BUFORD, Ga. -- Leave it to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden to get a little giddy over having to start a projected No. 2 quarterback who has virtually no experience.
Of course, Chris Weinke isn't the typical fall-back guy. He's a 26-year-old sophomore who has spent most of the '90s playing minor-league baseball.
"I've always felt that one of the gutsiest things an athlete has to do is stand up there at that dadgum plate, and a guy is throwing a 90-mph rock in there and he ain't got no control," Bowden said Monday at the ACC media kickoff function.
"I don't know of anything any tougher than that, and I've got a guy that's been doing it for six years. So, to me, I can't see him panicking. I can't see him being flustered. It'd be hard for somebody to hit you harder than that fastball."
Weinke gets the nod because Dan Kendra was ruled out for the '98 season last month after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in April. Kendra's rehab was interrupted when a chemical combination he concocted exploded, causing cuts on his nose, chest and stomach.
Quipped Bowden in contrasting the two quarterbacks, "Chris Weinke isn't as explosive as Danny Kendra."
Bowden can put a positive spin on losing a starting quarterback because at FSU, when one high school All-American goes down, another is plugged in.
Kendra was the consensus No. 1 prep quarterback in the country at Bethlehem (Pa.) Catholic when he signed in 1995. What many ACC fans don't know is that the 6-2, 240-pound junior might have wound up playing running back or linebacker this year, anyway.
"For the first time since he's been at Florida State, we talked about the possibility of moving him to another position," Bowden said. "That's as far as I'll go with that."
Weinke was one of the nation's top quarterbacks when FSU plucked him from Cretin-Derham High in St. Paul, Minn., way back in 1990. He was drafted in the second round by the Toronto Blue Jays -- higher than FSU anticipated -- and then signed a baseball-only contract when the Jays flashed a $350,000 signing bonus.
Pro baseball didn't pan out, as Weinke batted only .186 in 51 games at Syracuse (AAA) and .264 in 75 games at Knoxville (AA). He did manage a .500 batting average (1-for-2) against Roger Clemens.
Never forgetting a promise from Bowden that a scholarship would be waiting if he decided to return, Weinke showed up at FSU for the Clemson game two years ago. He told offensive coordinator Mark Richt he was ready to play football.
"I figured I'd hear from him about two years after he left," Bowden said. "You usually ride that bus about two years and you finally decide you want to come back and play football -- we've had that happen several times. But he waited six years. I guess I would have waited 10 years. We both could have drawn Social Security together."
There's an obvious upside to starting a quarterback who's older than the typical grad assistant. Having a 26-year-old surely is better than having an 19-year-old, the typical age of a sophomore.
"I wish he was 36," cracked Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary. "He's still a little too young."
With the talent around Weinke -- players such as tailback Travis Minor and receivers Peter Warrick and Laveranues Coles -- Weinke won't be asked to win games on his own immediately.
Even with the six-time defending champion's uncertainty at quarterback, the ACC is still Florida State and the eight little ducklings -- relatively speaking.
The Seminoles are 47-1 against the rest of conference, and it would be a shock if the mark doesn't go to 55-1 this season. Bowden's only tough ACC road game is Georgia Tech, and his team has won the last five meetings between the schools by a combined 198 points.
No wonder Bowden is giddy about his quarterback.
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