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Florida State receivers, tight ends looking to separate in spring football

Florida State spring practice begins on March 18 with the spring game taking place on April 11. Follow all of Tomahawk Nation's coverage here.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State lost half of its starters from the 2014 team and the vast majority of its best players. One spot that was hit hard is the pass catchers, as receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary depart. Greene and O'Leary, along with Christian Green, Kevin Haplea and Jarred Haggins accounted for 50 percent of FSU's passing yards. Greene was FSU's leading receiver all four seasons of his career. Greene and O'Leary were among the best ever to play for the Seminoles at their respective positions and will be extremely difficult to replace.

The receiving corps is now long on athleticism and potential, but short on proven production. The hope is that the excellent recruiting helps to lessen the expected step back for the offense.

Perhaps the most important question for this group in the spring will be whether sophomore Travis Rudolph can emerge as a true No. 1 receiver, which could be really nice for whichever inexperienced QB wins the job. The 6'2, 190-pound Rudolph does everything pretty well. He is quick in and out of his breaks and has a good understanding for how to run his routes and when to adjust them based on coverage. Rudolph does not have elite deep speed, but seems like the most likely No. 1 target. He had 38 catches for 555 yards and four scores, and improving on that would help lessen the expected step back for the offense. Still, he seems unlikely to be Rashad Greene, at least as a sophomore.

Will Ermon Lane become a dependable target?

Sophomore Ermon Lane had some big catches for Florida State as a freshman, reeling in 13 for 267 yards and a score. But he also looked more like a freshman than Travis Rudolph did, having some bouts of inconsistency. That's expected, of course, but with the loss of Greene and O'Leary, the target on the 6'3, 205-pound Lane becomes bigger. That's especially true on third down and in the red zone.

Rudolph and Lane avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump will be critical for FSU's passing game success.

Can Jesus "BoBo" Wilson regain form?

Junior Jesus Wilson had 400 of his 527 yards in games 2-9, and seemed to fall off in a major way down the stretch, struggling with drops. Wilson needs to regain his form and confidence, and having a productive spring practice could help to do just that.

Will Ja'Vonn Harrison's athleticism translate to production?

Jimbo Fisher has consistently raved about the 6'2, 200-pound Harrison's athleticism and quick-twitch explosiveness. But playing receiver requires much more than that. It is about running routes, knowing the playbook, understanding where to stemm or break off a route, etc. Harrison might be the most athletic of the Harrison-Rudolph-Lane sophomore trio, but on a team with athletes like FSU, he's not so athletic as to force himself on the field without having a better feel for the intricacies of the position. It's not surprising that he didn't have it down as a freshman, but this spring will be important for Harrison.

What will Kermit Whitfield's role be in the offense?

Kermit Whitfield has blazing speed, and in part because he was out of shape early in 2014, it took a while for him to get going. This spring he is running track, so he should be in better condition. Whitfield has never shown a great route-running ability or hands, but he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. We'll see if he can prove that he deserves a greater role in the offense. It will also be interesting to see if running track, and the resulting time missed from football activities, has hurt Whitfield any.

Did Isaiah Jones improve during his redshirt season lost to academic ineligibility in 2014?

Isaiah Jones was a raw, big-bodied receiver recruited in 2013. He played sparingly that year (no surprise, given that FSU had Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw), but his 2014 was lost when it was announced that he was academically ineligible. Surprisingly, Jones did not head for a junior college, which probably speaks to FSU's belief in the 6'4 receiver. Will he reward them for their faith now that he is again eligible?

How quickly can George Campbell grasp the offense?

Five-star receiver George Campbell has blazing speed and good change of direction for a 6'3 receiver. Can he pick up the offense this spring? Will Campbell learn to use his size? Will the improvements he showed with his hands stick? Enrolling early should only improve his chances of contributing this season.

Note: Freshman receiver Da'Vante Phillips will miss the spring after having groin surgery. He'll still be able to take mental reps and get acclimated to campus by virtue of enrolling early.

Arriving in fall: Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray

Tight end

One catch. Seven yards. That is what Florida State returns at the tight end position.

Will a tight end separate himself from the group?

Florida State has three tight ends, and casual fans know almost nothing about them: sophomore Jeremy Kerr (6'5, 260), freshman Ryan Izzo (6'6, 235) and red-shirt freshman Mavin (sic) Saunders (6'6, 250). There's some good size in this group and absolutely no proven production. Kerr is seen as a blocker and likely a very good one. But what can he offer in the passing game? Izzo is a more polished receiver, but his blocking is an unknown. Mavin Saunders is the physical freak of the bunch, but is also very raw and will need to make big strides this spring if he is to be a big contributor this year.

Tight end is a very tough position for young players to play because they must learn the blocking schemes of the line along with the route combinations of the receivers. A significant drop off from the level of play O'Leary provided seems reasonable, and the goal of the spring should be to work to mitigate that drop off.

Arriving in fall: Jalen Wilkerson