Beating Up Their Own
Florida state's defense knocked eight quarterbacks out of games last season, and this spring that unit has sidelined two more. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, the latest victims are their own starter-to-be, junior Dan Kendra, and one of his two backups, sophomore Marcus Outzen.
In the annual Garnet-and-Gold spring game on April 4, Kendra rolled to his right to escape a rush, planted to throw and got hit around the numbers by freshman linebacker Bradley Jennings. Kendra had taken harder hits earlier in the game, but this one caused a complete tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament. He had surgery last Thursday, but it's too soon to know if he will be ready for the Aug. 31 season opener against Texas A&M in the Kickoff Classic.
Earlier in spring practice Outzen, who had played well in the team's first scrimmage, suffered a separated right shoulder. (He is expected to be ready for the opener.) The injuries left only one scholarship quarterback standing: Chris Weinke, the 25-year-old sophomore who re-enrolled at Florida State in January 1997 after a six-year stint in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Weinke, the top-rated quarterback recruit in the nation when he was first signed by the Seminoles, in 1990, out of Cretin-Derham High in St. Paul, saw only mop-up duty last season, completing a combined seven of 13 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns in two games.
It has long been Florida State's policy to give every quarterback-even an undisputed starter—a green jersey in practice, meaning that Kendra was eligible to be hit just like every other player on the field. Two years ago the Seminoles lost two quarterbacks in a spring game, forcing place- kicker Scott Bentley to take snaps for one of the teams. "We've [made the quarterback fair game] for so long we don't think much about it," quarterbacks coach Mark Richt says. "Now this happened, and we are all pretty devastated."
Still, Richt contends the lessons that a quarterback learns having to make decisions against a full-speed defense in practice are worth the risk. "A lot of it has to do with allowing a kid to make a play without blowing the whistle too quickly," he says. "We didn't want to take away Danny's mobility and ability to make a play out of nothing."
The Florida State injuries come on the heels of new rules aimed at reducing the carnage during spring football. The NCAA banned full-contact drills on the first two days of practice this spring and mandated that the total number of full-contact days be reduced from 10 to eight. Nevertheless, South Carolina lost its top two quarterbacks, sophomore Victor Penn (fractured right clavicle) and redshirt freshman Phil Petty (sprained left ankle), after the two days of limited contact were over, and played the last week of drills and the spring game with walk-ons under center.
In three scrimmages in Tallahassee, neither Kendra (24 of 58 passing) nor Weinke (21 of 61) was exceptional, but each showed his strong suit. Kendra can create offense by leaving the pocket, and Weinke has a good downfield arm. Given Kendra's exceptional physical condition—the 6'2", 240-pounder set the team record in the leg press, at 1,335 pounds—the coaches are keeping him No. 1 on the depth chart for now.
Florida State contacted the San Francisco 49ers and obtained the rehabilitation schedule of Jerry Rice, who tore his ACL last Aug. 31 and was back playing on Dec. 15. "We know it's a long shot," Richt says of Kendra's being ready to play against the Aggies. "But Danny's Number 1 unless we find out he won't be ready in time."
Bowl Championship Series
The Puzzle Comes Together