'Noles' Weatherford is ahead of his time

Fla. State freshman QB already makes impact

October 28, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

The courtship was short and uncomplicated. Bobby Bowden walked into the Weatherfords' home in Tampa, Fla., ate some homemade beef stew, and asked Drew Weatherford, homecoming king and star quarterback, to join his football team.

Andrew, as his father calls him, grew up watching the Seminoles and couldn't dream of playing for anyone else.

Neither coach nor quarterback, though, expected the redshirt freshman to be starting Sept. 5 in the season opener against Miami. Or leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing average and total offense on Oct. 27. But junior Wyatt Sexton, who was supposed to be the starter, was found in July to have Lyme disease.

Bowden had no choice but to stray from his tradition of starting upperclassmen at quarterback, but heading into tomorrow's game against Maryland, it doesn't appear to have mattered.

Weatherford, 20, has led the No. 10 Seminoles (6-1, 4-1 ACC) to the top of the league in total offense and pass offense, while his backup, freshman Xavier Lee, continues to push for playing time in pursuit of following his father's NFL footsteps.

"As far as football is concerned, both of them have come along further than I thought they would at this stage, especially Weatherford," Bowden said. "Some kids have got it and some don't. Some are more mature than the others ... Everybody's different."

Weatherford isn't all that different from his five brothers (a sixth, Peter, died at age 1 of cancer 10 years ago) and two sisters, the majority of whom are athletes. His oldest brother, Will, was a defensive end at the University of Jacksonville. Sam, the second son, played offensive tackle at Fordham University. Joe is the starting quarterback at Drew's alma mater, Land O' Lakes High School, and hands off to his younger brother, John, a sophomore running back. And Stephen plays football in middle school. Drew's younger sister, Grace, is a soccer player at the University of North Florida. And sister Jackie, 26, is one of the few in the family who "doesn't like to break a sweat."

Weatherford's father, Bill, was a quarterback at Southern Methodist University, but said he doesn't impart much football advice on his third son, Drew.

"He is so much better than I ever was," Bill Weatherford said. "We don't talk about football. What am I going to tell him? I liked it, but I didn't love it like he does. He's a little bit crazy about it."

That could be one of the reasons for his early success.

Weatherford leads the ACC with an average of 268.3 passing yards per game. He is first in the league in attempts (247), total passing yards (1,878) and touchdown passes (13). Only after his debut against Miami, though, did Weatherford truly begin to develop into the quarterback Bowden needed.

Weatherford completed less than 30 percent of his passes for 67 yards, one interception and no touchdowns against the Hurricanes. He was yanked in the fourth quarter and replaced by Lee, who went 1-for-2 for seven yards and fumbled a snap.

Since then, Weatherford has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,811 yards. All 13 of his touchdown passes have come in the past six games, including two last weekend against Duke.

"I have so many good players around me," Weatherford said. "They're really the guys making it happen."

Florida State's 55-24 throttling of Duke allowed Bowden to insert Lee. He completed 10 of 17 passes, but only after Weatherford threw for 276 yards. It was the third time this season each quarterback passed for at least 100 yards. Both reached the mark against The Citadel and Syracuse.

Bowden hasn't discounted the return of Sexton next year, and is trying to get Lee more playing time. There's no question anymore, though, who Florida State's quarterback is.

"As long as the game is tight and close he's our quarterback," Bowden said of Weatherford. "It's hard to get through a season without your quarterback getting hurt. You better have two. We're trying to get Xavier a little more work in case that situation should occur."

It kind of already did, this summer during two-a-days when Lee injured his shoulder during a scrimmage. Weatherford threw for about 400 yards that day.

"I had a pretty good idea I might be the guy," Weatherford said.

He was. Quarterbacks coach Daryl Dickey made the announcement in one of the position meetings.

"I was really excited, primarily because I worked so hard for such a long time for this opportunity," Weatherford said. "This has been a dream of mine for so long."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Maryland@No. 10 Florida State Tomorrow, 3:30 p.m., chs. 2, 7, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Florida State by 17

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