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Quote:Weatherford Takes Step Forward

By DOUG CARLSON
Tampa Tribune
August 24, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Bobby Bowden won't say it, but he can see it.

The race to become Florida State's starting quarterback for the Sept.5 season opener against Miami looks to be all but over, and local favorite Drew Weatherford appears to be the logical choice.

The former Land O'Lakes High standout had distanced himself statistically from the competition -- fellow freshman Xavier Lee -- even before an important scrimmage Tuesday morning at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Not long after the workout began, Weatherford stood alone.

Lee bowed out with a sore right shoulder during his first series, leaving Weatherford to guide both the first- and second-team offenses during the next two hours, a challenge he met with more than passing success.

By one unofficial tabulation, Weatherford connected on 22 of 36 passes for 408 yards. Among his completions were throws of 30, 46, 28, 33, 37 and 43 yards.

Bowden didn't deny it's the best the FSU offense has looked -- by far -- during the preseason. But he isn't ready to name Weatherford his starter, or to rule out Lee, even if Lee is expected to be limited in when or how much he throws for at least the next two days while his shoulder rests.

"I just keep saying they're both No.1. Y'all can see what's happening,' " Bowden told assembled media. "Y'all can see as good as I can what's happening."

Weatherford picked the right moment to shine. Offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden had determined beforehand that Tuesday's scrimmage would be dedicated to the forward pass, an area in which the Seminoles had been lacking during their first two scrimmages.

"I wanted to see what we could do throwing the ball, and it's no question you put more skill on the field you got a chance to be more explosive," Jeff Bowden said. "But you don't know how a young quarterback is going to handle that. Tuesday was a day I needed to find that out and that's what we did.

"Drew took another step forward."

Surrounded by four-receiver formations, Weatherford wasn't perfect, but his performance clearly stands out among those turned in by any FSU quarterback this preseason.

He threw two interceptions to safety Pat Watkins, one in the end zone, and one that Watkins returned 79 yards for a touchdown, sort of. Weatherford was in position to tackle Watkins after about a 30-yard return, but couldn't because he wears a green, no-contact jersey and isn't allowed to risk his health.

The Seminoles can't afford to lose either of their only two scholarship quarterbacks, so Weatherford intentionally whiffed as Watkins shot past.

Then Weatherford surged, completing 10 of his next 12 passes and taking on the look of FSU's offensive leader, at least for the short term.

"This definitely gives me a lot more confidence, and I'm sure it does the same for our offensive line, receivers, backs, just to know we won't necessarily have to rely just on the run," Weatherford said. "We'll be able to throw the ball and make plays that way, as well."

Lee originally tweaked his shoulder while trying to stop his forward motion on an aborted pass attempt at practice two days ago. He aggravated it on an incomplete pass Tuesday while running with the first-team offense and had to leave the scrimmage.

"It was just a bad day to come out here with a sore shoulder, because I was going to throw the ball. That was the purpose of Tuesday's scrimmage," Jeff Bowden said.

Whether Lee can make up ground against Weatherford apparently will come down to something other than arm strength, where Lee may hold a slight advantage.

"When he comes back, I just want to see if he's gotten better mentally," Jeff Bowden said. "We all know he's got the arm and can throw and he's athletic."

Weatherford's teammates came away impressed by their first full opportunity to see what he can do throwing the ball in a game-like setting, but, like Bowden, they're not willing to call the competition over at this point.

"Both of those guys have a great arm and both rotate with the first team, so it's almost like they're the same when they're out there, to us," said junior receiver Chris Davis, who caught passes of 46 and 33 yards from Weatherford.

The sole remaining scrimmage will be held Friday. In years past, it has been more dress rehearsal than measuring stick, with many proven starters often watching from the sideline.

That may change this year, at least at quarterback. Friday could be Lee's last chance to overtake Weatherford, assuming his sore arm is healthy enough.

"If he can do everything, then we'll work 'em both equally and then go from there," Bobby Bowden said.

Go Noles - Beat Those canes!!! 04-rock
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