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Florida State football spring preview: Tight Ends

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The Seminoles find themselves in a fruitful tight end situation entering 2017.

Entering the 2017 season, Florida State finds itself in need of replacements for departed players at a number of positions. At tight end, however, it is a completely different story. The Seminoles return all of their tight ends from a season ago on their 2017 roster, adding a pair of 2017 signees as well for additional depth.

Now, it should be noted that Deondre Francois’ reliance on his tight ends in the receiving game in 2016 was minimal. The tight ends combined to account for 409 of FSU’s 3,433 passing yards along with only one of the team’s 23 receiving touchdowns. Still, the Seminoles have a number of viable options, including two key contributors from last year, back this year.

Leading the pack for the FSU tight ends is redshirt junior Ryan Izzo. Izzo has led the tight ends in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, totaling 227 receiving yards on 19 catches while playing in all 13 games in 2016.

While Izzo remains a solid option to start, Jimbo Fisher enjoys using multiple-TE sets with decent regularity, necessitating another tight end ready to play first-team minutes. In 2016, Mavin Saunders stepped up to fill that role with great success. The redshirt junior from Bimini, Bahamas made a number of jaw-dropping plays with an athleticism and a knack for high-pointing balls that you don’t often see in players measuring in at 6’5, 257 pounds. Earlier in his career, Saunders was kept off the field by issues with protection. However, he took the next step forward in 2016, showing capable blocking abilities both in the run and pass game.

Behind Izzo and Saunders, the clarity of the depth chart drops off a bit. The most tenured member of FSU’s tight end corps is redshirt senior Jeremy Kerr, but he has made only one career catch and is liable to be passed over by younger players with more upside this offseason.

Sophomore Naseir Upshur is one to keep an eye on as he enrolled at FSU last summer and will be participating in his first spring game next month in Tallahassee. He was a special teams contributor in 2016 and has not yet broken into the offensive rotation.

Tre’ McKitty arrived at Florida State in January after he was a late addition to the Seminoles’ 2017 recruiting class. The IMG Academy product measures in at 6’4, 235 pounds and is not likely to contribute this season on offense, but will be an interesting one to keep an eye on in the spring game. The second of FSU’s two 2017 tight end signees, Alexander Marshall, will enroll at FSU this summer and will not participate in spring practice.

Florida State’s tight end situation is an intriguing one entering the 2017 season. The Seminoles return a steady option in Ryan Izzo, who heads into his third year as the starter, the 2016 breakout star in Mavin Saunders, and some promising depth behind those two. As spring unfolds, it may become more clear which, if any, tight ends are poised to be the breakout player of 2017.