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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
2013 Spring Preview: WRs, TEs

By David M. Hale

Florida State
Tight end Nick O'Leary will need to be more consistent in 2013.

From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.

With that in mind, we're going to go position-by-position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.

Last week: Cornerback

Next up: Receivers and Tight Ends

2012 recap: The prevailing wisdom before the season began was that quarterback EJ Manuel's biggest problem in the passing game would be finding enough footballs to go around. FSU returned a wealth of talent at wide out and had an emerging threat in tight end Nick O'Leary, so the options seemed limitless. Turns out, the results were more or less the same as they had been in 2011. Rashad Greene continued to look like an emerging star, leading the team in receptions (57), yards (741) and TDs (6) by a wide margin, but in comparison to the rest of the ACC, the numbers were rather pedestrian. Five other receivers caught at least 20 balls, but none emerged as a major threat week in and week out, including O'Leary, who struggled with fumbles and disappeared from the offenses for long stretches. Meanwhile, former highly touted youngsters Willie Haulstead and Christian Green never managed to find a niche in the offense at all. They combined for just six catches and 64 yards.

Departures: In what was already considered a position of depth for Florida State in 2012, the only significant loss for the Seminoles is senior Rodney Smith. Still, it's a big loss. Smith was never a star, but he was perhaps FSU's most consistent receiver throughout the past few seasons, ending his career by recording a reception in 39 straight games. While others have exceeded his overall production during that time, no one has been as consistent.

Arrivals: Redshirt freshman Marvin Bracy, widely considered one of the fastest players in the country, will get his first taste of action. FSU has commitments from Isaiah Jones (Milton, Fla./Milton High School) and Jesus Wilson (Miami/Christopher Columbus). Little-used tight ends Kevin Hapla and Christo Kourtzidis should both see bigger roles in 2012 as well, with Fisher experimenting with more two-tight end sets following the departure of fullback Lonnie Pryor.

Biggest question mark: Arguably, Kelvin Benjamin will be the biggest question mark for the third straight year. His potential appears limitless -- particularly when considering the enthralling details of his practice-field heroics shared by teammates -- but his on-field performance remains inconsistent. If Benjamin can put it all together, he has the skill set to become one of the elite receivers in the nation. At the very least, however, FSU needs him to take another small step forward to become a more reliable option in the receiving game than he was in 2012.

Breakout star: Benjamin's name has become synonymous with potential star over the past two years, but there are other intriguing possibilities as well. O'Leary never blossomed into a consistent weapon in 2012, but he did nearly double his production from 2011 and should become an even bigger part of the offense going forward. Bracy's speed makes him a dangerous deep threat and a weapon on end-arounds and reverses, as well as a potential option on special teams. And, of course, there's Greene, who could easily make the leap from good receiver to elite receiver in his junior season. As it was in 2012, depth is the name of the game for FSU's receivers -- it's just a matter of whether all that potential can be more fully realized this time around.

Projected 2013 starters: Greene, Benjamin and Kenny Shaw at receiver, O'Leary at tight end.