2017 Spring Preview: Receivers and Tight Ends

A new era of receivers beings at Florida State.

Gone are Travis Rudolph, Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield, a trio of receivers who have been mainstays of the passing game for three years now. Those three were the centerpiece of the passing game, paving the way for Jameis Winston, Everett Golson, Sean Maguire and Deondre Francois to find success at quarterback. Luckily, the Seminoles have recruited the skill position as well as anyone in the entire country, which gives them several good options to work with.

Last season, two young receivers burst onto the scene as playmakers. Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray (junior) and Auden Tate (junior) return to Tallahassee after breakout sophomore campaigns and will help to ease the burden of replacing three receivers who are off to the NFL. Despite being listed at 5-11, 176-pounds, Murray played bigger than that. He finished the season with 27 receptions for 441 yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Tate is your prototypical No. 1 receiver, listed at 6-5, 225-pounds, and finished with 25 receptions for 409 yards and six touchdowns.

This season, look for Murray and Tate to be the first and second options at receiver. Tate has the size to split out wide and create mismatches, especially in the red zone. If he can improve and work on his route running during the times when Florida State is driving down the field, he’ll be a star. Murray, on the other hand, has proven that he is able to play either in the slot or flexed outside. If he can work as an outside receiver, it opens up a lot of possibilities as to what Florida State will be able to do in their passing offense.

Behind Murray and Tate are another pair of receivers who were a part of the 2015 recruiting class in Da’Vante Phillips (junior) and George Campbell (redshirt sophomore). Phillips has been a backup during his career so far, but will be given the opportunity to earn starter snaps. Campbell sat out last season due to a core injury, but has great size (6-4, 207-pounds) and was one of the fastest recruits in the nation coming out of high school. The one thing that FSU lacks right now from the receiving corps is pure speed and Campbell might be the guy to give them that element.

A name that Florida State fans will recognize immediately is Keith Gavin (sophomore), whose 66-yard kickoff return in the Orange Bowl set up the game-winning touchdown. Gavin has great size at 6-3, 225-pounds and, if he can work on his hands, he will be an awesome addition to the offense. Consistency is the key with Gavin, as it is one thing that Jimbo Fisher has preached often when talking about factors that he looks for in his receivers.

With just five scholarship receivers on campus, the Seminoles will be eagerly awaiting their two freshmen that will enroll this summer. D.J. Matthews (freshman) is an electric slot receiver who will push for major playing time as a first-year player. Tamorrion Terry (freshman) is a bit of a project, but you can’t teach the size that he has at 6-4, 208-pounds. If he gets on campus, expect the coaching staff to get him in the weight room immediately to add some muscle to that frame.

At the tight end position, not much here will surprise fans. Back is Ryan Izzo (redshirt junior) who has been a mainstay of the offense for two years now. He has improved as a blocker during his time at Florida State and is quietly a great pass catcher as well. He won’t make many super athletic plays, but his consistency both as a blocker and catcher is a great staple of the offense.

If you’re looking for a guy to make athletic catches, then Mavin Saunders (redshirt junior) is your guy. The fourth-year tight end has steadily improved his game since arriving on campus. He has progressed as a blocker, something that he was very raw at coming out of high school. Saunders also made some very impressive catches last season and, with more snaps, could be a game-changer for Florida State in the red zone.

Backing up those two guys at tight end will be Jeremy Kerr (redshirt senior) and Naseir Upshur (sophomore). Kerr is mostly a blocking option, while Upshur played last year on special teams. Already on campus is Tre’ McKitty (freshman), a good receiver who will work on his blocking skills in his presumed redshirt season. Joining them this summer will be Alexander Marshall (freshman), a 6-7 giant whom I’m sure the coaching staff is eager to get their hands on.

While the Seminoles won’t have much depth at the wide receiver position next season, they have talented options at the top of the depth chart. Murray and Tate are starters and if they can get a guy like Campbell or Gavin to be a consistent third option, then Francois will have some tools to work with. When paired with the consistency they are getting from the tight end position, this could have the looks of a group that could deal some damage in the ACC next season.

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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