Safety Myron Rolle spent the offseason dedicating himself, body and mind, to making more game-changing plays.
The junior entered this season with a reputation as a solid tackler (and outstanding student as a possible Rhodes Scholar) but not a playmaker as you might expect from his prep accolades.
He had one interception (as a freshman in the Emerald Bowl), one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, one sack, seven total tackles for a loss and eight passes broken up.
None of those career numbers had changed after four games.
Against Miami last weekend, he had four tackles and four passes broken up, one late in the game after he twisted his right ankle early in the fourth quarter.
"I feel more involved," Rolle said. "That comes with hard work. That comes with playing aggressively and playing sound technique-wise."
A week earlier, he had a chance to break up a couple of passes in key situations and was called for interference that extended Colorado drives and led to touchdowns.
"This game, he made those same plays, and more of them, and did not put his hand around the guy's back," coach Bobby Bowden said. "In one game, he disciplined himself and improved."
"As far as him playing the game, through the fifth game, he has played outstanding," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "He has really worked hard to become a stronger, more dominant player."
But that's what Rolle, his coaches, his teammates and the fans have wanted and expected.
"I have something to prove to myself. I feel I can be a better player," he has said.
Rolle has said criticism of his game has frustrated him. Sometimes, he hasn't been in a position to make plays, but sometimes he has just come up short.
"With the articles that have been written and the coverage I've gotten since I've been here, people expect me to be Albert Einstein and Deion Sanders at the same time," he said. "It's tough at times. I can only be me. I can only do my role and I'm excited about bettering myself and helping this team win."
Kickoff game: It wouldn't be a shock to see Graham Gano kicking off, assuming his surgically-repaired right knee is okay. He kicked off the last two times against Miami and averaged 67.5 yards, one was fielded at the 3 and returned 17 yards and the other was caught at the 2 and returned 20 yards.
"If he's got some wind, he's probably going to put it out (of the end zone) and if not, he's going to put it close to the goal line," Bowden said.
James Esco had been kicking off most of the season and doesn't have as strong a leg (averaging 57.5 yards) and UM took advantage, taking four of his six attempts to at least its 43.
"I really praise him for what he's done," Bowden said of Esco. "Here's a guy who walked on … a freshman, and he saved us. The other night was the first time he didn't get results."
Odds and ends: Senior captain Sarah Wagenfuhr, a key defender who helped FSU to shutout wins at Maryland and Boston College, received national team of the week honors from Soccer America. … The voting members of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association must have caught on that senior star Luke Gunn was given an extra year of eligibility; they moved the Seminoles' men's cross-country team from No. 26 to No. 13. Gunn set a school record (23:25) to finish fourth in the 8K at the prestigious Notre Dame Invitational last weekend. The women's team is No. 3.
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.