Florida State Seminoles Football Spring Preview 2011: Wide Receiver

This is the second in a multi-part series covering Florida State Spring football practice. Today we'll be looking at the wide receiver position. Yesterday, we discussed quarterback. This unit is coached by Seminole great Lawrence Dawsey. 2010 will be his fifth season as receivers coach for the 'Noles. Dawsey is an excellent recruiter, but in our view is only a decent receivers coach.   Florida State returns every player who caught a pass from 2010.  

 X Marks His Spot?
Smith improved as the season wore on with 60% of his production coming in the last five games.  

"X" Receiver

Rodney Smith

Rodney Smith was one of the top receivers in the 2009 recruiting class. Rated a 4* by both Rivals and ESPN, the 6'6" 205 lb Smith played some offense and a lot of special teams. He played for a tiny high school and was the star of an old school wing-t offense that didn't throw the ball much, Smith had a lot to learn about playing the position when he got to FSU. Specifically, he needed to learn how to run routes, how to read defenses, and really how to play in an offense that wasn't the wing-t.

What he didn't need to learn, however, was how to catch the ball, how to jump, and how to be a fluid 6'6" athlete. You can't teach 6'6".

This Spring will be the chance for Smith to show just how far he has come. Does he understand the offense? How much will Fisher ask him to do? Can he run routes at a level that will allow him to play at a level benefiting the team? Remember, Smith is very talented but extremely raw. There's no indication that he has a poor work ethic, so hopes are pretty high. Big wide receivers often take longer to blossom than the smallish slot-types, because they have to grow into their bodies.

Smith really took care of business in the weight room, getting himself up to 222 pounds by opening day.  That bulk helped the wiry Smith to not get bullied at the line of scrimmage as much as he would have as a freshman.  He'll need to continue to get stronger and can probably hold 230 pounds on his frame.  Smith has good speed and should be able to keep it.  

He matured a lot during the 2010 season and as he matured, so did the FSU offense.  Still raw, he'll continue to learn the nuances of the receiver position.  That includes running better routes and using better technique.  Smith also needs to be more consistent on a snap-to-snap basis.  There were games last year in which he was bullied and just disappeared.  If he is to be the top player at the X position, he must become more mentally tough.  A 6'6" 220+ receiver cannot get out-toughed for balls and then go into a shell for the rest of the game.  

Smith's hands are pretty good.  He'll never have great agility at 6'6" but he has the chance to emerge as FSU's number one target this Spring.



Fighting For Playing Time?

Bert Reed

The other main contender at the X position is Bert Reed.  Reed, a fifth-year senior is tough to describe.  With 1620 yards, Bert is already in the top-20 all time for receiving yards and is sixth all-time in catches.  But those accomplishments are more reflective of his status as a starter for three seasons than his talent or production.  

In fact, Reed's production declined in 2010 by about 100 yards.  That is in part due to his play, and in part because of other more talented players stepping up.

Who is Bert Reed?  A 5'10" 165 pound receiver with very good speed, good toughness for his size, and not a lot of natural football instincts.  He has the ability to take a pass the distance, as he did against Maryland, but also has frequent lapses in concentration.     

So what does Spring ball have in store for Mr. Reed? I suspect we'll see Bert line up more on the inside (the "Y"). There are a few reasons for this.  Bert did a nice job from the slot as a freshman in 2008.  The slot man rarely gets press coverage and that helps Reed who is slight of build (5'10" 165) to get the clean release.  Bert doesn't have much shot at an NFL job, but if he does, it will be as a slot receiver. He's simply too small to play on the outside at the next level.  The other returning receivers check in at 6'6" 222, 6'3" 213 (Smith & Haulstead). Reed is a player best suited to play inside in a typical scheme.  But in FSU's scheme, the slot guy often is asked to go to the outside and body on the corner route component of the smash concept.  

