Last season, the Florida State football team scored on 89.13% of their red-zone possessions, good enough for a respectable third-best in the Atlantic Coast Conference. However, the 'Noles scored touchdowns on just 56.52% of their red-zone chances, placing them 10th in the ACC in that category.
The reason for the disparity is twofold. First, FSU had a flawless backup plan, in the form of Roberto Aguayo, who never missed from inside 40 yards in his 'Nole career. So unless the Seminoles turned it over or backed themselves way up via penalties, it was automatic points. But as I wrote about after the first of two debacles in Atlanta last year, Florida State all-too-often fell back on the steady Aguayo when it couldn't punch it in for six. Another Aguayo, Roberto's little brother Ricky, has handled kicking duties this spring; the 'Noles just hope whomever kicks in the fall won't have to field quite so many chances from within the red zone come fall.
But why did the Seminoles struggle to find the painted grass? The lack of a sizable red zone receiving threat, a la Kelvin Benjamin, was a big reason. After all, you're not throwing jump balls to the 5-7 Kermit Whitfield or the 5-9 Bobo Wilson. And when stretching a shortened field is not an option, working vertically -- in the literal sense -- becomes a viable, if not necessary, option.
Of course, the FSU offense will often look to superstar running back Dalvin Cook this year, and that's certainly no surprise to opposing defenses, which will most certainly force the Seminoles to find success elsewhere to hit pay dirt. The continued development of power RB Jacques Patrick is promising, but still, increased defenders in the box will only heighten the need (no pun intended) for a tall receiver to pose a threat inside the opponent's 20. FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher confessed as much at his press conference to open spring practice (employing his own word play): "To have a big guy like that would be huge."
Early returns from 2016's spring practice sound promising, in the form of 6-5 sophomore Auden Tate. After Tate missed last week's first scrimmage with a groin injury, he turned heads catching balls from quarterbacks today, stepping up to grab some of the first WR reps. After the scrimmage, when Fisher was asked about which receivers stood out, Tate's name was mentioned right after that of Travis Rudolph, who's drawn as much, if not more, praise than any other Seminole this spring.
Said Fisher of Tate: "Auden made a play or two." Now, those words may not exactly jump off the page at you, but here's the thing: the 'Noles don't need another volume receiver-- a big red-zone play or two a game could be perfectly sufficient. And according to Rudolph, Tate has been providing that explosiveness throughout spring: "He is having a heck of a spring. He is definitely making big plays out there, making some great catches. (His physical frame) Gives him a lot of advantage because he can box a lot of guys out, making acrobatic catches and he's got good body control."