KERMIT WHITFIELD, WR FLORIDA STATE 5’8″, 180 pounds
Kermit Whitfield is set to sign a free-agent deal with the Chicago Bears after going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield was one of the lesser known Seminoles on the national stage compared to some of his offensive contemporaries, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he doesn’t deserve a spot in the pros. Seldom used as a receiver in his first two seasons with the Seminoles, Whitfield caught 57 passes for 798 yards and six touchdowns in 2015; his numbers slipped in 2016 to 34 catches for 395 yards and a lone touchdown, but his presence was still felt as a do-it-all type of offensive weapon.
If there’s one thing Whitfield is best known for, it’s his versatility. From going out for a pass one play to taking a reverse on the next, Whitfield will remind many football fans of former New York Jets star Brad Smith. Whitfield has the speed to do it all, but the Bears may want to stay away from him as a full-time receiver until he can work on his route running. It’s a good thing, then, that Kermit has experience as a kick returner. Whitfield may be too small for a full-time NFL role right now, though he certainly is a unique player.
NFL Combine results:
4.44 40-yard dash
8 reps in the bench press
32.5-inch vertical jump
120-inch broad jump
7.17 seconds in the three-cone drill
4.37 seconds in the 20-yard shuffle.
The expert says:
“A good route runner who will need to develop the entire tree. Excellent feet to make the sudden transition. A situational type receiver who improved in the mental part of the game day-to-day. Kickoff and punt return explosiveness.” — Ourlads.com
With 17 returning starters, Florida State has few holes to fill after losing an interior defensive lineman, two linebackers and two defensive backs.
But Jimbo Fisher has the program in a position where it’s always thinking a year (or two) ahead in its development and able to anticipate the losses, whether two players are drafted (2016) or 11 (2015).
FSU will be in the top five of most preseason polls which means the talent is not lacking. We take a look at that talent from a positional standpoint and rank those units from deepest to weakest.
1. Secondary: Even after losing the fifth overall pick in the draft (Jalen Ramsey), this position is loaded with future NFL players. We start with the most talented player on defense, sophomore Derwin James, who is garnering All-American talk after forging his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman. James showed his athletic ability after taking over at strong safety. He did make freshman mistakes in 2015, especially in games against Georgia Tech and Houston, but he is poised for a breakout season. The group will receive a big boost with the return of Trey Marshall from injury at the nickel, and safety Nate Andrews is back for a fourth year. The only big question mark is who replaces Ramsey opposite cornerback Marquez White. Tarvarus McFadden appears to have the edge. What also separates the secondary is the depth. A lot of programs would like to have talents like Calvin Brewton, Marcus Lewis, A.J. Westbrook and newcomer Levonta Taylor playing every down.
2. Defensive line: This unit shot to the top when DE DeMarcus Walker decided to forgo the draft and return for his senior season. Walker and sophomore Josh Sweat give FSU one of the top end tandems in the country. And the interior isn’t bad either with junior Derrick Nnadi returning after his first year as a starter and Demarcus Christmas ready to replace Nile Lawrence-Stample. Jacob Pugh and Fred Jones provide the primary depth but the position has been hurt by attrition and needs a few more bodies.
3. Running back: One player makes this one of the top units on the team (and in the country) but what keeps it from coming in any higher is the uncertainty behind Dalvin Cook. Cook returns after a record-breaking season and seventh place finish in the Heisman voting and the fullback spot is secure with Freddie Stevenson. But what cannot be totally discounted are the nagging injuries that limited Cook last season and what kind of production FSU will get behind Cook. Jacques Patrick showed flashes as a freshman last season and had a great game against Syracuse when Cook was held out because of an ankle injury. Still, at times he was underwhelming. Ryan Green had a solid spring but the running back turned cornerback turned running back has carried the ball six times in the last two years.
4. Receivers/tight end: The numbers – three receivers with at least 57 catches – are impressive but all agree even more was expected. They all return and the 2014 and 2015 stacked recruiting classes are a year older. The position received a huge boost in the spring with the emergence of Auden Tate. I believe he could become the big (as in 6-5) receiver FSU has lacked since Kelvin Benjamin left. Then there was the maturity and improvement Travis Rudolph showed in the spring. All it will take is one or two more of the young players to emerge to go along with veterans Rudolph, Jesus Wilson and Kermit Whitfield and they could be a dynamite group. As for tight end, Ryan Izzo proved more than capable last year and this, too, is a diverse, deep group.
