NoleGameday

2016 Spring Preview: Wide Receivers

Michael Chang/Getty Images Sport
[table “” not found /]
Bold indicates a returning starter

Over the past couple of recruiting cycles, Florida State has arguably recruited wide receiver better than any other position on the roster. In 2013, they landed two blue-chip recruits and a three-star. In 2014, they landed a trio of blue-chip prospects, including one five-star. And, finally, in 2015, Florida State landed three blue-chip recruits, including one five-star, and one three-star. Recruiting has gone well for the ‘Noles at wide receiver and 2016 might be the year when Florida State finally sees the fruits of their labor. The Seminoles return every wide receiver in 2016 and several talented underclassmen now have another year under their belts.

A former Top-50 recruit in the country, Travis Rudolph (#15) returns for his junior season after leading the ‘Noles in every receiving category during his sophomore campaign (59-916-7). Rudolph struggled at times to adjust to the No. 1 receiver role that was vacated when Rashad Greene left for the NFL but started to heat up towards the end of the season, particularly when Sean Maguire took over at quarterback (5-191-3 vs. Syracuse, 7-201-1 vs. Houston). Rudolph still needs to develop as a receiver if his goal is to depart for the NFL after his junior season, but he is unquestionably Florida State’s best receiver heading into 2016.

The only two seniors at wide receiver will be Bobo Wilson (#3) and Kermit Whitfield (#8), both returning starters. Wilson is a two-year starter for the Seminoles and had his most productive season in 2015 (58-622-3). He has struggled with drops in the past, but is the most experienced receiver returning to the team and should retain his role as either a slot or outside receiver in 2016. Meanwhile, Kermit Whitfield had a breakout season in 2015 (57-798-6) as he used his elite speed to separate from defenders from primarily a slot role. Previously, Kermit was primarily an offensive weapon, but 2015 showed that he can be counted on as a No. 2 option moving forward.

After those three receivers, Florida State has a bunch of players who have the talent and skill to get major snaps, but have not proven it yet on the field. Ermon Lane (#1) was a solid contributor as a freshman, when he caught 13 passes for 267 yards and a score, but his production as a sophomore took a tailspin (6-50-0). At 6-3, 205 lbs., he certainly has the size to be a No. 1 receiver, but drops have plagued him in the past. However, he is certainly the best blocking receiver on the team and, as such, he will continue to see playing time. Another junior is Ja’Vonn Harrison (#13). Harrison was a raw prospect coming out of high school, but his tape showed that he was an aggressive and physical receiver. He played with the first-team in spring practice, but only ended up playing periodically throughout 2015 (6-129-1).

Last recruiting cycle, Florida State signed four talented freshman receivers, all of whom did not see the field much on 2015. However, this is to be expected, as freshman receivers across the nation do not typically contribute much in their first year on campus. But with another offseason under their belt it is possible to see one of these players break out in 2016. The big name here is George Campbell (#11), who was a five-star prospect out of high school. Campbell has great size at 6-4, 202 lbs., and flashed his elite speed in the spring game and versus Texas State early in the year. He had a couple of balls thrown his way throughout the course of the season, but drops and injuries prevented him from playing more snaps. Campbell’s elite athleticism will help him push for major playing time in 2016.

Another sophomore receiver is Auden Tate (#18). At 6-5, 216 lbs., Tate has the size that Florida State has lacked at receiver ever since Kelvin Benjamin departed for the NFL. Tate was slowly being worked into the receiver rotation, as seen during the Miami game, but injuries hampered him down the stretch. With size at receiver a clear issue in 2015, Tate could see more playing time in 2016 as a red-zone threat.

The final two sophomores are Da’Vante Phillips (#5) and Nyqwan Murray (#80). Phillips was a blue-chip recruit out of high school, but did not see much playing time in 2015. He has the tools to be a solid contributor and should push for playing time in spring practice. Meanwhile, Murray was the one freshman receiver in 2015 that pushed for playing time down the stretch. He didn’t necessarily contribute that much (6-65-0) but it was clear that Jimbo Fisher and the coaching staff were trying to incorporate him into the offense. At 5-11, 171 lbs., Murray is strictly a slot option, but his short area quickness and initial burst should help him push for playing time in the slot in 2016.

Florida State only signed one receiver this offseason in Keith Gavin (#TBA). Gavin suffered an AC joint sprain in the high school championships, so his recovery this offseason will be key to determine if he plays in 2016. If healthy, Gavin is perhaps the most physical receiver on Florida State’s roster. At 6-3, 219 lbs., Gavin has the size to be a red-zone threat right away for the Seminoles.

The Seminoles will return 100% of their receiving production from 2015, a great sign for a team that will be working with two freshmen quarterbacks in the spring. Travis Rudolph is cemented as the No. 1 option and Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield are great complementary receivers. Florida State also has some former blue-chip talent that could have breakout seasons in 2016, such as George Campbell or Auden Tate. The future looks bright at wide receiver in Tallahassee.

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *