March 14, 2012
The Florida State football team starts spring practice March 19 and Seminoles.com has got you covered. In preparation this week we will break down each position on the team with a list of scholarship players lost, returning and added while previewing what to watch for as the Seminoles hit the field in preparation for the 2012 season.
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS SPRING:
Bert Reed and his 49 career catches, 2,022 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns are gone by way of graduation. So, too, are tight ends Beau Reliford and Ja'Baris Little and their 93 combined games-played.
But Florida State may be better at wide receiver and tight end this season and that's not a knock on Reed, Reliford and Little; rather a credit to what the Seminoles have returning and the student-athletes available at those two positions for the spring.
At wide receiver, FSU loses Reed but has the return of Willie Haulstead and the hopeful emergence of redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin to count on moving forward. Of course, those two are in addition to the plethora of playmakers that FSU already boasts at the position.
One of the 'Noles' top receiving threats entering the 2011 season, Haulstead's then-junior campaign never happened after he was sidelined for the season because of a concussion he sustained late in fall camp. Before his injury, Haulstead led FSU in touchdown receptions (six) and yards-per-catch average (15.4) in 2010.
To put those numbers into perspective, only superstar freshmen Rashad Green had more touchdowns (seven) in 2011 and both Greene and Rodney Smith averaged nearly identical yards-per-catch numbers.
Haulstead's return means FSU has nine healthy scholarship players in a deep wide receivers corps for the fall.
As a rookie, Greene was still in high school during 2011 spring practice so imagine what he can do this year with a full offseason of work to get prepared. Greene led the 'Noles in receiving yards and touchdown catches last year despite missing four games with an injury.
Christian Green may only be a sophomore but this will be his second spring in Tallahassee after redshirting. Green played in all 13 games last year and developed into a go-to receiver for quarterback EJ Manuel, catching 26 passes for 450 yards. Like rising juniors Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent, Josh Gehres and Jarred Haggins, there is still a lot of room for improvement Green and Greene and the entire a group of pass catchers.
Finally, there's Smith, who has seen his production increase in each of his first three seasons. As the lone senior among all of FSU's wide receivers and tight ends, Smith could be poised for a monster final year in a Seminole uniform.
At the tight end position, it's now Nick O'Leary's time to take the reins.
O'Leary played in all 13 games as a freshman last season but only had 12 catches. Without Reliford and Little in town to take snaps, O'Leary has the opportunity to be a primary focus in the passing game. His pass-catching ability and hands are evident but this spring will be crucial for his continued development as a blocker -- a must-have trait in any Jimbo Fisher-installed offense.
O'Leary is just one of two scholarship tight ends in the roster this spring. He is joined by Will Tye, who has tremendous upside but wasn't utilized much as a redshirt freshman in 2011. It's unlikely that he will unseat O'Leary as the starter at tight end by Tye can use this spring to show the offensive coaches why he deserves opportunities this fall.
There may not be a bigger wild card in all of college football -- let alone at FSU -- than Benjamin.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound wide receiver looks like a hulking defensive end but showed in the high school ranks that he has the hands and pass-catching ability of a potentially elite receiver. Now it's his time to show off those skills that made him one of the most highly recruited receivers in the 2011 signing class.
Benjamin used his first season in Tallahassee to get in better shape and learn the playbook, and while the sheer numbers of players at the position may stand in his way of playing time right away, his size and potential can't be kept off the field if he shows the ability to perform well this spring.