Funny. But the trendy magazine didn't ask Bowden where he shops for clothes. Guess it knew from the simple long sleeve shirt and FSU pullover sweater vest, it's not from Prada or Armani.

STAT ATTACK: Even with freshmen quarterbacks Chris Rix and Adrian McPherson and a host of newcomers in the backfield and at receiver, the Seminoles didn't commit a turnover against Duke. They accomplished that three times last season: against BYU, North Carolina and North Carolina State. The veteran Seminoles committed 10 turnovers in their final four games last season, including three in the Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

- Compiled by Brian Landman

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