Spring practice has come and gone, and after a spring game that saw a record crowd of over sixty-thousand people show up at Doak Campbell, excitement for the upcoming football season has now reached fever pitch. While the Seminoles will most likely not be early favorites for an NY6 bowl bid, ‘Nole fans should still be excited for the upcoming year.
After losing several key starters from last season, the Spring game provided a glimpse into the future, showcasing the talents of several young players who are ready for a breakout year. So with the summer almost upon us, and fall camp *just* a mere four months away, let’s take a look at three potential breakout stars for the Seminoles in 2018.
1. Tamorrion Terry (Redshirt Freshman)
With such a young and oft-injured receiving core last season, it was very surprising to not see then-freshman Tamorrion Terry take the field. Former head coach Jimbo Fisher seemed to just refuse to play the freshman, despite his immense talent and lack of healthy scholarship wideouts. While it is true that Fisher had a very complicated offense that took a receiver a while to learn, it still surprised many that Terry was not even given an opportunity to play. While it would’ve burned his redshirt, in retrospect, he had the potential to be a massive addition to the offense.
Coming into this season with a year under his belt, Terry looks primed for a breakout season under Taggart. Reports from spring practice detailed how impressive he was athletically, and Terry had a monster day in the spring game, reeling in a touchdown along five other catches that went for 129 yards. With the departures of Auden Tate and Ryan Izzo both of whom accounted for over a fourth of the team’s catches last season and over half of their receiving touchdowns, there is a lot of room for new contributors in the passing game. Senior Nyqwan Murray and junior Keith Gavin, both of whom also have high expectations, return for their senior season, but the receiving depth chart seems wide open.
Standing at 6’4, Terry could easily be a major red-zone threat, similar to that of Auden Tate last season. While not as developed as Tate, the freshman has the raw physical tools necessary to become a big-time player in the red zone. Akin to Kelvin Benjamin, he is also deceptively fast, and possess breakaway speed once he gets going.
While it isn’t smart to make predictions solely off of a spring game (it is just a scrimmage after all), Terry was certainly impressive, and he should at least have a big supporting role this fall.
2. Dontavious Jackson (Sophomore)
Coming into Florida State as a consensus four-star linebacker out of Texas, Dontavious Jackson had a lot of hype before his arrival in Tallahassee. He mostly played in a reserve role during his true freshman season, recording 20 total tackles along with 3 tackles for loss. Last year, he was the backup to senior Matthew Thomas, but still made an impact on the field, recording 17 total tackles. But after the departure of Thomas, along with fellow seniors Jacob Pugh and Ro’Derrick Hoskins, the FSU defense will need new starting linebackers, and Jackson seems like the perfect candidate to play on the inside.
Now a junior, Jackson has two years of marginal playing time under his belt and looked impressive during spring practice. Standing at 6’3, he has great speed and impressive size, which should enable him to do a solid job of filling gaps and making run stops. Jackson has also shown the ability to run sideline-to-sideline and been impressive in pass coverage. With new defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett’s shift in philosophy, which includes a very aggressive approach to stopping the run, Jackson is a perfect fit for starting inside linebacker. He was solid in the spring game, recording five tackles along with a TFL, and should be up for a breakout season this upcoming fall, when he is finally given the starting role.
3. Tre McKitty (Sophomore)
Although not traditionally known for producing big-time tight ends, the Florida State saw several supremely talented tight ends grace Doak Campbell during Jimbo Fisher’s tenure. Nick O’Leary was an All-American and is currently entering his fourth NFL season, while Ryan Izzo finished top-five for tight ends in FSU history for career touchdowns as well as catches, and will most likely find himself on an NFL roster next season.
Sophomore Tre McKitty seems to be the ‘next man up’ at the tight end spot. Although Naseir Upshur had himself a very strong spring practice and should receive significant reps, McKitty is the man to beat. The former IMG standout had himself a great spring and showed a ton of potential in the spring game. With the build of a tight end and the speed of a receiver, McKitty is a major passing threat and will do well in replacing Izzo. Last season he caught one pass in very limited playing time, but this year should receive the majority of the snaps at starting TE.
With the change in offense from a slow-tempo, pro-style to a fast-pace ‘Gulf Coast’ offense under Willie Taggart, it remains to be seen how tight ends will be used. One thing for certain is that the running game will dominate most of the offense, and while McKitty is not the best blocker, he seems to have slowly improved from last season. Tight ends in Taggart’s offenses at both Oregon and USF seemed to account for about 20% of the passing offense, which is a little under what they accounted for under Fisher since 2015.
So while it remains to be seen how tight ends will be used, McKitty has the physical tools for a big year and should be a major difference maker for the Seminoles come September.