The play design, timing and execution couldn’t have been better.
A quarterback who had converted to tight end in the spring, Wyatt Rector came in motion on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. No big deal, nothing to alarm the Pitt defense.
But with Jordan Travis in the shotgun, Travis lined up under center, took the snap and pushed forward for Florida State’s first touchdown on Saturday against Pittsburgh. It’s not clear if Mike Norvell, Kenny Dillingham or another coach came up with the play. But it worked quite well.
“I’m honestly just grateful for the opportunity Coach Norvell gave me for being in that personnel set whenever I got the opportunity to score,” Rector said. “In practice, I think we ran it a couple of times. I think we ran it once in actual team and I think we ran it once in a walk-through setting right before practice. But that was really just about it. He told me before I got to run it that I better get the first down or, if I’m put in a good situation, get a touchdown.”
Rector did his job. While Rector didn’t have a reception or carry through six games, perhaps it’s somewhat fitting that his first touch as a Florida State player in a game situation is under center. And perhaps it’s rewarding that the result is a touchdown.
“I knew as soon as I went in that they’re going to call the play, and I knew as soon as he called it I was going to score, honestly,” Rector said. “Because of the defensive front and everything. As soon as I went in motion, I knew I was going to score, the O-Line got a great push.”
Dillingham said film review showed Pitt would “squeeze it and deny the sneak” if a quarterback was under center. So the coaches turned to Rector and got the right push from the line, too.
“We knew if we could get somebody else in that position that we could get a sneak,” Dillingham said. “So that was something we wanted to do, that we felt would get us a yard or two, whether it was a third-and-short or on the goal line. And Wyatt Rector, who was a former quarterback, we felt comfortable enough taking the snap.”
A transfer from Western Michigan, Rector sat out as a redshirt in 2019. He may have arrived at FSU with the promise of seeing a chance to play quarterback, but when Norvell arrived he encouraged Rector to consider a move to tight end. FSU was shorthanded with Tre’ McKitty leaving as a graduate transfer for Georgia. Jordan Wilson soon arrived from UCLA but then he was injured in preseason camp.
Camren McDonald has started all of FSU’s seven games. But Rector, who earned a scholarship in August, as well as walk-on Preston Daniel have seen extensive playing time.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity because, in my mind, I shouldn’t be here based off my story,” Rector said. “I’m just a kid from Leesburg with just a great opportunity to play on this football team at this great school.”
Rector had to wait longer than he wanted to get his hands on the ball. But he knew the situation called for it. And the reward was there for a player who has seen extensive playing time on special teams, contributing in coverage and return units.
“I really take pride in special teams,” Rector said. “From the moment Coach Norvell gave me the opportunity to play special teams. Like I said, I told him I just wanted the opportunity to contribute to the team in any way I can, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t even know that, that I had the most snaps on special teams.”
Between Marvin Wilson and Devontay Love-Taylor being left off FSU’s depth charts this week, to rumor-filled speculation about various players on social media, there is all kinds of uncertainty about the FSU football roster for the final four games as well as 2021. Nobody is saying Wilson will pass up the NFL to return to FSU next year. But much of the conversation has turned to who may be departing and not so much to seniors who could be coming back in 2021.
“When that rule was first passed, I had a couple players even sought me out because guys know,” Norvell said. “The on-the-field result and our record right now, it’s not what anybody was hoping for, it’s not what anybody wanted. But the real guys they understand what’s in front of us. And I say that in a way, guys that are willing to make that commitment, that are embracing the challenge, that see the structure in the plan that’s in front of us and want to be a part of that. And some guys, they’re all in different places. And at the end of the day, I am and I’ve always been for our players in, ‘What can we do for their future? How can we prepare them for their future?’ We’ll sit down after the season and be able to evaluate where everybody is at. We will explore the options that are available to us and for us, and then we’ll be able to move forward. But we’re going to have, I fully expect, some guys that normally would have exhausted the ability that they will have a strong desire to be back.”
A common line of thinking is that FSU players are on their third head coach in their career. And that they are ready to move on to life to another school or the NFL. For many players, that will indeed be the case. But beyond Wilson and Hamsah Nasirildeen, none of the seniors are locks to be NFL Draft picks.
Norvell went on to express that coming back would result in hard work. But he left the door open for veterans who have bought in to return in 2021.
Norvell: “This is my job. I sure didn’t sign up to see COVID and to see quarantines and all of those things. Nobody expected that to happen, but at the end of the day, you have to respond to it. And that’s what makes this game so wonderful. I told the guys today how grateful for the opportunity to coach them because it is a challenge. It is a challenge every day, but it is going to help prepare them for their future for what they’re going to face in the real world. But it is also going to help them in games with who they are and who they’re going to become.”
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