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September 7, 2005

Insider Report: QB competition far from over

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The quarterback competition is far from over.

There's no getting around the fact that Drew Weatherford struggled against Miami. Completing 7-of-24 passes for 67 yards isn't going to win you any points when you are battling to hold on to a starting job. So why did the former Elite 11 quarterback have such a lackluster debut for the Seminoles?

"It was a lot of things," Weatherford told Warchant.com. "I think I was rushing my throws and I got hit a lot so I wasn't very confident with how much time I had. A lot of it was Miami's defense. They did a good job of mixing things up and playing a lot of zone coverage and did a lot of zone blitzes and things like that."

Offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden also attributed Weatherford's mediocre effort to nerves, which isn't surprising considering his first college start came against one of the nation's most talented defenses.

"We had guys open all over the place," Jeff Bowden said. "He was so nervous in that game and he was being way too cautious with things. We had guys open but we just weren't executing. It stayed tight but a lot of things could have broke for us if we just could have hit them... I think he was trying to be too cautious and just not pulling the trigger like he had."

In the one series when Xavier Lee got in the game he didn't do much better. The Daytona Beach signal-caller completed one-of-two but also fumbled a snap and called the wrong formation on a reverse play. Fortunately, he was smart enough to not compound his error on the fumbled snap by trying to pick it up and run. Instead, he smartly pounced on the loose football and took the loss.

Last week Bobby Bowden said that Lee, who entered the game as the No. 2 quarterback, would see field in the game and he was good to his word. However, he was in for only that one series.

The Seminole head coach has again promised that Lee will see playing time, and this time it will come earlier in the game, but when that will happen is still up in the air.

"We want to do it but we haven't set a time," Bowden said. "We haven't said whether we are going to do it in the second quarter or we are going to do it on the third play or when we are going to do it. But we do want to definitely get him in the darn ballgame. The only thing negative about that is if the other guy has rhythm. If he's really got his rhythm going and then you take him out then it's like a pitcher. If you've got a pitcher throwing a no-hitter you don't take him out and rest him and try to bring him back."

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and the game will broadcast by ESPNU.

Notebook

De'Cody Fagg excited about first start

De'Cody Fagg's two catches for 20 yards may not sound like much but it was enough to lead all FSU wide receivers in the opener. He should post even better numbers this weekend. Not only is the opponent far inferior, with Willie Reid out with a sprained knee for a couple weeks, the Quincy native will be the 'Noles' starting split end.

"It's going to be a big day for me," Fagg said, "my first career start, my family is going to be here, I'm going to be excited; it's like a dream come true. I've been wanting to start at FSU ever since I was in the eighth grade and now it's just a dream come true."

The fact that the sophomore receiver had some success against a great defense is a good sign for the future.

"That gave me good confidence," Fagg said. "I knew if I could have big catches against Miami, I could have big catches against anyone because Miami basically has the best DBs in the country and they liked to play press coverage and going against Miami DBs is like going against ours; they press the receivers everyday so going in the Miami game I expected what they'd do because of our DBs."

With renewed confidence and a starting job in his pocket, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout didn't disappoint in Wednesday's practice. He recorded the three biggest catches in the one-minute drill picking up gains of 15, 10 and seven yards on passes from Weatherford.

Fagg won't be the only receiver seeing more playing time versus The Citadel. With Reid out, Fred Rouse and Rod Owens move up to No. 2 and No. 3 on the split end depth chart, respectively. Head coach Bobby Bowden also promised that all three freshmen wideouts will see the field more on Saturday.

"A lot more them should have played in this past game because they could have been just as effective," Jeff Bowden said. "It didn't matter because we weren't hitting our targets on (Monday). They should be in the rotation for the rest of the year because this young bunch is a potentially good group of receivers."

Cromartie on the headsets

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie saw his junior season end before it ever started when he injured his knee during the preseason. But that hasn't kept him from playing a key role in the development of the FSU defense.

He spent the off-season leading film study sessions among the cornerbacks. He has been a fixture on the sidelines during practices and scrimmages, constantly counseling the younger cornerbacks.

On Monday, Cromartie took his mentoring a step further when he donned headsets during the game. Most of the time, he stood on the sidelines near the defensive coaches -- and with a direct link to Colzie in the coaches' box.

"I was just talking to Coach Colzie about what we need to do and just telling him what I saw on the field," Cromartie said.

The All-ACC defender said his decision to wear headsets was his way of adding support to the first-time starters in his position group.

"It's not just about staying involved, but standing on the sidelines and helping the young guys out," Cromartie said. "Telling them what I see from the sideline and what Coach Colzie sees from the sideline."

Church finds his niche

When the defensive coaches began experimenting with their new 3-4 scheme back in the spring, they needed to find a fourth linebacker with a gift for hunting down the quarterback. They decided on senior Marcello Church, who debuted as the starter at the new "Buck" linebacker position.

Linebackers coach Kevin Steele said Church was an ideal fit as the pass-rushing specialist in the new alignment.

"In the 3-4 package, he's kind of got a gift for being that edge guy," Steele said. "You can cut it loose there. He's like an eel. He's slippery. You can't get your hands on him."

Church made his coaches proud on Monday by recording two big sacks against the Hurricanes. Both of those sacks came in the third quarter and helped knock Miami out of field goal range.

"It felt real good out there," Church said. "I got a chance to go in the game and get something done. I haven't played a lot the last couple of years.

"This gives me a chance to show my ability coming off the edge with my speed." Church is backed up by true freshman Geno Hayes at the "Buck" position. He said he is just happy to have a chance to contribute on the field.

"It feels real good to show my talent," Church said. "I didn't have the chance to show it last year. When you get your chance, you have to take advantage of it."

Though Church is not officially listed as a starter on FSU's depth chart, he did get to enjoy one of the rewards of being a first-teamer on Wednesday.

He and the rest of the first-string defenders were exempted from having to run after practice.

Noteworthy

* Willie Reid told the Osceola on Wednesday that he suffered a sprained MCL and will be out for at least two weeks.

* Thursday is listed as the final day of practice this week, but Bowden said the team may hold a light walk-through practice on Friday.

* According to Bobby Bowden, Fred Rouse may have sprained his ankle at the end of practice. He was able to walk off the practice field but it is uncertain how serious the injury may be. FSU will no longer release specific injury information.

Aslan Hajivandi contributed to this report

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