As you’re now certainly aware, the Florida State receiving corps was recently further thinned out, as junior wideout Da’Vante Phillips was charged with multiple felony counts and subsequently suspended, indefinitely, from the Seminole football program. Bottom line: his future with the team seems murky— at best.
That leaves the ’Noles, at present, with a scant six scholarship WRs. And only three of them have ever caught a collegiate pass. Juniors Nyqwan Murray (5’11, 176) and Auden Tate (6’5, 225) combined for 52 receptions, 850 yards, and 11 scores in 2016. FSU will certainly lean heavily on that duo. And as was already the case heading into this season, they really need to mature from a leadership standpoint. Murray must exhibit more consistency, and the somewhat-reserved Tate could stand to be more vocal.
But the offense will obviously need contributions from others, as well, and the most likely contributors start with a pair of sophomores.
Redshirt-sophomore George Campbell (6’4, 207) is finally healthy (as of this publication), and he’s a rare mixture of blazing speed and formidable size. True sophomore Keith Gavin (6’3, 225), who arrived at Florida State looking like an NFL receiver, brings another imposing body to the mix. Fortunately for the Seminoles, Gavin saw increased playing time as 2016 wore on.
But that’s still just four options, assuming no one gets hurt. The only other scholarship WRs on the roster are each true freshmen, D.J. Matthews (5’10, 160) and Tamorrion Terry (6’4, 208). Unfortunately, neither Matthews nor Terry enrolled early— and we know how difficult it can be for young WRs to see the field in Jimbo Fisher’s complex offense. Although, given the circumstances, Fisher may not have much of a choice in 2017.
Or will he? Because there are other intriguing options. When you’re light at one skill position group, another response is to rely more heavily on greater depth elsewhere, which FSU certainly has. Following a banner running back haul in 2017, the ’Noles boast a stable of talented ballcarriers.
Fisher has named junior Jacques Patrick (6’3, 231) the starting RB (for the time being, at least), but a trio of stud freshmen are waiting in the wings, including five-stars Cam Akers (5’11, 213), Khalan Laborn (5’11, 199), and four-star Zaquandre White (6’0, 210). And don’t forget about redshirt-senior Ryan Green (5’10, 204), who’s still capable of contributing meaningful snaps.
Perhaps the dearth in experienced scholarship receivers means we’ll see more two-back, pony sets. Running back, after all, is typically an easier position for a young player to step in at than is receiver.
But as far as pass-catchers go, they don’t always line up out wide. FSU features some tight ends that could prove matchup nightmares for opponents. Redshirt-juniors Ryan Izzo (6’5, 245) and Mavin Saunders (6’5, 257) lead the way, with Izzo firmly entrenched at the Seminoles’ top TE. Saunders saw some good time in 2016, though, and his ceiling remains quite high, as does that of freshman Tre‘ McKitty (6’5, 235), an early enrollee who has flashed in early practices. Sophomore Naseir Upshur (6’2, 249) remains somewhat of an enigma.
While Izzo is the premier blocker of the group, Saunders and McKitty are lengthy, athletic players who could split wide to function as receivers, while also stretching a defense to open up the middle for Florida State’s impressive running backs.
The bottom line is that while FSU’s receiving corps is rather unproven, it’s still quite talented. And the ’Noles also have numerous pieces with which they can attack and punish opposing defenses.