The Daily Nole

FSU Football: 2017 Preseason Position Preview — Wide Receivers/Tight Ends athletics

Untapped potential may be the best way to describe the Florida State receiving corps in two words. FSU is losing three contributors at the position in Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson, but could still be better at the position.

When it comes to FSU pass-catchers, the Seminoles have size, speed, athleticism and raw talent, but so many unknowns. FSU returns just five scholarship wide receivers and only two with any real meaningful game experience. If there is good news, it’s that the tight end position is one where Florida State has very good depth and multiple tight end sets could help alleviate some of the deficiencies at receiver — assuming there are still deficiencies.

Talent isn’t a question for the Seminoles. It’s how that talent develops that will define FSU’s corps of pass-catchers in 2017:

1. The Name to Know: Nyqwan Murray
The loss of then leading receiver Jesus Wilson midway through 2016 looked like a big blow to FSU at the time, but it opened the door for sophomore Nyqwan Murray to show what he could do. After being used very little early on in 2016, Murray finished with 27 catches for 441 yards and five touchdowns with all but five catches for 46 yards coming in the final six games.

Murray, listed at 5-11 and 175 pounds, isn’t big, but has all the tools to be a complete receiver. Despite his small frame, Murray isn’t afraid to make the tough catches over the middle. He’s also capable of beating defenders over the top or making them miss in the open field. Murray recorded just two catches against Michigan All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis in the Orange Bowl, but they went for 104 total yards and both for touchdowns, including the game-winner in a 33-32 FSU victory.

2. Burning Question: Which Unproven Receivers Emerge?
Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate combined for 52 catches, 850 yards receiving and 11 touchdown catches last year, but everyone else on the roster at wide receiver has just eight combined career catches for 72 yards. Of the five others however, four were blue-chip prospects, including George Campbell, who was a 5-star receiver out of high school. Tight ends Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders combined for 409 yards receiving on 29 combined catches last year.

3. Put Your Future Stock In: D.J. Matthews
D.J. Matthews is undersized at 5-11 and less than 170 pounds, but is a threat to score every time he touches the football. A freshman from Jacksonville, Matthews is a candidate to play right away.

Even if he is slow to learn the offense, Matthews is a player who can make things happen in the open field as well; all he needs is the ball. It wouldn’t be a shocker to see Matthews used in the return game either.

4. Other Names to Know: Auden Tate, George Campbell, Da’Vante Phillips, Keith Gavin, Ryan Izzo, Mavin Saunders
Auden Tate and George Campbell are each huge targets for FSU, listed at 6-5 and 6-4, respectively. Tate, a junior, began last season primarily as a red zone target, but became a more complete receiver as the year went on. Campbell, a redshirt sophomore, has superstar written all over him, but has been unable to stay on the field. Campbell missed all of last season with a groin injury.

Keith Gavin, a 6-3, 225-pound sophomore, is another FSU receiver with huge potential, but went without a catch in 2016. Gavin’s 66-yard kickoff return in the Orange Bowl however, set up FSU’s game-winning drive.

Junior Da’Vante Phillips is more of a possession receiver, but has some wiggle in the open field. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Phillips also has good size, but his hands appeared a bit suspect during the FSU spring game. At tight end, Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders should each be involved a little more in the passing game. Both are 6-6, but Saunders is the better athlete while Izzo is more of a complete player.

5. Food For Thought
For 2017, Florida State returns just 1,313 receiving yards from the previous season. That accounts for only about 38 percent of FSU’s receiving yards last season and is the lowest returning total for the Seminoles under head coach Jimbo Fisher. This is also the first time that FSU doesn’t return a player who had at least 500 yards receiving the year before since 2009.

Under Fisher, the Seminoles have signed 13 blue-chip receivers and four have departed early, which does not include leaving for the NFL Draft. That departed list does not include former 5-star Ermon Lane, who switched to safety in the middle of last season. Those names consist of Ja’Vonn Harrison, Greg Dent, Isaiah Jones and Marvin Bracy.

The 12 players on the FSU roster at wide receiver and tight end combined to average 75.25 inches in height per player. That’s an average greater than 6-3.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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