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FSU Football Spring 2020 Preview: Wide Receivers

How quickly can the pass catchers gel in Norvell’s new offense?


With a new regime at FSU comes a new edition of spring football. The first spring of football practice for any new coach is about establishing rules, culture, and most importantly ensuring the first part of install goes well for their new playbook. Luckily for FSU’s wide receivers, they’ll have a familiar voice in their ears as FSU WR coach Ron Dugans has been retained by Norvell.

It may take Dugans time to get up to speed with Norvell’s terminology, but the FSU alumnus already knows how to communicate with a talented receivers group that has faced notable attrition (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Another positive is that responsibilities & philosophies contain significant similarities between what Norvell runs and what Briles tried to run. FSU will not be plodding as they were with Jimbo Fisher - but they also won’t be trying to go at a breakneck speed like Briles. The 2020 offense will feature quick slants and quick hitters in the RPO game combined with healthy chunk of vertical routes and shots down the field.

The biggest challenge will be learning the new terminology and package of concepts. This is common to all offensive installs, however, and simply takes time - and good coaching.

Tamorrion Terry

2019: 60 receptions, 1188 yards, 9 touchdowns

BILLED AT: 6’4” 203 lbs - but apparently Scary Terry has gained weight:

This is the biggest surprise of the group, as most commentators assumed Terry would be playing his football on Sundays in 2020. After an excellent 2019 in which he accumulated 1188 yards, 60 catches, and nine TD’s in 13 games - despite the game of musical chairs at the quarterback position - no one would have blamed him if he decided to test the waters.

Terry had a different plan:

He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, and he has rare agility for someone his size:

Terry had issues with focus drops occasionally dropping the easy one but that has improved. Getting Terry to return was the biggest recruiting coup of the off-season (offensively) and will give Norvell a much better shot at putting a decent product on the field in Year 1.

Keyshawn Helton

5’9” 170 lbs

2019: 17 receptions, 239 yards, 3 touchdowns, 10 kick returns for 228 yards

A speedy rising junior from Pensacola, Helton continued to come up big for FSU until a season-ending knee injury vs. Clemson ended his 2019 campaign. Acceleration, power, and reliable hands make Helton a good fit in an RPO based passing game where quick decision-making & reliability are the most important factors to success.

Where Helton may have his largest impact is on kick return. Norvell’s teams routinely rank in the top 20 in Special Teams (4th in last year’s FEI ratings) and have had multiple kick returns for touchdowns. When you factor in recent rule changes which lessen the importance of kick-offs, scheme plays a larger part than luck.

Helton has been a participant in the ‘Tour of Duty’ but is expected to miss the spring.

DJ Matthews

5’10” 156 lbs

2019: 36 receptions, 355 yards, 3 touchdowns, 20 kick returns for 125 yards.

The senior is back for his final season in Tallahassee and hopes to put it all together. There are times where Matthews looks like the most exciting player on the field. Then he will subsequently disappear. Part of the inconsistency can be attributed to the wack-a-mole rotation at quarterback, but there is often a distinct lack of focus translating from the practice field to game days.

As a route runner, as an athlete, and as a pure football player, DJ Matthews is too good to not produce more. To me, the most impressive part of DJ’s game is his catch radius at 5’10. Take for instance this play:

A good throw makes this play a potential touchdown. This ball is so poorly thrown that for an average receiver this is an incomplete pass. DJ gets full extension to finger-tip catch it while getting a foot down for the first down. Really impressive catch.

As a punt returner, DJ looked like one of the best returners in the country for two seasons before a dip in his production last year. I would attribute this to the decline of the roster around him, but I expect an uptick in that regard. FSU will have good special teams again and DJ will be a big part of that.

Ontaria Wilson

6’0” 170 lbs

2019: 21 receptions, 227 yards, 1 Touchdown

Aside from Tamorrion Terry, you could argue that Wilson was FSU’s most reliable receiver. He was always where the QB expected him to be, and often made big catches to keep the chains moving. Not overly big or fast (the second tallest of FSU’s returning receivers with significant playing time), “Pokey” has a propensity for generating extra yards after catch and is quite slippery in the open field.

Recruited alongside Terry from Turner County, both small-town prospects have been doing big things for FSU.

Jordan Young

6’2” 192 lbs

2019: 4 catches, 61 yards

Jordan “IROC” Young, a late signee from Conyers, GA, was highly heralded after his exciting highlight tape which was appropriately named “The Abusement Park”. He redshirted in 2018 after battling hamstring injuries and was buried down the depth chart behind Tamorrion Terry, Keith Gavin, and Ontaria Wilson but did flash in limited mop-up duty. One problem with being a bad football team is that young talents like Jordan Young get less of a chance to get their feet wet in garbage time; valuable reps like this could potentially accelerate their growth.

Fortunately for Jordan Young, with a new staff and new playbook comes opportunities. Aside from DJ Matthew, Young may be the most gifted wide receiver on the roster; a state champion hurdler and basketball player, he has freaky athleticism. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to impress on the staff this spring why he needs more playing time. Young is my breakout player for the spring and it is not just because we have the same last name.

Warren Thompson

6’3” 201 lbs

2019: 6 catches, 91 yards

Thompson burst onto the scene vs. Boise catching a 51 yard bomb after an impressive spring. He looked too big, too smooth, and too fast to keep off the field for long and the first half of the Boise game had many thinking the true freshman would be dynamite. The rest of 2019 devolved and Thompson subsequently did virtually nothing with very little reason as to why he wasn’t playing.

Now with the post-mortem on the Willie Taggart era finished we know Thompson clashed with the staff and Taggart numerous times. He (and various family members) spent more time on Instagram laughing at Willie’s woes and accusing the former coach of breaking promises than he did on putting the work in to become a better football player - but again with a new staff comes a new opportunity. Warren has a chance to be the player we saw in the first half of Boise.

Bryan Robinson

6’1” 185 lbs

Four-star recruit, rated 179th nationally

The early enrollee is the highest rated of FSU’s signees at wide receiver. Early reports from the ‘Tour of Duty’ are that Robinson looks like he belongs and has taken well to the level of effort it takes to be a D1 football player at a top-flight program.

He’s taking this seriously. This is not a Jimbo Fisher twitter ban - this was actually voluntary.

Thickly built with a smooth stride, Robinson catches the ball away from his body with his hands and uses his feet well with his route running. I’m looking forward to seeing him this spring.

Ja’Khi Douglas

5’9” 187 lbs

Four-star recruit, rated 287th nationally

Another early enrollee, Douglas is classified as a receiver but has the build of a running back. He’s rocked up. He played quarterback in high school (as high school coaches often put the best athlete at quarterback) so the transition to wide receiver likely will not be easy for him, but Douglas should be up to the challenge.

As a prospect, he is a recruit that succeeds because of his power, balance, and acceleration. Look for him to push for return duties on special teams.

Because this is a spring preview, I won’t go into details on guys like Corey Wren and Kentron Poitier but this is a talented group that could stand to add a little depth in 2020. For now the spring should be fun and full of excitement for this talented coterie.

Stick with Tomahawk Nation as we continue to preview the newcomers and returnees in the rest of the roster as we build up to the opening spring practice on March 7th.