If Reed is the starter at the X spot because Rodney Smith failed to step up and take exclusive control of the spot, FSU fans should be disappointed.  Reed just doesn't seem like a starting receiver on an elite team.  But he is exactly the kind of guy to provide good depth for an elite team. 









Man Over The Middle

"Z" Receiver

Willie Haulstead

Last Spring I wrote:

Willie Haulstead was a star for Titusville High School. But before he got to Titusville, he came from the Muck (Pahokee). The 6'3" 205 lb prospect reminds some of Braylon Edwards from his days at Michigan. Except that like Smith, he has tremendous hands. He's not a burner, but Haulstead is a big wideout who will eventually carry 225 lbs on a 6'3" frame. He's very difficult to bring down and should be a tremendous blocker. Like Smith, Haulstead is a big body who was not forced to run precise routes in high school. Haulstead must show that he understands the offense, can get separation from college defenders, and run the routes he needs to run.

After an awful start to the season at Oklahoma in which Haulstead caused a sack, an interception, and had several other mental errors, Haulstead regrouped and turned it around.  I remember Jimbo Fisher being quite angry about Willie's performance against Oklahoma, but he remained very optimistic that Haulstead would come around. 

The optimism was rewarded.  Haulstead isn't fast and isn't a genius, but he is tough.  Really, really tough.  Fisher has told people that Haulstead is one of the toughest guys he has ever coached.  And he uses his 6'3" 215 pound body to get open.  He is learning the tricks that big bodied receivers use.  A subtle pushoff here or there and he is open.  Haulstead is also becoming more adept at "rub" (read: pick, if you are a defensive guy) routes.  

This Spring Haulstead needs to focus on getting even stronger.  His frame can easily hold 225 pounds.  He also has to work on the mental side of his game.  Haulstead has big, strong hands, but he too often struggles from drops and mental lapses.  For a guy who is not a homerun threat, that is not acceptable.  Part of being dependable is being in the right spot.  The other part if catching the football.  This problem isn't major and seems correctable.  Willie should continue to develop and be a consistent threat both on the outside and over the middle.

Absent from Spring due to baseball is the ever dependable Taiwan Easterling.  Here are Easterling's highlights.

The Unknowns

Kenny Shaw Sophomore 5'11" 165

Shaw has excellent speed and route running ability, but he is tiny.  Shaw should see more playing time this year now that he is more familiar with the system.  He is quite talented.

Christian Green RS-Freshman 6'1" 205

Green may have the most talent on the entire team.  A shoulder injury stopped his freshman season before it even began, and he redshirted.  Physical and incredibly gifted, he could play inside or out.  Definitely starting behind many others on the team, however, due to the missed time.

Greg Dent Sophomore 5'11" 192

Greg Dent is a tough receiver.  He lacks elite speed but can be physical as he continues to develop physically.  His most notable play of 2010 was a fumble against Clemson.  

Jared Haggins  Sophomore 6'0" 191

Haggins is athletic and a favorite of the coaches.

Josh Gehes RS-Sophomore  6'3" 195

Last Spring on Gehres:

Perhaps the forgotten man for those not from Tallahassee is Josh Gehres. Follow me here. Gehres is a 6'3" 200 lb wideout from Tallahassee Lincoln. He was recruited in the 2008 class (picked FSU over Iowa, Michigan State, USF, and Utah), but greyshirted (enrolled Spring 2009), and then redshirted this past season. That makes him a redshirt freshman for this fall. Gehres has amazing hands and catches everything. But does he have the athleticism to play at this level? He's reportedly a special teams ace and a great team player, but he must start to prove himself as a position player this spring.

Gehres played sparingly last season, and to be honest I am not sure what role he will play this year with all of the receivers back.  He has decent speed and good hands and a good frame.  If he continues to bulk up he could see more playing time down the line.  

With every player returning, I'm not sure how much opportunity there will be for the young guys.  Showing up well in practice will be very important.

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