FSU Football: Options in the Kick, Punt Return Game Entering 2017

The athletes on the FSU football roster are second to none, allowing the FSU coaching staff a glut of options to choose from in the return game.

As site co-expert Kelvin Hunt pointed out last week, FSU football was less than impressive in both kick-off and punt returns in 2016. Less than impressive is probably kind. The kick return numbers were average at best, and the punt return numbers were atrocious.

Four year kick returner Kermit Whitfield has exhausted his eligibility, and one must say Nyqwan Murray’s role at punt returner is anything but locked down. Let’s take a look at some options FSU football will have at both return positions in 2017.

Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (80) returns a punt along the sidelines after Syracuse Orange offensive lineman Keaton Darney (76) forces him out during the fourth quarter of a game at the Carrier Dome. Florida State won 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (80) returns a punt along the sidelines after Syracuse Orange offensive lineman Keaton Darney (76) forces him out during the fourth quarter of a game at the Carrier Dome. Florida State won 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

 Punt Returner

As mentioned above, Nyqwan Murray has had less than desirable results since taking over at punt returner for FSU. I love Murray’s skill set as a returner, but his judgement has been a weakness at the position with fumbles/muffs in each of FSU’s final two games of the season, both resulting in points for the opponent. If Murray can nail down the mental side of the position he will likely keep it, but he must work on it this off season.

Many believed true freshman Levonta Taylor would be the starting punt returner as soon as he stepped on campus. Taylor showed the perfect skill-set for punt returns throughout his high school career and in the Under Armor All-American game. For whatever reason Taylor never got his shot at punt returner in a game. I expect Taylor to get a long look for the position in 2017.

A dark-horse to watch for at punt return is incoming freshman receiver D.J. Matthews. Matthews needs to add weight but is electrifying with the ball in his hands. If Matthews isn’t able to crack the receiver rotation in year one, we could still see his dynamic talent as a punt returner.

Sep 10, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Amir Rasul (22) looks for an opening during the second half at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Florida State Seminoles defeat the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 52-8. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 10, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Amir Rasul (22) looks for an opening during the second half at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Florida State Seminoles defeat the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 52-8. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Kick Returner

Keith Gavin gave Seminole fans a glimpse of what he can do with the ball in his hands with his game-saving kick return in the Orange Bowl. Gavin looks to have a bigger role in the offense next year and he could very well keep his job as one of the deep return men on kick offs. Someone that is built like Gavin should not be able to move that fast. Keith Gavin running at you with a full-head of steam is a scary sight for opposing kick off teams. Gavin’s size and blocking ability makes him valuable on kick return even when he doesn’t receive the ball.

With Kermit Whitfield’s departure, Amir Rasul is likely the new fastest player for FSU football. Rasul has posted a personal best 10.44 100 meter time, AKA absolutely flying. The fact that Amir Rasul is a running back by trade gives him an advantage in the return game as he is more apt to break tackles or make a defender miss. I expect Rasul to get a hard look at kick returner in 2017.

Defensive star at cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is a player I could see getting some run at kick returner. McFadden possesses great straight line speed and has seen practice reps at the position before. McFadden looked like a natural at kick returner when he scored a touchdown from the position in the Army All-America Bowl in 2015. Tarvarus McFadden is a valuable commodity on defense, but Jimbo Fisher has shown he will put the best options for the team at kick returner, as he did with Jalen Ramsey in 2015.

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