The other day, I discussed the injury-plagued Florida State running back corps, and how its loss of two important leaders to the NFL has left coach Jimbo Fisher searching for others to step up. The wide receiver situation at FSU is eerily similar. Just as tough as replacing Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. in the backfield will be sorting out which receivers can fill the shoes of Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin.
Unlike the running back situation, their are fewer receiver options currently on campus. The unquestioned returning leader will be senior Rashad Greene, whose tenure as a Seminole has been quietly phenomenal. Consider his first three years: as a freshman in 2011, he was first on the team in catches (38), yards (596), and touchdown receptions (7). As a sophomore in 2012, he accomplished that feat again, putting up a team-high line of 57-741-6. In FSU’s title run last year, he led the team in grabs (76) and yardage (1128), while his nine TD catches were second to Kelvin Benjamin’s 15.
So to recap: since he’s worn the garnet and gold, Rashad Greene has led in eight of nine major receiving categories. Expect him to make that 11 of 12 after this season.
After that, well, things open up a bit. At the onset of spring practice, head coach Jimbo Fisher placed an emphasis on experience, discussing the importance of his returning seniors:
You got Rashad (Greene) coming back and then Scooter (Haggins) and Christian (Green). Scooter – having sat out with injuries, he’s chomping. You worry about a guy who has a knee issue and when you go into those conditioning drills and the wear and tear it will have on them, but his knee held up, I was shocked I was, he went through it and he looked faster, he seemed faster than I remember. I think Christian Green had a good offseason, so those guys are experienced being in games, catching balls are critical because those young guys are coming and they are very talented.
Which young guys, specifically? Fisher spoke jocularly about how he might use two of them to fill the void left by the 6-5 Benjamin:
I’ll stack Bobo (Wilson) and Kermit (Whitfield) on top of each other. They will be as tall as one Kelvin. We will see if we can get the best people on the field, and also you can jump or you can run, there are two different avenues, or throw it short and then they have to tackle him. Scooter, Christian, and Rashad can do that. Bobo and Kermit – those guys get the ball short and it’s hard to get them on the ground. I’m looking forward to Isaiah (Jones), he had a very good offseason too, but you know we will have to do things different ways and we’ll see some of the freshman come in when they come here.
And while the 6-4 Jones has the body-type most reminiscent of Benjamin’s size, this may be a WR corps built more around speed than size. Fisher hasn’t spoken a great deal about receivers this spring, but one player, in particular, seems to have garnered the lion’s share of his praise through the early practices: the 5-9 Jesus “Bobo” Wilson. Fisher elaborated further on Wilson’s playmaking ability just the other day:
He is fast. He has great speed. He can get the deep ball. He has great running skills afterward. He can stick his foot in the ground and change direction. He is strong for his size. He is very strong physically.
Of course this impressive pool of contenders is about to get deeper, as FSU’s wide receiver recruits — the top group in the nation — hit campus for summer practices. Five-star Ermon Lane and four-stars Travis Rudolph and Javon Harrison drew significant kudos from Fisher:
Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane I think are big, big-time players. But I think that Javon is right there at that same caliber of player as them, and when you get three of them, to be able to spread the field, inside guys, outside guys, and these guys are all big-body guys. They’re big-body guys that are outside guys that have the capabilities and the body quickness to go inside, which is very rare.
Fisher made one thing very clear: “The best players are going to play.” It will be interesting to see how the battle for playing time progresses, with two spring practices left, and especially at Doak Campbell Stadium for the nationally broadcast spring game on Saturday.