From talented but unproven to gaining experience and delivering on Saturdays.
A critical on-field positive for Florida State in the last year has been the experience gained and production shown by the receiving corps. Tamorrion Terry was a dynamic deep threat, Keyshawn Helton emerged as a tough, slot option and Tre’Shaun Harrison showed his capabilities.
Then there is the maturity displayed by D.J. Matthews, who coach Willie Taggart has called the most improved player from the spring. From Terry, Matthews and Keith Gavin to second-year options like Helton, Harrison, Warren Thompson, Jordan Young, Ontaria Wilson and D’Marcus Adams, this is as deep a group on the offensive side of the ball that FSU has going into 2019.
Terry and McKitty could be difference-makers in Kendal Briles’ offense. Let’s take a closer look at some key questions for the FSU receivers and tight ends this season:
Is Terry a legitimate All-ACC receiver?: The short answer is yes, even if it may be a longshot against Clemson stars like Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins. Terry is 6-foot-4 and 203 pounds and is every bit as gifted athletically as Ross and Higgins. It’s notable that while Ross averaged 21.7 yards per reception, tops in the ACC, Terry was second among receivers with 30 or more catches (21.3 yards per reception).
Given a talent like Terry, it’s clear that the goal should be to find ways to get him the ball – in the red zone or elsewhere. Terry set an FSU freshman receiving record (744 yards) and had eight touchdowns, so it’s intriguing to think about what he can accomplish in 2019. A 1,000-yard season is a realistic goal. Briles had 1,000-yard receivers in 2015 (Corey Coleman) and 2016 (K.D. Cannon) at Baylor and in 2018 (Marquez Stevenson) at Houston.
Pop quiz: Before Rashad Greene (2013-14) and Kelvin Benjamin (2013) had 1,000-yard seasons, who was the last FSU receiver to reach that milestone? Anquan Boldin, who had 1,011 receiving yards in 2002. If Terry makes it to 1,000 yards, enjoy it because this doesn’t happen at FSU all that often.
Will Matthews turn spring promise into success in fall? Matthews appears to be more focused. Perhaps it’s year 2 under coach Taggart, the new offense installed by Kendal Briles appeals or the maturity of a rising junior (or all three).
Matthews caught 42 passes for 382 yards and a touchdown in 2018. And it can’t be understated that Matthews and James Blackman have a strong connection. If he continues to make this progression, Matthews should enjoy a productive fall.
What’s the next step for the second-year receivers? This is a large group where a few have shown a glimpse of their potential (Helton and Harrison) while the rest are learning and developing. Helton is just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds but is fearless and plays with a chip on his shoulder, darting over the middle and taking on tacklers head on. The 6-foot-2 Harrison was mostly used on end arounds and should see more passes come his way in the fall. Warren Thompson (6-3, 201 pounds) could also emerge after a redshirt year. It’s tough to make a projection off a spring game and a few open practices, but the coaches feel good about what they will get from the second-year receivers.
What can Briles get out of Tre’ McKitty? The junior offers a flexible skill set, a tight end who can line up off tackle, in the slot or in the backfield. McKitty (6-5, 245) is a tough matchup for linebackers or safeties because he runs like a receiver. How productive can he be? McKitty had 26 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns last year, and it’s safe to say that he will see more passes thrown his way. Briles should also try to use McKitty’s size and physicality in the red zone. It will also be interesting to watch the development of sophomore Camren McDonald (6-4, 229) who is a good scheme fit for what Taggart and Briles want from the position.