This is the 38th in a series of articles counting down the days until Florida State football kicks off the 2012 season. There are 20 days until FSU football, and that's how many items are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Willie Haulstead, Receiver
6'2, 230 | Receiver | RS-Junior
Bio (courtesy: media guide)
Collected 75 receptions for 1,079 yards and 18 TDs over his final two seasons at Titusville...missed much of his senior season with a broken foot...rated a four-star prospect who earned All-Space Coast honors as a senior despite an injury...also participated in track & field at Titusville...helped open the recruiting doors to the FSU staff in the Space Coast area when he chose the `Noles over Michigan, Purdue, USF, UCF, Auburn, Boston College and South Carolina...born August 14, 1989.
Career To Date
Another day adds another veteran to the list.
Willie Haulstead came to Florida State as what many realized was an underrated receiver recruit, overshadowed by fellow South Florida receiver Rodney Smith.
Both Smith and Haulstead played sparingly in 2009, neither cracking the depth chart.
In 2010, both emerged as legitimate receivers capable of starting for an upper-tier BCS team.
Haulstead was arguably Florida State's best receiver in 2010, totaling 38 catches for 587 yards and six scores.
I bring up Smith and Haulstead together because they came in together and up until 2011, had followed very similar career paths.
That all changed in 2011, when Haulstead, who had previously suffered a concussion in the 2010 Clemson game, suffered another in practice.
Apparently, it was a pretty severe concussion, because Haulstead missed the entire 2011 season. Is this something with which he could have played in a previous year? Perhaps, but concussion precautions have (thankfully) become much more stringent in recent years.
He returned for spring football this spring, and in previewing his return, we really did not know what to expect.
"Willie Haulstead didn't play at all last season after suffering a concussion in practice, his second in as many years. FSU claims that Haulstead was cleared to return late in the year, but rather than blowing his redshirt on a few games, they elected to hold him out. If healthy, Haulstead brings a physical toughness to the position, and a fearlessness over the middle. Whether he'll be as willing to go over the middle again after the two big concussions is unknown. It's also unknown if Haulstead can take a hit. He's been practicing, but there's a difference between practicing and taking hits during a live scrimmage or a game. Is he one hit away from a career ending shot? Technically everyone is, but those with past concussion problems are thought by some to be more likely to suffer another concussion. Haulstead is also overweight according to Jimbo Fisher, checking in at 233 pounds. That's roughly ~15 pounds more than his normal playing weight. The most important thing for Haulstead to do is to tell someone if he feels that he has suffered another concussion, even if it could end his football playing days. It could save his quality of life down the road."
Haulstead did not stand out in spring, but it was still a pleasant sign to see him back out there.
Still, his role with the team in 2012 and beyond is very much up in the air.
Haulstead needed to lose some weight and get back in shape. It appears that he has done so, and that the 230 number at which FSU lists Haulstead is too high, or possibly stale. There is much more than a three-pound difference from the Haulstead we saw in spring and the Haulstead we now see. He has lost much of his gut.
If he is back to the 2010 version of himself, Haulstead brings a physical toughness to fight for football and make tough catches in traffic. That's something Florida State missed in 2011, particularly over the middle, as Beau Reliford could not be counted on and a myriad of other receivers were constantly in and out of the lineup due to injury.
On the same token, other receivers were given a chance to shine in Haulstead's absence and, when in the lineup, did so. Rashad Greene has basically taken Willie Haulstead's spot. He is not expected to give it up.
Can Haulstead earn significant playing time this season? It won't be impossible, but it is hard to see starter's snaps coming his way without injuries to the players above him.
One also has to wonder if Haulstead has lost a step (speed was never one of his strengths to begin with), and if he is still willing to go over the middle, take big hits, and fight for tough footballs. Nobody would criticize him for being less willing to do so after his issues with concussions.
Florida State is loaded at the receiver position. Is Haulstead going to beat out Rashad Greene, Rodney Smith, Christian Green, Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins, Greg Dent or Kelvin Benjamin for playing time? He could certainly jump ahead of a few, but that list is seven deep, all of which it could theoretically be argued are currently ahead of Haulstead.
And that's not even to mention Nick O'Leary, the sophomore tight end who is willing to fight for tough catches and is expected to provide a much greater presence over the middle this season. A productive, healthy O'Leary somewhat diminishes the need for Haulstead. As does the continued physical development and growth of the other receivers.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Haulstead. He fearlessly sacrificed his body for Florida State, got hurt, and became a victim of an elite football program that recruits at a crazy level.
If Haulstead doesn't earn the type of playing time he is looking for, I don't think anyone would begrudge him if he were to look at dropping down a division next year in search of playing time. Or, since he is entering his fourth year in Tallahassee, Haulstead is also likely to receive his degree this season. That means that if (again, if) he doesn't receive the playing time he wants in 2012, he could take advantage of the 'Russel Wilson rule' and transfer to another D-I school "in search of a graduate program that FSU doesn't offer" (wink, nod).
But the above speculation is predicated on a lot of "ifs". Here's rooting for Haulstead to continue to build back up to what he once was, stay healthy, and have a great final two years in Tallahassee.