Talented Trio

Pope anchors a deep linebacking unit.

FSU's 2002 recruiting class featured an impressive trifecta at linebacker -- Buster Davis, A.J. Nicholson and Sam McGrew. Each took a different path last season. Davis was redshirted, while Nicholson finished with 23 tackles (14 unassisted). McGrew also contributed but saw most of his time on special teams. "It was very tough at first," McGrew admitted. "If you didn't understand it (scheme), you could be lost for the rest of the play." McGrew, for one, should benefit from FSU's new scheme.

Florida State's 2002 recruiting class featured an impressive trifecta at linebacker -- Buster Davis, A.J. Nicholson and Sam McGrew. Each took a different path last season.

Davis was redshirted after early struggles, while Nicholson made the biggest impact, finishing with 23 tackles (14 unassisted). McGrew also contributed but saw most of his time on special teams.

"It was very tough at first," McGrew admitted. "If you didn't understand it (scheme), you could be lost for the rest of the play. But the boys started helping me and I thought I played better as the season went on."

McGrew, who starred at nearby Wakulla High School, has high hopes this year. He will enter practice next week listed second behind senior Allen Augustin at middle linebacker. McGrew feels he's also bigger (245 pounds), stronger and faster than last season.

The best part, however, is McGrew feels more comfortable in the new linebacking scheme under first-year coach Kevin Steele. The Seminoles are expected to blitz far more often than last season and take advantage of the unit's athleticism.

"Playing in the middle is a perfect position for me -- I am able to fill the hole and take on the fullback," McGrew said. "The scheme is better. It also will help me blitz more right now, and that's something I enjoy. With the athletic linebackers we have, we can move guys in and out."

Indeed.

The Seminoles return a pair of All-American candidates in weak side linebacker Kendyll Pope and strong side linebacker Michael Boulware in addition to Augustin in the middle. While the starting three are seniors, the depth chart features six underclassmen.

The unit also looks to improve on its rush defense -- opponents ran for 131 yards per game last season, a high-water mark the past five years.

McGrew, meanwhile, says he's rounding into shape after being plagued by back problems earlier this summer. While his weight climbed to 250 pounds at one point, he hopes to play this season around 240 pounds -- up 10 from his freshman year.

"I want some extra weight for two-a-days," McGrew said. "I started off slow (this summer) but it's going real good right now. I didn't get to lift (early) because my back was kind of injured but I am fine now. I can't wait to get started. Everyone is excited about this season."

McGrew, who finished his senior season with more than 150 tackles and signed with FSU over Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech, and Kentucky, also believes the Seminoles' team chemistry has improved from last season. "Last year we were a tight group but I would have to say we are not as tight as this team is right now," he said.

McGrew also keeps tabs on Davis and Nicholson. The trio will be forever linked.

"It's cool with A.J. to my left and Buster to my right -- we are just trying to get after people," McGrew said and smiled. "When we came in, we did everything wrong at first but we showed people we could play. It feels great to be part of this group."

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