Noles have array of options

Florida State's array of receiving targets has put opposing defenses on edge

Updated: October 3, 2012, 12:29 PM ET
By David M. Hale | NoleNation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Rashad Greene wore a look of confusion.

The bit of trivia was noteworthy for Florida State fans who have waited patiently for more than a decade for the next Peter Warrick, but Greene was dumfounded by the insight.

With his 10-yard end-around for the Seminoles' first touchdown against South Florida, Greene became the first Florida State player since Warrick to tally a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and score on a punt return in the same season. He'd accomplished the feat in just five games.

"I wasn't aware of that," Greene said. "But that's an honor to be put in that same category with a guy like Peter Warrick."

This is the dichotomy of Greene's place in the current Florida State offensive hierarchy. On the one hand, he's mentioned in the same breath with a legend like Warrick, and given Greene's athletic ability, the comparisons aren't without merit. Alternatively, Greene appears utterly unconcerned with his own greatness, at least when it comes to catches and yards and, most of all, notoriety.

Greene is a showstopper in a receiving corps that has no headlining act.

"It just shows we have depth," Greene said. "We have a lot of guys that can get their hands on the ball. We know that as a receiving corps and no one's being selfish about the situation."

A quick look at the numbers underscores Greene's point. Florida State is tops in the ACC in passer rating, tops in completion percentage and second in yards per attempt. But look at the individual statistics and the Seminoles' top receivers -- Greene and junior Kenny Shaw -- are tied for 25th in the conference in catches and have just three touchdowns between them.

It's an offense where no one is making a name for himself, but the unit as a whole has thrived.

"From my perspective, some guys may get looked at for doing individual things, but the team that's winning gets the attention," Greene said. "We want to win first, and all that other stuff, it'll come."

Still, this is a transition from just a year ago.

Nearly 40 percent of Greene's receiving yards for the season came on two long catches last week against USF. He's hauled in just 186 yards and one touchdown this season. But a year ago, as a true freshman, Greene's first five games accounted for 457 yards and six scores.

The difference this season is that quarterback EJ Manuel has options.

"I go through my reads, and whoever is going to be open, then so be it," Manuel said. "I trust all those guys to go out there and make the plays, to run their routes correctly and that's what they have been doing."

Through five games, 16 different players have caught passes for Florida State, including seven with double-digit receptions. Meanwhile, only one receiver has caught at least five passes in a single game -- backup Greg Dent, who had five grabs for 72 yards against Clemson.

But it's not just depth that's helping FSU's passing game. It's diversity.

Florida State's top single-game performance actually came from a running back, as Chris Thompson hauled in eight catches against Clemson. Last week's top pass catcher was tight end Nick O'Leary, who had four grabs. Against USF, the tight ends accounted for six receptions and the lone passing touchdown. Overall, backs and tight ends are responsible for 54 percent of Manuel's completions this season -- more than double what they accounted for a year ago.

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Melina Vastola/US PresswireChris Thompson's ability to be a receiving threat out of the backfield makes the Florida State receiving corps that much more dangerous.
"You can't focus on one guy. You can't focus on Rashad Greene because we've got Kelvin Benjamin, Rodney Smith," safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "You game plan against other people and you're like, 'OK, this is the go-to guy.' That's when it becomes easy."

Florida State's passing game hasn't made anything easy for opposing defenses thus far.

Greene and Smith provide dangerous deep threats. Benjamin's size allows him to be as physical as any receiver in the conference. Shaw has been unstoppable in the slot. O'Leary's presence on the field forces safeties to take notice, and he's either open short or frees up a deep receiver for a one-on-one matchup.

"It's kind of like war," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "If you always know where the ball's going or the captain's going to be, you can blow him up. We give our quarterbacks a lot of freedom to make decisions about where he's going with the ball, and we have a lot of guys who can catch it. And we don't mind who he's throwing to."

It's a winning formula for the team, but for the individual receivers, the plan provides little fanfare. While receiving records were shattered around the country a week ago, and receivers at Baylor, West Virginia and Miami crossed the 100-yard threshold with plenty of room to spare, Greene remains a great receiver with a modest stat line, part of an offense that has yet to have a receiver eclipse the century mark.

Within Florida State's locker room, there is no question that Greene has All-American potential. On the leader board for receivers, however, he's tied for 227th nationally in yards.

Of course, Greene wouldn't know that bit of trivia either. He's just not interested in those numbers at the moment.

"I'm not jealous because we're winning," Greene said. "We're getting better. We're getting steps closer to our goals. All that [other] stuff will come. I'm a firm believer it'll come when the time is right."