The troubling state of Florida State’s receiver unit

Photo by Logan Stanford

ACC media days have officially concluded, which means that the 2017 football season is right around the corner.

We don’t normally learn much from media days, even with coaches and players speaking to media for the first time since the end of last season. A lot of it is “coach speak,” praising various elements of the team for their offseason workouts and effort, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

However, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher did reveal two pieces of interesting information during his time in Charlotte.

Aside from the news that junior defensive back Marcus Lewis would be transferring, he also informed media that redshirt sophomore receiver George Campbell is not fully recovered from his core injury that caused him to miss the entire 2016 season.

This ‘wait and see’ approach that Florida State is taking with Campbell is essentially saying, “We don’t know when he’ll be back.”

This is troubling news for the Seminoles. Campbell, a former five-star recruit from the 2015 recruiting class, has never managed to stay healthy during his time in Tallahassee. He caught three passes for 42 yards in the first game of his career in 2015 against Texas State, but has gone 25 straight games since then without catching a single pass.

Even more concerning is the fact that Campbell’s absence from fall camp means that the receiver depth chart, which is already lacking depth, takes another hit. Florida State has two returning starters in juniors Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray, two players who proved last year that they have the potential to be great college players. The problem arises when looking beyond them on the depth chart.

Right now, junior Da’Vante Phillips and sophomore Keith Gavin are penciled in as the primary backups behind Tate and Murray with Campbell sidelined. Phillips, a former four-star recruit, has caught five passes for 30 yards in his time at Florida State. Gavin, a fellow blue-chip recruit, has received a lot of offseason hype yet did not record a single catch as a true freshman. Behind those players are a pair of true freshman in four-star D.J. Matthews and three-star Tamorrion Terry.

Including Campbell, that’s seven total receivers that Florida State has under scholarship for the 2017-18 season, two of which are true freshmen.

This is not a good statistic, especially considering that the Seminoles are hoping to contend for a national title this season. Receiver is a position where injuries are quite common. Only seven players under scholarship means that Florida State will likely be counting on true freshmen and walk-ons to play key roles both in practice and in meaningful games as well.

Don’t believe me about the injury thing? Let’s take a look at what Florida State has been through in recent years.

In short, we can expect Florida State’s receiver depth to get tested in 2017 if normal injury luck occurs.

But, you may be asking yourself right now, why is there a lack of depth at receiver in Tallahassee? I, myself, have written that the Seminoles are one of the best teams in the country at recruiting wide receivers.

Florida State finds itself in a weird position going into the 2017 season. Normally, a team that recruits at an elite level like the Seminoles would be counting on nearly four or five years of recruiting classes to make up a depth chart at any given position. This is especially so for receiver, which is a position where most players do not make an impact until their third or fourth year in the program.

But Florida State this year will only be relying on three years of recruiting at the receiver position. The only scholarship receivers on the depth chart are from the 2015, 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes.

The 2013 receiver class is gone. Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield ran out of eligibility last season and Isaiah Jones transferred a while back. The 2014 receiver group was widely considered to be one of the best in the nation at the time, but failed to live up to expectations. Travis Rudolph declared early for the NFL Draft and went undrafted. Ermon Lane, despite his five-star status, did not break through at receiver and moved to safety. Finally, Ja’Vonn Harrison left the program last year.

With only three years of recruiting to make up the receiver depth chart and this latest news about Campbell, the Seminoles will most certainly enter the 2017 season with major questions at the position.

However, Florida State is not without potential answers to this problem.

The Seminoles return two fourth-year tight ends in Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders. Both are good pass catchers and could cause the offense to shift to more of a base two-tight end set to account for their strengths. Although it’s not a popular opinion, walk-on Jared Jackson might also have to be considered for playing time, at least in practice. A fifth-year senior, he saw time last year on the field, most notably in the Orange Bowl when various receivers left due to injury.

While there’s still a ways to go before Florida State suits up against Alabama in Atlanta, this notion about wide receiver depth should at least be considered as we start to view how the 2017 season might play out. Although Tate and Murray are locked in as starters, the rest of the depth chart is widely unknown and surrounded with questions. When accounting for normal injury luck to occur, Florida State will have to rely on some of these unknowns to play major snaps this season.

Will this be a major factor in Florida State’s pursuit of a national title? Perhaps. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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