Christian Ponder will start at quarterback for Florida State in its season opener against Western Carolina.

Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher selected Ponder over senior Drew Weatherford, who has started 33 games for the Seminoles, and sophomore D'Vontrey Richardson.

Ponder, a sophomore, has thrown only 18 passes in college.

"We'll find out what we've got with the first guy," Fisher said. "I'm not a short-leash guy. You can't play yo-yo quarterback."

Weatherford's best season was his first. In 2005, he threw 18 touchdown passes and had an Atlantic Coast Conference freshman record 3,206 yards. The Seminoles capped that year with an upset win over Virginia Tech in the inaugural ACC championship game, but haven't come close to that success since.

The Seminoles have gone through consecutive 7-6 seasons, going a combined 7-9 in the ACC those years.

Weatherford left practice early Wednesday and did not speak with reporters.

Ponder, who is already in graduate school working on his MBA, admitted to being nervous.

"Friday night's going to be a long night for me," said the 6-2, 218-pound Ponder, whose dad, David, was a defensive lineman for the Seminoles under Bowden in the early 1980s. "Finally, the starting job is here."

There will be a host of other new starters in the first three games. Six key performers remain suspended from an academic cheating scandal in early 2007.

That includes TE Caz Piurowski and five defensive players: CB Patrick Robinson, LB Dekoda Watson, DE Neefy Moffett and DTs Budd Thacker and Paul Griffin.

And the Seminoles' best offensive player, junior receiver Preston Parker, will miss the first two games because of an arrest last spring on drug and weapons charges. The legal issues were resolved, allowing Parker to remain on the team.

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