As if it were in need of one, second-ranked Florida State has found a new weapon in recent weeks and that new weapon has come in a very small package. 5’7″ freshman wide receiver Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield has come to life of late for FSU scoring three touchdowns in the last four weeks including a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Seminoles’ second drive in Saturday’s 59-3 victory over Syracuse.
Whitfield had shown an ability to make things with the ball in his hands before Saturday, but mostly in mop-up duty. Against Wake Forest the week before, Whitfield returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and even had a receiver screen that he took to the house called back on a penalty.
“He’s very dynamic,” said head coach Jimbo Fisher. “He’s a guy on our team that can change numbers on the scoreboard.”
Though a wide receiver, two of the speedster’s three touchdowns have come on running plays and each time, Whitfield was sprung by a key block from his quarterback. On Saturday, it was starter Jameis Winston who threw the block downfield to free up Whitfield for the long touchdown and against N.C. State on Whitfield’s first career touchdown back on October 26th, it was sophomore backup Jacob Coker who made the final block to get the freshman into the end zone.
The two long touchdown runs combining for 105 yards are Whitfield’s only two carries of the season. The 74-yarder on Saturday was the longest run from scrimmage for the Seminoles this year. Whitfield also has five receptions for 89 yards.
While Florida State already has a talented receiving corps that includes the shifty Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene as well as 6’5″ Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Nick O’Leary, who holds the FSU single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end, Whitfield helps bring versatility and depth.
Fisher is using Whitfield in a number of ways. Whitfield has been back deep on kickoff returns for some time, but on Saturday’s long touchdown run against the Orange, Whitfield lined up in the backfield.
“He’s now mature in how he’s practicing and doing things and growing,” added Fisher.
Although Florida State already had a very talented corps of wide receivers, it is not a contingent that is particularly deep. Prior to the season, the receiving corps was essentially cut in half after wide receiver Willie Haulstead was ruled academically ineligible, Greg Dent was charged with sexual assault and Jarred “Scooter” Haggins suffered a season-ending knee injury. That left junior Christian Green, who has 11 catches for 126 yards this season, as the only receiver behind Greene, Shaw and Benjamin with any meaningful game experience.
Whitfield has shown his ability to make things happen in the open field, but as one of the fastest players ever to come to Florida State, he could likely be used to help stretch the field in the vertical passing game over the final weeks of the season. Florida State ranks second nationally averaging nearly 53 points-per-game and Kermit Whitfield is quickly becoming just another weapon in Fisher’s already loaded arsenal.