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Despite troubling depth, confidence is high on FSU receivers entering season

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The Seminoles return two receivers who have caught a pass against a Power Five team, but hardly seem worried.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Michigan vs Florida State Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With the arrest and subsequent suspension of Da’Vante Phillips earlier this week, Florida State now has six scholarship receivers on its active roster.

Of those six, three have caught a pass at FSU. Of those three, two have caught passes against Power Five opponents.

“This is as thin as we’ve been since I’ve been here,” FSU wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey said of the unit’s depth. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Suffice it to say, facts and statements like these do not instill much confidence in FSU fans heading into the upcoming season.

But, for the coaching staff and players, it’s exactly the opposite.

“The talent is there. They can get the job done,” Dawsey added. “If they continue to do what they have been doing the first five practices, it’s going to be a great year for Francois.”

“Guys are doing the right things, making plays and doing it,” Jimbo Fisher added. “I’m tickled and feel really good about that position right now.”

This in a year in which the Seminoles are returning less than 40% of their receiving yards from last season after the notable departures of Travis Rudolph, Bobo Wilson, Kermit Whitfield and Dalvin Cook.

Still, spirits are high across the board.

“We have a lot of guys who do a lot of different things,” FSU wide receiver Auden Tate said. “It just brings a real big dynamic to our offense because we all can do a lot of things differently and I think we compliment each other very well.”

Tate and Nyqwan Murray, both juniors, have been called on to be the veterans of the group despite this being their first full year as starters simply because they are only returning wideouts with significant in-game experience.

By all accounts, they are rising to the occasion of their new roles.

“They’re taking the two freshmen under their wings to try to spend more time with them and teach them the playbook,” Dawsey said of their leadership skills. “They’re going out there and practicing hard every day, taking care of the details and the little things that we ask them to do...They’re doing it by example.”

Those freshmen, D.J. Matthews and Tamorrion Terry, are both extremely eligible for immediate playing time, especially after Phillips’ suspension.

“They don’t have the luxury of thinking about even trying to redshirt. They have to come in and put the time in like they have been here,” Dawsey said. “The two guys we brought in have a great work ethic, great ball skills, they’re going to help us because they bring everything we look for in receivers to the table.”

“I’ve seen them adapt very well,” Tate said. “They came in ready to learn, understanding that they have an opportunity to play this year.”

The wild cards in the position group are the other two scholarship wideouts: Keith Gavin and George Campbell.

Campbell, who came in at the same time as Tate and Murray, caught three passes for 42 yards in his first career game against Texas State and has no catches since. He has been dealing with a number of injuries and ailments, most recently sidelined for the entire 2016 season with a core injury which required offseason surgery.

It may finally be Campbell’s time to show off the freakish athleticism which landed him his FSU offer as him being in good health and available playing time are aligning for the first time in his career.

For Gavin, the consensus fan choice to break out at wide receiver, it’s been an offseason of production.

“[Consistency was] the biggest thing I struggled with last year. I was still learning the playbook and couldn’t play like I wanted to,” Gavin said. “Now that I know it, I’m playing naturally and not thinking. I’m just going out there and executing. I’m really ready.”

There are some undeniable upsides about this year’s wide receiver group. After all, Dawsey, in addition to calling this his thinnest wide receiver unit, called this his most talented wide receiver group at FSU.

That confidence is contagious.

“I think there’s a lot of people underestimating us this year,” Murray said. “I feel like once we get it rolling, we’ll be the best receiving group that has come through FSU. It might be the best receiver group in the country.”