TALLAHASSEE – Florida State found quite the playmaker last season in perhaps the most surprising of wide receivers: true freshman Rashad Greene.
And had it not been for a midseason ankle injury, Greene would have shattered nearly every Florida State freshman receiving record. But despite missing four games, Greene led the Seminoles in receptions (38), receiving yards (596) and touchdown catches (seven).
He was electric from the start, scoring on his first catch — a 28-yard touchdown from reserve quarterback Clint Trickett — in the season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe. Greene went on to snag touchdowns in his first five games, becoming the first Seminole since 2000 to do so.
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Few college football teams in the nation return as deep a receiving corps as Florida State. Four players — Greene, Rodney Smith, Kenny Shaw and Christian Green — had 25 or more grabs in 2011.
The most dangerous of the group is Greene, a 6-foot target who seems to find openings with ease, but even when he is covered, it’s been tough to keep him from making the catch.
“This being his sophomore year coming up, I think he’s going to be even better for us,” FSU senior quarterback EJ Manuel said. “And I think he’s a guy that once you give him the ball, he is going to make a play for you. He can take it 60 yards. He can run down the field, you can drop it over a defensive back. He poses a hard match-up for DBs out there.”
Defensive backs clearly struggled to match up in 2011 against the slippery Greene, who had a rookie season that was arguably second only to FSU freshmen to Tamarick Vanover’s 1992 campaign (42 receptions, 581 yards, four touchdowns in 11 games).
Greene had an impact on FSU’s first five games, catching a 28-yard touchdown in the opener, a 69-yard TD catch against Charleston Southern, a 56-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against Oklahoma, an eight-catch, 98-yard day at Clemson, and set season highs with 12 receptions for 163 yards at Wake Forest.
He was injured Oct. 8 against the Demon Deacons and missed the next four games. The ankle was slow to heal, but Greene had a 53-yard run on an end-around against Virginia.
Greene grabbed five passes for 99 yards in the bowl win over Notre Dame, including a diving 33-yard grab down the sideline that set up FSU’s first touchdown of the fourth quarter. He later put Florida State ahead for good with a 15-yard TD grab from Manuel.
The performance in the bowl game capped an impressive debut for the quiet and reserved Greene, who also excelled in his first year at Florida State by posting a 3.9 GPA.
“It was quite surprising,” Greene said. “But it was fun for me. My expectations going into the year was to get better and to help the team any way that I could. The opportunity came to me, and my number was called.”
And Greene could hear his number called more often this season, too. Coach Jimbo Fisher praised Greene this spring as much for his work ethic and leadership on the field as for his focus in the classroom.
Fisher sees Greene as a positive influence to teammates both older and younger and also a talent who should be getting the ball in his hands.
“He has to get his touches,” Fisher said. “We are going to use him in a lot of different ways.”
That, of course, is music to the ears of any wide receiver. But Greene might be the antithesis of the me-first wideout who thinks he’s open every play and lets the quarterback, offensive coordinator and everyone else in the stadium know it. That’s not Greene’s style.
Greene struggled during a seven-minute sit-down with reporters last week to use the word “I” without immediately attaching it to “team” or “teammates.”
“(Coach Fisher) wanting to get the ball in my hands makes me feel like more of a leader for the team,” Greene said. “If me getting the ball more is going to help the team win a game, then I am all in for it. If not getting the ball and (instead) blocking, I am all for that, too.”
Greene might indeed draw plenty of attention this fall and that might allow FSU’s other talented receivers to get open. He thinks that, barring injuries, the Seminoles receivers will be able to run wild on offense and will benefit from a veteran quarterback and more experienced line.
“It’s so talented that we should be unstoppable as a receiving corps,” Greene said. “The line is going to do a great job this year. EJ is getting better. Everybody is getting better.”
And so is Greene. He is a gifted player who Fisher calls “phenomenally talented.” Fisher thinks that Greene is one of the smartest and hardest workers.
“I could sit here and go on and on about him,” Fisher said. “The guy is just an exceptional, exceptional young man.”