WRs are a Strength

There was some concern about the wide receiver position entering last season, but there will be no concern entering 2011. Florida State has a deep and talented group of play-makers and this is now a strength of the team. NoleDigest has a preview of the WR position as we enter Spring practice.

Rising senior Bert Reed led the team in catches in 2010, but did not make quite as many big plays as he did in 2009. Reed is an explosive athlete with quality deep speed and is the most experienced of the FSU wideouts. He needs to show that big play ability as the youngsters are itching to get on the field.

Classmate Taiwan Easterling has been the most consistent of the WRs on the roster. He possesses great hands, runs quality routes, and has a little shake to him in the open field. He is playing baseball right now and there is a chance he pursues that sport in the future.

Smith is poised for a huge junior season
Steve Chase, Scout.com

Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith stepped up when Jarmon Fortson was dismissed from the team in the pre-season. The rising juniors bring much needed size to the equation and both had flashes of brilliance as sophomores.

Haulstead is the more physical player and there were times when he appeared set to take over a game. Smith is taller, faster, and smoother; he is just coming into his own as a WR and played his best ball down the stretch. It would be surprising if both players did not improve significantly after gaining that experience.

With the top four returning you would think it would be tough for others to get into the rotation, but there is some terrific talent waiting in the wings and Spring provides the opportunity for them to showcase their skills.

Christian Green redshirted due to an injury, but he may have the best overall package on the team. He possesses deep speed on a 6'2 frame and has the potential to be special down the road. He entered FSU very raw as a WR due to playing QB in high school, but word is that he has picked up the offense and is ready to realize his vast potential.

Both Kenny Shaw and Greg Dent did play as true freshmen. Shaw is probably the top route runner on the team already and he has started to add weight. We think he puts a lot of pressure on the seniors. Dent is just an outstanding overall athlete. There was some debate about where he would play when he was recruited, but he settled in as a WR where Dent has a knack for making plays. He is bigger than Shaw. Both players could get some time as slots in 2011.

Redshirt sophomore Josh Gehres will try to crack the rotation. He played mainly special teams last year. The local product will try to find a role offensively and needs to have a strong Spring. Jarred Haggins redshirted last year. The former Lakeland QB needs some time to learn the position, but his size(6'2) and athleticism are attractive. Haggins is a play-maker with the ball in his hands and just needs to continue developing the finer points of the position.

This unit is ridiculously loaded, but more help is on the way with 6'6 Kelvin Benjamin and Rashad Greene set to arrive in the summer. Benjamin is a unique physical package with elite size, Coach Fisher fell in love with him and reeled him in from Florida and Miami. Greene had a tremendous two year career at STA where he was the go to WR. He's a natural who shows a lot of polish for a young player.

Bottom line

With Fortson's dismissal there were plenty of questions about this unit before the season. There are no questions at this time as this group is loaded with talent. There is size, there is speed, there is experience, and of course play-makers. It would be hard to imagine a better group in the country.

While Reed and Easterling are proven commodities, there is probably more upside with some of the youngsters. Players like Dent and Shaw will try to wrestle those reps away in 2011 and that starts with a solid Spring. Shaw, in particular, would seem ready to take the next step.

Haulstead and Smith's size put them on safer ground. Both players should be better in 2011 and we think both are poised to make a name for themselves nationally.

The wildcard is Green. He has the type of potential that is tough to keep off the field. If he is mentally ready, look for him to make a major move and perhaps shuffle the rotation because of it.

E.J. Manuel could not ask for anything more in his first year as a starter. He has 8-9 quality targets and an offense tailor made for his talent. Look for the FSU passing game to improve in 2011.

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