- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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Spring practice is just a few weeks away for Florida State, and while the defending national champs return plenty of talent to make another run at a title, there are still some big question marks looming as the Seminoles begin work on the 2014 season. With that in mind, we’re looking at the five most intriguing players to watch this spring and projecting how they might fit into Jimbo Fisher’s plans in the fall.
Next up: WR Christian Green
Credentials: Green looked like a budding star in 2011 when, as a redshirt freshman, he caught 26 passes for 450 yards and served as FSU’s No. 3 receiver. In the two years since, however, he’s all but disappeared from the offense. In 2012, he caught just three balls, and last season, despite a dearth of veteran receivers on the roster, he finished with just 13 catches for 157 yards. A handful of drops and a fumble did little to inspire much confidence even when the ball did come his way.
How he fits: Florida State waved goodbye to two-thirds of its primary receivers this offseason with Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin each headed to the NFL. That leaves just two wide receivers on the roster that caught more than 10 balls last year: Rashad Greene and Christian Green. That formula would seem to set up nicely for Green, but the Seminoles will also open fall camp with six first- or second-year receivers aiming for significant playing time.
Competition: In terms of experienced competition, the only other option for Florida State is senior Jarred Haggins, who is set to return from a knee injury that cost him all of 2013. But even Haggins has just 20 career catches. Meanwhile, last year’s freshman class included three receivers -- Levonte Whitfield, Isaiah Jones and Jesus Wilson -- and Fisher routinely praised the group, in spite of its limited on-field impact. Add to that three more freshmen entering this fall -- all ESPN 300 players -- and a position with little experience is nevertheless brimming with talent.
Outlook: It goes without saying that it’s now or never for Green, but the significance of his spring performance is important for the team as well as for the individual. Greene is a star, but if defenses know they can double cover him without regard to the rest of the receivers on the field, life can get much tougher for Jameis Winston and the FSU passing game. But what separated last year’s group wasn’t simply its star power. It was consistent production from each player, all of whom earned Winston’s trust. That’s still a big hurdle for Green, and if he can’t do it this spring before the new recruits arrive, it’s possible he’ll never carve out a niche in the FSU offense.