After the 2009 season, Florida State lost a good chunk of its receiving corps to graduation. Then Jarmon Fortson was dismissed from the program for some off-field nonsense. Entering the 2010 year, the Seminoles knew they had talent at receiver. But that talent was, for the most part, unproven. How it would perform in a big game on the road was a complete unknown. The receivers got that chance at Oklahoma. Many FSU observers thought the receivers could hold their own.
We were wrong. The results were much worse than anyone could have anticipated.
Florida State marched down the field for a touchdown on its opening possession. But on Florida State's second, third, and fourth drives, Oklahoma adjusted. The Sooners physically beat on FSU's receivers. Showing the receivers no respect, Oklahoma focused on taking away the running game. Drives 2-4 would end prematurely for the Seminoles due mostly to mental mistakes by and the physical limitations of the receivers.
And as Jimbo Fisher tells it, Oklahoma kept scoring and FSU suddenly found itself down three touchdowns, 28-7.
Will Oklahoma try the same thing this season? And if so, can the 'Noles make the Sooners pay?
It's an interesting question. There's a good chance Oklahoma will come in and make FSU's receivers prove that they can handle physical play, beat press coverage, and run good routes.
FSU's receivers also have to prove that they can handle the moment. This has less to do with the Sooners than it does the receivers themselves. Mental errors, be they not running a route to the correct distance, or not seeing a check at the line, spells doom against a defense the caliber of OU's.
If FSU had its top three receivers healthy, I'd be a lot more inclined to believe that the 'Noles will make OU pay for disrespecting FSU and its receiving corps.
But that isn't the case. Receiver Willie Haulstead is all but out with concussion issues. FSU is rightfully handling this situation with caution, as a football game is not more important than the rest of a young man's life. Bert Reed is still battling a sprained ankle, and while expected to play, he's not exactly 100%.
Florida State will undoubtedly need junior Rodney Smith to step his game up to a higher level. There's some reason to think he'll be able to do so. At 6'6" and 220 pounds, he's an impressive physical specimen. But he also has a great relationship with EJ Manuel thanks to the time spent together on the scout team. For FSU to win this game, Rodney Smith must play well enough to make Oklahoma respect him.
But there's also a good chance that FSU will need a young receiver to do what did not happen last year: step up. This is particularly true if Bert Reed is gimpy. FSU's young receivers have played well so far this season, albeit against suspect competition. Will one of the first/second year guys like Jarred Haggins, Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent, Christian Green or Rashad Greene step up for the Seminoles? The outcome of the game might hinge on that.
On their side, the young receivers have played a lot this year in Haulstead's absence. This isn't a new situation.
Don't be surprised to see FSU use more heavy personnel in this game as well to minimize the hurt of Haulstead's absence.