Miami Dolphins NFL Football Preview Miami-Dade High School Football Preview Broward High School Football Preview University of Miami NCAA Football Preview
MIAMI
FLORIDA INT'L.
FLORIDA
FLORIDA STATE
STATE SCHOOLS
NCAA
PHOTO GALLERIES
2008 NCAA Football Preview
Starting over - again
QUARTERBACK DREW WEATHERFORD TRIES TO SALVAGE FINAL SEASON
STILL STANDING: Drew Weatherford is poised to become the Seminoles' career passing leader, but his 20-13 record haunts him. ANDY LYONS / GETTY IMAGES

Drew Weatherford doesn't take it personally. After all, he has been a focal point of Florida State football for the better part of three seasons now.

Even so, Weatherford admits to something of a double take upon first hearing someone mistakenly assert this summer that he had already moved on.

"Sometimes I hear it from strangers," the quarterback said. "They think I'm done -- `You have another year?'

"Yeah, sure do."

One more year to emboss a label on the timeline of only the second four-year starter under FSU coach Bobby Bowden. One more chance to propel the Seminoles back up the ladder to prominence.

One more stand to dispel perceptions in certain circles that he's merely a 7-6 quarterback -- and that the Seminoles already should have moved on.

"Of course no one wants to be known as that," Weatherford said. "But that's not something I can control. All I can control is being the best I can be. Hopefully we can change that perspective."

CHECKS AND BALANCES

Certainly, there's an enigmatic quality to Weatherford's first three seasons behind center. For every entry on the plus side of the ledger, it seems, there's a minus.

Weatherford led the Seminoles to an ACC ring as a freshman, though the only win after Halloween came in the league title game. Two 7-6 seasons have followed.

The Land O'Lakes product is poised to finish as FSU's most abundant passer, needing just three attempts and 17 completions to pass Chris Weinke in those categories. He would finish No. 2 on the ACC career lists with a statistical repeat of 2007.

However, 20-13 is the career number that matters most -- Weatherford's record as a starter.

Weatherford's past performance is good enough to earn consideration as the ACC's second-best quarterback. He's also among 31 names on the preseason watch list for the Davey O'Brien Award.

And yet he doesn't have a lock on his own job, even with Xavier Lee no longer breathing down his neck. Lee bypassed a senior season for a shot at the NFL, where he's trying to make the switch to tight end.

Now sophomore Christian Ponder is heating up, emboldened by a strong spring as Weatherford recovered from knee surgery.

"A guy has to beat another guy out," Bowden said before preseason camp opened. "If you could win, we'll keep [Weatherford] there. If he doesn't, we'll go to the next guy."

Weatherford said: "I don't think the job is going to be given to me by any means, but I expect to be the guy all year long. I don't expect there to be a controversy."

One thing that can be said about Weatherford -- he's pretty adept at "Quarterback Survivor."

He beat out Lee for the job as a redshirt freshman, lost it in part to injury as a sophomore, won it back late that season, survived another duel when Bowden overhauled his offensive staff last year, gave way to Lee again near midseason and regained the controls a month later.

Whew.

"He's matured as a person; he's matured as a player," said Bill Weatherford, Drew's straight-shooting father and a former quarterback himself at SMU.

"He seems to have a confident air around him now that they can make things happen somehow. He believes in himself; he believes in his teammates."

The younger Weatherford, though, freely acknowledges a period of uncertainty last year as he spent his first season with Jimbo Fisher in his ear.

Accustomed to the quiet intensity of previous quarterbacks coach Daryl Dickey, Fisher's in-your-face style was something Weatherford needed time to digest.

"It was a tough transition," Weatherford said. "There were times I'd be extremely upset.

"I've always put so much pressure on myself that my coaches never really had to. And I finally met a coach that expected more out of me than I expected out of myself at times."

UP AND DOWN

Combined with a green offensive line, Weatherford struggled. Though his completion percentage wasn't bad, he generated less than 150 yards through the air in three of FSU's first four games.

When Lee guided the Seminoles to a comeback victory over Alabama, Weatherford went to the bench.

"He kind of dropped his head [and] second-guessed himself," receiver Greg Carr suggested. "I think he kind of put too much pressure on himself."

Weatherford bounced back quickly, though. When Lee stumbled against Wake Forest and UM, the switch was reversed. And Weatherford suddenly found his rhythm.

He averaged 234.5 yards over FSU's final six games, a number skewed somewhat by a mild concussion that ended his day at Virginia Tech in the first half. He also set an ACC record by stringing together 270 passes without being picked off.

"It's learning [spots] where you can miss and where you can't miss," Fisher said. "You can miss three different ways and maybe one of them is safe, the other two aren't."

Bill Weatherford also saw a change in his son's demeanor.

"When you've got to sit and watch, the hunger comes back and you forget about what you didn't do right," he said. "He just wanted another opportunity. He loves to play the game; it's that simple."

Critics also can point to Weatherford's measly nine touchdown passes last year, something the senior acknowledges.

"I take responsibility. I don't think we took enough chances downfield as we should have," Weatherford said.

Fisher, though, was less disparaging. "I think we could have done more with yards after the catch," he said.

Nor does Fisher see any reason at this point to bring up Ponder with an eye on the future. If Ponder is to wrest the job from Weatherford, it will be for present objectives.

"I think this can be a good football team now," Fisher said. "It's young and inexperienced at places, but I think it has talent. And I don't think we need to scrap this year trying to worry about the future."

Weatherford said: "I think [fans] have the trust and confidence in our coaching staff that they're going to put our best players out there."

PLAYING POLITICS

Amid rehabbing his knee and summer workouts with teammates, Weatherford also spent mornings as an intern in Gov. Charlie Crist's office. Working in Legislative Affairs, he answered phones and filed signed bills.

"It was fun to learn a little bit about how the process works," said Weatherford, whose older brother Will is a state representative and maternal grandmother once ran for Arizona governor.

"It's a tough job working in public service. No matter what decision you make, half the population is going to agree with it and the other half is going to disagree."

Hey, if there's anyone versed in not being able to please everyone, it's a quarterback.

Weatherford smiled. "I've taken some heat, that's for sure," he said. "I've had good training."

Web design by David Lopez / Miami Herald