The Florida State wide receiving corps weren't very flashy this season, but three players had more than 50 catches coming into the bowl game. Florida State wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey was pleased with what he got from his upperclassmen and Travis Rudolph this season, but he is also very excited for what he has to play with going forward.
"I’m very excited," Dawsey said. "We’re young. We’ve got good quarterbacks, and any time you’ve got good quarterbacks you’ve got to be excited with the receiving corps that I’ve got. I’ve looked at what they’ve done this year with Kermit, Bobo, and Travis. I’m expecting them to go up and the young guys numbers to go up. The talent is there. Now we just have to go out and keep fine tuning it."
Dawsey was especially proud of what Kermit Whitfield was able to accomplish this year. Whitfield was a non-factor last season, and comes into the bowl game as the Seminoles leading receiver with 53 catches for 742 yards and 6 touchdowns.
"He prepared better," Dawsey said. "Mentally more so than physically. He always had physical skills to do what he’s doing, but mentally wise he has done the things as far as carrying over what we’re trying to get him to accomplish on a consistent basis. Some times he would show it and then he’ll be like a freshman, but this past year with Rashad [Greene] and everybody being gone and the young guys pushing competition also helps that situation. After going through he spring sitting around watching, he came to me and said, ‘Coach I see what you’re talking about. I understand what it will take now. I’m sitting here looking at everybody else doing it and you’re coaching them up, and I’m not doing it.’ He got a chance to see his growth. His maturity has helped him be successful this season I think.
Florida State lost Ermon Lane to a broken foot for the bowl game, and while Lane wasn't a major factor in the passing game this season, he did make an impact as a blocker. Sophomore Ja'Vonn Harrison will get a chance to take over his role for the bowl game, but he will be looking over his shoulder for the freshmen.
"Right now Ja’Vonn [Harrison] will get that opportunity to go in there, but I’m also seeing how Tate and some of the other guys will get a chance as well," Dawsey said. "But first man up will be Ja’Vonn Harrison."
Dawsey is very excited to see what Harrison can do with this opportunity.
"He’s not as physical as Lane is, but he has the ability to do it," Dawsey said. "He’s a great athlete. It’s just going to be about the attitude, and his attitude has been good. He’s had a good week of practice and I’m excited to see what he can do because he’s shown flashes of it. So it’s next man up. That’s the motto."
Auden Tate was one of the guys mentioned that has been pushing for more playing time according to Dawsey, and the will have some packages ready for him in the red zone.
"I see him having great success down there," Dawsey said. "We talked about it and we made plans if we gget in certain situations were going to take advantage of his size. He’s got great ball skills and he’s a guy that coming in we thought that it would be a good role for him in the red zone to throw the ball to. Not only in the red zone, but out in the field too. He’s a good receiver. He’ll have a great career here at Florida State."
Dawsey wasn't ready to compare Tate to Kelvin Benjamin, but he did say he sees a lot of similarities between the two.
"He brings a lot to the table, and that’s what you like about him," Dawsey said. "That’s what you notice when had Kelvin Benjamin here in the same situation. Especially the wing span and the ability to go up and get the ball when it ain’t perfect all the time. When the ball is out of reach the quarterback can put the ball in places only he can get it. He can adjust to the ball just as good as anybody.
I see some similarities. I don’t want to put that on him quite yet. It took Kelvin three years to get to that point. Hopefully Tate will be to that point and hopefully he will be better. He definitely has the potential to get to that point."
The guy that everyone expected to make an impact this season, George Campbell, struggled with injuries and inconsistency this season. Dawsey has seen improvement from Campbell, and expects him to have a big role for the Florida State offense next season.
"Consistency," Dawsey said. "Just more consistency. He works hard every day in practice. We just got to get more consistent with the details. I’m not saying that like I’m disappointed in him because he doesn’t get everything we ask him to do, but I’m expecting him to have a bigger role in offense. In the offseason I’m expecting his role to expand. He’s going to know more and know the offense better. So I’m expecting him and the rest of the receivers to develop in the spring. That’s what I’m enjoying about the extra practices right now. We get to see how the young guys are growing from when they first got here and where they are now. Imagine how they’re going to be in the spring and put pressure on the older guys."
Nyquan Murray and Da'Vante Phillips are the other two freshmen Florida State signed in last year's recruiting class, and while Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has praised Murray quite a bit this season, Phillips has become the forgotten man. That shouldn't be the cas according to Dawsey.
"He’s going to be a physical receiver," Dawsey said. "He’s going to be a great receiver after the catch. From just what I see in practice. He’s finally getting his body healthy and understanding what it’s going to take at this level to get it done. Me and coach Fisher have been looking at the last several weeks, reading the body language. He’s getting comfortable, and he’s ready to take off."
Coach Dawsey has a lot of talented guys to work with, and, with only two upperclassmen receivers on the roster, he will have plenty of time to do so. He's excited about the future of the wide receiver position, and Florida State fans should be as well.