What had dragged on for eight months, dragged on a couple more days but finally ended around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night. Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher sauntered over to a dozen or so members of the media and finally spilled the beans on who will line up under center for the Clemson game.
The announcement was hardly a bombshell. For over week, the junior from Land O'Lakes has been getting the bulk of the snaps with the first team offense. With the season opener at Clemson right around the corner, it follows that Fisher would give his starter as many opportunities as possible with the rest of the first teamers.
Even though it was obvious the choice was made days ago, Fisher says he put a lot of thought into his decision.
"(Weatherford was) just more consistently doing good things in practice on a consistent basis," Fisher said. "Making more of the every down play. The thing at quarterback – you can look at the spectacular things but the first thing you have is you have to make the routine play. I thought he made the routine play more consistently than Xavier did for the most part during camp and that set him apart."
As with the media and fans, Weatherford and Lee were also getting anxious to find out who was going to be the starter. The suspense was finally broken when they both individually met with Fisher in his office earlier in the day.
After it was official that Weatherford was starting, Xavier Lee was the first to offer congratulations.
"He (Fisher) talked to Xavier first and then he talked to me," Weatherford said. "We talked, he (Lee) told me congratulations and he said I deserved it and worked hard. He deserves it too. He's worked extremely hard, done a lot, come through a lot of adversity and he's a great player. We're going to need him, though, to be successful."
Although there was some minor drama surrounding the announcement, there was never any doubt who would be named the starter. Through each of the first three scrimmages, and most of the daily passing drills, the junior from Land O'Lakes (Fla.) completed a higher percentage of his attempts and has directed the offense to more scores. The only black mark on his practice resume has been a high interception rate, and on Thursday night he threw another pick that was returned for a defensive touchdown by Geno Hayes.
Yards per attempt
The knack for turnovers has been a recurring problem for Weatherford since his first start in 2005. In fact, over his 23 career starts, Weatherford has thrown 29 interceptions.
"As a quarterback you can always get better, but I've turned the ball over way too much since I've been here," Weatherford admitted. "I want to do a much better job protecting the ball and protecting our team. That's one area that I've tried to work on. I've taken chances on the practice field, but I feel like I've done a really good job during the scrimmages this year."
Based on Fisher's history at LSU of not being locked into one quarterback, if Weatherford doesn't improve his ability to protect the football, he could become a victim of a short leash. With that being a possibility, Fisher offered Lee some words of encouragement after breaking the news.
"'You just keep working, you battle, you fight, and an opportunity comes you take advantage of it,'" Fisher told Lee during their meeting. "I've seen crazier things happen. I remember a case around here one time with Brad Johnson and Casey Weldon. It all turned around one time. At the end you had two great quarterbacks.
In addition to the possibility of Lee earning a staring role down the road, Fisher made it very clear that there is a definite plan to use him in certain circumstances.
"Yes, most definitely. You are dag-gum right we will," said Fisher. "He will be in the plan. There will be a plan for him and things he can do and what he does well. We'll practice the heck out of him between now and then."
Gene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. During past football seasons, he hosted a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee, and appears as a weekly guest on 1010 XL Radio in Jacksonville. Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.