TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Kenny Shaw knew what practice would be like. At some point Jimbo Fisher would share his displeasure with him.
Shaw is fast, one of the quickest players on the Florida State roster. He’s an excellent route-runner, arguably the best that the Seminoles have. Toughness? Shaw has taken plenty of hits through the years.
But there was a sense that he could be delivering more.
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Fisher has preached consistency with every position, but he’s harped on the receivers for years. Shaw has been a good receiver the past three years, but he’s poised for a breakout 2013 season.
“Kenny has become so dependable,” Fisher said. “He does so many things. Kenny has such a great football IQ. And now he’s applying it with consistency. Sometimes I used to get mad with Kenny more than anybody because I knew his intelligence level, and I knew his instincts. But now it’s really being consistent.”
Shaw caught 34 passes as a sophomore and 33 as a junior, seasons that squarely put him in the solid contributor class, especially with a deep wide receiving corps and a quarterback like EJ Manuel that spread the wealth.
Fisher expected greater contributions from Shaw in 2013. Part of it was based on need and part of it was the talent he saw in him.
And in the months leading up to the season, FSU lost three senior receivers — Greg Dent (sexual assault charge), Willie Haulstead (academics) and Scooter Haggins (knee). Purely by the numbers, FSU would have to lean on Shaw, Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Christian Green.
Shaw has delivered in the first two games for FSU with 10 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown. He had six catches for 94 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown grab, against Nevada. It’d be silly to project those numbers out over the course of the season, but it’s easy to feel in September that Shaw will have a career season. And with Bethune-Cookman up next on Saturday at 6 p.m., Shaw will likely add to his impressive season.
Fisher was clearly trying to bring out the best in Shaw. And now Shaw has taken his game to another level.
“Dependable means he don’t yell at me every day,” Shaw said. “We used to get into it every day. I came to practice knowing that he was going to argue with me, but that was my fault because I wasn’t consistent enough.
“When he says dependable, that’s something you want a head coach to say about you.”
On Shaw’s touchdown grab in the second quarter, Nevada safety Charles Garrett pulled his facemask. In past years, Shaw felt he likely would have stopped his route and made sure a referee saw what had happened.
But on Saturday, Shaw presumed (correctly) that the referee had seen the facemask. And Shaw kept his composure, running toward the end zone. Shaw had beaten the coverage, and quarterback Jameis Winston put just the right touch on the pass to hit Shaw in stride for the first FSU touchdown of the day.
“It was a perfect throw, in my opinion,” Shaw said.
Receivers like Shaw, Greene and Benjamin have made Winston’s transition to starter a smooth one. And the truth is that few opponents will have three corners talented enough to contain FSU’s starting receivers. So a defense may try to double-cover one of them, but that will just open up an opportunity for another receiver or tight end Nick O’Leary.
Winston jokes that the receivers are quick to tell him when he does something wrong, but he also appreciates the advice. And he values having veteran receivers that can both help move the team down the field and help him progress as a quarterback.
“When we have those type of players around us, anything is possible,” Winston said. “You can do anything. You can go anywhere with that. If you fail, those guys are always going to be there to pick you back up.”
That’s where the value of Shaw comes into play. He is making Winston feel comfortable. He is taking true freshman receivers under his wing. And he is having (potentially) a career season as a senior.