Thursday, August 29, 2013
Veteran receivers in the spotlight at FSU
By David M. Hale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The first time Kenny Shaw stepped onto the field in a Florida State uniform, he was terrified. It was 2010, and he was a true freshman with only a few weeks of binge-reading the playbook to his credit.
He approached the huddle with caution, hoping the call would be for a run. Blocking was easy. He could do that. But if the ball was thrown his way, well, that was a different story.
"I didn't know what was going to happen," Shaw said.
As it turned out, the first pass thrown Shaw's way ended in a 23-yard touchdown. After that, the nerves mostly disappeared.
Whether things go so smoothly for the latest batch of Florida State freshmen receivers remains to be seen, but there seems to be little question that all three will get a chance to show their stuff.
What looked like a position of strength entering the summer quickly turned into an area of need for the Seminoles. Three senior receivers are gone -- suspension, academics and injury, the causes -- and that means three true freshmen receivers must help carry the load. On FSU's initial depth chart, Isaiah Jones and Jesus Wilson are both on the two-deep at receiver. Levonte Whitfield figures to see work in the slot, too. The rest of the receiving corps amounts to just four players who've caught a pass in a college game.
"I just be honest with them," said junior Rashad Greene, the Seminoles' leading receiver each of the past two seasons. "The opportunity is here. It's our job to help you out, but you also have to let us know when you need help, and they're doing a fantastic job with that."
But if the pressure is on Florida State's youngsters, it's perhaps equally intense for the veterans like Shaw and Greene. Jimbo Fisher expects his freshmen to made some mistakes. First-year starting quarterback Jameis Winston figures to have his share of growing pains, too.
The veteran receivers though? They're facing some enormous expectations -- many of which they've eagerly heaped upon themselves.
"Me, Rashad and Kenny, we told the quarterbacks we're going to be the elite segment on this team," sophomore Kelvin Benjamin said. "I feel like we're one of the strongest receiving corps in college football. That's how we're trying to treat it. We're treating it like we're that elite segment on the team."
Benjamin has always had a flare for hyperbole, but even he admits reaching their goals means the four veterans who remain with the Seminoles need to be special -- saviors when Winston throws a bad ball, mentors when Wilson or Jones or Whitfield drop a pass or blow a route.
It's a potentially impossible standard, but at least until they're proven otherwise, that's the plan of attack.
"When you come in our [meeting] room, we have the freshmen up front because they need to know the most information," Shaw said. "[For us], it's nothing but business."