Wide receivers emerging as big threats for Seminoles
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- For Florida State to pull off the upset of third-ranked Clemson, the Seminoles need the same major contributions from their wide receivers they've recently been getting.
The 17th-ranked Seminoles (7-1, 5-1 ACC) have had a 100-yard receiver in two of the past three games in Kermit Whitfield and Travis Rudolph.
"It has all started in practice. If practice goes good then we are going to play good in the game," said Whitfield, who came into the season with 16 receptions for 234 yards and no touchdowns in 28 games.
Through eight games this season, the junior leads the Seminoles in receptions (37). Whitfield has 26 catches for 331 yards and a touchdown in the past four games.
A big reason for Whitfield's emergence is he has learned to make plays without the ball. He has developed a better understanding of running routes and creating space to get open. He showed that during the Louisville game by taking a short rollout pass from Everett Golson 70 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
"It was hard for him to play fast without the ball because he'd never done it," coach Jimbo Fisher said of Whitfield's development. "You know the direction as to where you're going. If you know, you can go real fast. If you don't, you're stopping at every sign, looking and turning and guessing."
While Whitfield has excelled on the short routes, Rudolph has become a deep threat.
His 75-yard touchdown against Syracuse was Florida State's longest pass play of the season. Later in the first quarter, Rudolph caught a 45-yard touchdown from Sean Maguire as he got position in one-on-one coverage.
Rudolph, who leads the Seminoles in receiving yards (501) and touchdowns (six), has shown the ability to bounce back after tough games. In the Oct. 24 loss to Georgia Tech, he stepped out of bounds on a sure touchdown and had a pass in the end zone bounce off his hands which led to Golson's first interception of the season.
"When we're executing and we're on, we're on. No matter who it is we can line up with anybody in the nation," Rudolph said. "I just have to be more detailed in everything I do -- blocking, catching, running routes."
Jesus "Bobo" Wilson has been the most consistent receiver and is averaging 4.4 catches and 12.2 yards per reception over the past five games. Wilson is the only returning receiver with extensive playing time against Clemson with four receptions for 56 yards in last year's 23-17 victory in overtime.
Florida State's passing game will be going up against a Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) defense that is 11th nationally against the pass. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley leads the conference in interceptions with three.
Who will be the quarterback remains a question. Golson was held out of last Saturday's game due to a concussion and Maguire has experience going against Clemson, as he threw for 304 yards and a touchdown last year. In the five years that Fisher has been Florida State's head coach, the backup quarterback has started three games against the Tigers.
During the open part of Tuesday's practice, Golson was doing all the drills. Running back Dalvin Cook, who also missed last week's game, was also a participant and was doing his work without an ankle brace.
"They like to spread it out some. I'm sure Golson will be back and no doubt Cook will be back," Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. "Even if they play Maguire, they'd be fine. He's obviously a good player. He beat us last year. They're pretty even with what they do."