The Florida State special teams return units for Florida State struggled mightily in 2014, especially the kickoff return unit which finished 87th in the country at just 19.82 yards per return. This was after the Seminoles finished first in 2013 with 28.16 yards per return. That change according to return man Kermit Whitfield, was due to a change in personnel.
“It was different because my freshman year like we had receivers," Whitfield said. "We had big guys like Eligwe, we had Reggie, we had Chad. Chad was a big factor because he would kick people and I would hit the seam. On the other side we had big guys like Broxie. Who were big and could take on blocks. People who could take hits coming from a small fast guy.”
Whitfield has seen a lot of improvement in that department so far this fall camp. He's been very pleased with the blocking in front of him.
“The blocking is getting better. We’ve got some guys that really throw their body out there to block for me.”
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has also seen an improvement this fall.
"That has looked extremely well in our preseason camp," Fisher said. "I've been very pleased with that. I'm anxious to see it in the games. Hope we don't have to see it a lot. Now punt returns that's what i want to see a lot. We have worked extremely hard and I think we have better body types at certain positions to allow us to do a better job blocking."
The punt return unit is also an area that Florida State has been focusing on. The Seminoles finished 23rd in the nation in average yards per punt return with 10.53 yards. The main issue with the punt return unit is they only returned 17 punts all season. Senior Rashad Green earned the job as a returner because of his sure hands rather than his ability to return punts. This year Florida State has someone back there that also has sure hands, but can also move extremely well in cornerback Marquez White.
Coach Fisher has been extremely impressed with White as the punt returner and couldn't say enough about his ability.
"Phenomenal ball skills," Fisher said. "Got wiggle. Can run. Catches the ball. First and foremost as a punt returner you've got to receive the ball. Got tremendous hands. Judges the ball tremendously well. Gets to all the punts. Nothing hits the ground on him either."
One of the reason's why Fisher likes White so much is his ability to get to every punt.
"I haven’t dropped a punt all camp," White said. "That’s one of the reasons. I just try to field every punt. Wherever it’s at, I try to field it... It’s really important. Wherever the ball bounces on average you lose up to 10 yards. It’s real important to give the offense a chance to start in good field position."
Florida State has the athletes to excel in the return game. The question is whether or not they can put it all together like they did in 2013.