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Thursday, February 28, 2013
State of the Noles: Wide receivers

By David M. Hale & Corey Dowlar

NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, the final position in the series: Wide receivers.

Scholarship receivers (12): Kenny Shaw (Sr.), Rashad Greene (Jr.), Christian Green (RSJr.), Kelvin Benjamin (RSSo.), Jarred Haggins (Sr.), Josh Gehres (RSSr.), Marvin Bracy (RSFr.), Willie Haulstead (RSSr.), Greg Dent (Sr.), Jesus Wilson (Fr.), Levonte Whitfield (Fr.), Isaiah Jones (Fr.)

L.Whitfield Under Armour
Speedy 2013 signee Levonte Whitfield could emerge as a special teams contributor.
Potential early departures: Greene was exceptional to start 2011 and end 2012. If he can put together a full, consistent season, he could be an NFL prospect next year. Benjamin has an NFL skill set, too, but it's far less refined. The odds aren't high that either will leave early, but if they do, it will be because Florida State got huge seasons from them in 2013.

Predicted starters (Hale's picks/Dowlar's picks)
2013: Greene, Benjamin/Greene, Shaw
2014: Greene, Benjamin/Greene, Benjamin
2015: Benjamin, Whitfield/Benjamin, Jones

Why they'll start: While the biggest questions of the spring surround the men hoping to be throwing the passes in 2013, there's little reason to be concerned with those catching them. Florida State's latest crop of receivers is a perfect mixture of depth and experience, giving whoever wins the quarterback job a bevy of targets in the passing game.

Greene has been Florida State's leading receiver in each of his first two seasons in Tallahassee, and while he's quietly established himself as one of the ACC's top targets, he still has room to improve. In six of his 23 games, he's racked up at least 80 yards receiving, but in eight others, he's been held to two catches or fewer. Greene missed four games as a freshman due to injury, and his 2012 season was a mix of big numbers and quiet performances. A consistent 2013 season could vault Greene into the discussion as one of the top receivers in the nation.

Beyond Greene, the Seminoles have a mix of talented veterans in Shaw, Dent, Haulstead and Haggins. The four seniors have each made an impact during their careers, with Shaw settling in as the team's top slot receiver a year ago, finishing with a career-best 532 yards. But, it’s the younger members of the unit that might provide the most upside.

Benjamin's first year on the field offered hints at his immense potential, but also showed how far he still has to go. He finished fourth on the team in receptions (30) and yards (495) and second in receiving touchdowns (4), but he failed to corral several big receptions throughout the season, and in his final five games, he averaged just 10 yards per contest.

FSU also has two young burners in Bracy and Whitfield, two of the fastest men in college football. Both figure to compete for playing time in 2013, though their biggest impact could come on special teams. Down the road, however, Benjamin, Bracy and Whitfield figure to provide FSU with ample weapons at receiver for years to come.

Who might FSU add: Florida State already has a couple of commitments in the fold for the 2014 class. C.J. Worton, JoJo Robinson and J.C. Jackson are all ESPN Watch List members and considered to be quality prospects.

The Seminoles face the challenge of holding on to these and probably would like to add one to two more. With their being an abundance of receivers on the roster, there is always the risk of losing a several at the same time which is something Jimbo Fisher has to consider.

Long-term grade: B-. The three receivers FSU added with its 2013 class bring some numbers, and Whitfield, Benjamin and Bracy provide young, elite athleticism at the position. But where depth had been a strong point at receiver, it could evaporate quickly -- particularly if Greene heads to the NFL early or Green decides his future is brighter elsewhere after a lost year in 2012. Receiver won't top FSU's needs for 2014, but it's a position Fisher and Co. will have to address.