FSU has a void at punt returner and special teams coach Eddie Gran is specific in his requirements for the ‘Noles’ new man back deep, writes Brandon Mellor.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Perhaps above all else, Eddie Gran is looking for signs of bravery as Florida State gets ready to kick off its second week of fall camp Tuesday.
FSU’s special teams coach wants to see the fearlessness needed to be an effective punt returner. He wants to find a player who isn’t afraid to field the football when an entire team is running in his direction.
“You’ve got to have the courage, if you will, to be that guy,” Gran said. “And that’s what we are looking for.”
Greg Reid had it. Willie Reid and Deion Sanders showed it in season’s past, too.
Before his dismissal earlier this month, Reid had shown over the course of three seasons that he wasn’t afraid to field any punt — whether he caught it cleanly or fielded it off a bounce or two with the coverage team bearing down on top of him.
Reid had special-teams success finding the endzone and generating yardage but his best trait as a punt returner was that always-field attitude. FSU was never going to lose yards on a punt; not if Reid was back there waiting for it to leave the punter’s cleat.
Now it’s another ‘Noles’ turn to show he can be just as effective — and just as fearless.
“If we can just eliminate the ball touching the ground, we are going to be OK,” Gran said. “Because we are going to get our shots with the guys that are going to be back there. We’ll be good enough that we’ll score. We’ve still got guys that can be explosive.
“Are they going to be Greg Reid? No. But the key for us is going to be getting the ball off the foot, judging it and we’ve got to be able to catch the ball.”
FSU will begin punt-return drills this week for the first time this preseason and there will be a cast of capable characters given an opportunity to showcase their skills.
Sophomore wide receiver Rashad Greene may be the frontrunner as he returned three punts last season in place of Reid and even returned one for a touchdown against Charleston Southern before it was negated because of a penalty.
Greg Dent is in contention for both the punt and kick-return jobs.
Junior wide receiver Kenny Shaw and freshman speedster Ronald Darby will also be in the competition. He’s rarely mentioned in the conversation, but junior wide receiver Greg Dent is a dark horse candidate to capture the job as well, Gran said.
“He’s really so much more confident,” Gran said about Dent, who has also generated a buzz for his play at receiver through the first week of camp. “And I like his body. He can break tackles and he’s got a lot of burst.”
LOTS OF COMPETITION AT KICK RETURNER
Gran said that last year’s top kick returners, Lamarcus Joyner and Karlos Williams, are the front runners for the same position this season.
FSU did some kick-return drills during Sunday’s open practice for fans and will continue to do more of that as camp rolls on.
In addition to Joyner and Williams, Greene, Darby, Christian Greene, Dent, P.J. Williams, Colin Blake and Marvin Bracy are all also in contention for the two starting kick returner jobs.
“We’ve got some guys back there that can really help us,” Gran said.