For the Florida State football team, the quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston continues to garner much attention both regionally and nationally. But whomever wins that battle looks to have a new problem: finding someone to throw to.
The receiving corps once looked to be a strength of the Florida State offense heading into 2013. Rodney Smith, who holds the school-record for consecutive games with a catch, is now in the NFL, but behind Smith was set to be a myriad of players who would have little trouble replacing his production. As the days pass however, the once deep Florida State receiving corps continues to be decimated.
Senior Willie Haulstead, who had seen a steady decrease in playing time, was ruled academically ineligible for 2013. Haulstead contributed very little in 2012 after missing all of 2011. But in 2010 as a sophomore, Haulstead led Florida State with six touchdown receptions.
In addition to the loss of Haulstead, Jarred “Scooter” Haggins, another senior, is out for the season with a knee injury while junior Greg Dent is suspended indefinitely on allegations of rape. Marvin Bracy, a highly touted redshirt freshman, also left the team to pursue a professional track career.
The thinness for FSU however, doesn’t end at the wide receiver position. Tight end Kevin Haplea, who transferred from Penn State prior to last season, also has an ACL tear while another tight end that looked to be on Florida State’s roster, Christo Kourtzidis, is transferring.
Just this week, the Seminoles received another scare as junior and leading receiver in each of the past two seasons, Rashad Greene, left practice with a hand injury. Prior to the start of fall practice, starting tight end Nick O’Leary walked away from what seemed to be a devastating motorcycle accident, without a scratch to avoid further decimation.
While it looks like Greene will be good to go for the opener, the Seminoles will be counting on a number of less experienced players to step up. Senior receiver Kenny Shaw and sophomore Kelvin Benjamin will be solid options for the winner of the quarterback competition along with the tight end O’Leary, but beyond that, things become very shaky.
Florida State is still hopeful that Dent can play this season, but the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is very, very slim. That leaves redshirt junior Christian Green and freshman Lavonte “Kermit” Whitfield to pick up the slack.
Green has some experience, but caught just three passes a season ago after a 26-catch, 450-yard campaign as a freshman in 2011. Green can be a big play threat and also has the ability to run after the catch.
While highly recruited, Whitfield is undersized at just 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds. Whitfield likely would have received a redshirt this season, but now may be forced into action.
Behind O’Leary at tight end will likely be sophomore Giorgio Newberry. Newberry was highly recruited and is an outstanding athlete, but has never played tight end. He is a converted defensive end and will need to pick up the offense very quickly.
There is good news for Florida State offensively however. The Seminoles have a very veteran offensive line and the pass-catching quartet of Greene, Shaw, Benjamin and O’Leary is a very good one. FSU is also very deep and experienced at tailback with juniors Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and freshman Mario Pender. That trio should also help to take much of the pressure off of Coker or Winston and the newly depleted receiving corps, both on the ground and through the air.
Whether it be Jacob Coker or Jameis Winston, the FSU quarterback will still be surrounded by talent, but the depth has taken a major hit. Florida State should be fine with the receiving corps it has remaining, but another injury or suspension, it absolutely cannot afford.