On Wednesday, we learned that, due to a broken left foot, Florida State will be without the services of sophomore wide receiver Ermon Lane for its New Year's Eve Peach Bowl showdown with the Houston Cougars. Frankly, it's probably a bigger loss to the FSU running game, as Lane has had more value as an adept downfield blocker than as a pass catcher this season, having hauled in just six receptions for a total of 50 yards and no touchdowns.
But exactly what will Lane's absence mean for the ‘Noles in Atlanta? On the precipice of a new year, it could well provide a look at the future. The top three receivers of Bobo Wilson (50 catches for 554 yards and two TDs), Kermit Whitfield (53-742-6), and Travis Rudolph (52-715-6) have been rather established, with Lane typically serving as the fourth man in. After that, we'd begun consistently seeing elusive freshman wideout Nyqwan "Noonie" Murray gets some burn when FSU would utilize five-wide sets, along with second-year man Ja'Vonn "Pigg" Harrison.
One option for Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, if he doesn't yet trust Murray and Harrison with numerous snaps, is to simply stay away from four and five-receiver looks, instead opting for multiple tight-end sets or incorporating dual-back formations. And while we'll most likely see both of these employed, I'd be surprised if Fisher shied away from experimenting with some of his as-yet seldom-seen weapons.
It's just not typical of Fisher. He was reluctant to simplify his offense for Everett Golson, ultimately opting for the more-experienced yet less-athletic Sean Maguire, and he's just not the type of coach who likes to limit himself. Especially not with fifteen practices to prepare for one game and one opponent.
That means that we'll likely see at least one of the freshman receivers against UH—and I'd be somewhat surprised, given the Lane injury, if we didn't get a look at several. Fisher was adamant about the frosh WRs not being ready this season, primarily due to falling behind because of injury. But now the rigors of the regular season and constantly changing game plans have passed, along with a nice break to heal up following a schedule that saw the Seminoles get just one bye week, which occurred what seems like ages ago in week four.
Excepting any dings suffered in practice, the young receivers' collective health should be as good as it's been in a while. And these are the offensively minded Fisher's new toys. He recruited them, he signed them, and now, for a year, he and Lawrence Dawsey have taught them. We've seen scoring chances designed for Auden Tate and George Campbell during the season. Don't be surprised if we see some more schemes involving the new blood in Atlanta.