5. Offensive line: Perhaps the biggest mystery on the team. At times the line was solid last season and at times it looked lost. No question the talent is there and, in fact, some of that talent is in the extraordinary depth this group possesses with 20 offensive linemen on scholarship. But beyond LT Rod Johnson (an All-American candidate and projected first round pick in early mock drafts) a lot has to come together. Coaches are confident LG Kareem Are, C Alec Eberle, RG Wilson Bell and RT Brock Ruble will jell. And the likelihood is they do. But I still need to see it. More than any other position, I believe the offensive line will determine whether Florida State is a true title contender this year.
6. Quarterback: Two years of Jameis Winston seems so far removed. This position remains somewhat of a mystery – and as always will be scrutinized more than any other during camp – for two reasons: The known (senior Sean Maguire) and the unknown (freshman Deondre Francois). Maguire is capable. He was solid, not spectacular after Everett Golson imploded last year and he does deserve a break for his Peach Bowl performance after playing more than two quarters on a broken ankle. But can he lead FSU to the ACC title and playoffs? That answer varies depending on who you are asking. Francois has all the potential and tools but he has yet to take a snap in a college game. Obviously, this position is hugely important and it could turn out to be a strength or a weakness.
7. Linebackers: The Seminoles lost both their starters, although neither was drafted, but still are confident that juniors Ro’Derrick Hoskins and Matthew Thomas will seamlessly step in. Hoskins is more certain after being a key contributor last year with Reggie Northrup limited early from offseason knee surgery and Terrance Smith missing four games later because of an ankle injury. Thomas is not as reliable only because of a checkered history that last limited him to 12 games since signing in 2013 because of suspensions. The position has had depth issues in the past but coaches hope Josh Brown and Sh’Mar Kilby-Lane will solve that this season.
Linebacker Terrance Smith is the lone starter from the title game who has a chance to be drafted. Smith is projected as either a late-round pick in today’s final day of the draft or, more likely, an undrafted free agent.
Defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample did not start but was in the rotation. He is projected to go anywhere from the fifth to seventh round today.
Three others who played in the game – Kermit Whitfield, Marquez White and Nate Andrews – have one year remaining in their college careers.
Aguayo and Jalen Ramsey (taken fifth overall Thursday by Jacksonville) closed out the players from that game selected in the first or second rounds. They join first rounders Kelvin Benjamin, Jameis Winston and Cam Erving; along with second rounders Lamarcus Joyner, Timmy Jernigan, Eddie Goldman, Mario Edwards and Ronald Darby.
Others drafted: Terrence Brooks (3), P.J. Williams (3), Devonta Freeman (4), Bryan Stork (4), Tre Jackson (4), Telvin Smith (5), Karlos Williams (5), Rashad Greene (5), Nick O’Leary (6), Bobby Hart (7).
Seven others have signed as undrafted free agents.
DE DeMarcus Walker, FB Freddie Stevenson, RB Ryan Green were backups who did not play in the title game.
ORLANDO – As far as spring game goes, Florida State’s was as about as good at it gets.
The Garnet and Gold teams each scored on their final two drives and the game ended 24-24. Jimbo Fisher was very pleased with the spring finale, a stark contrast from the way spring started when Fisher ripped into his team what he called the worst practice any of his teams had since he became a head coach.
The Seminoles had plenty of breakout performances but here is what we learned.
QB Sean Maguire will be pushed to keep his starting job
Maguire, the senior who is recovering from surgery on his ankle, watched FSU’s freshmen quarterbacks close the gap on the competition. Redshirt Deondre Francois and early enrollee Malik Henry dueled to the end, each leading their teams on two scoring drives in the final five minutes. Francois was 20 of 33 for 246 yards and two interceptions. Henry was 15 of 22 for 205 yards and a slow start in which his Garnet team did not have a first down in the first half. Both tossed two TD passes. “Sean will be right there and he’ll go back up to No. 1 and they’ll all compete for it,” Fisher said. “They’re all going to compete for it in fall camp. I’m anxious to what we can put in that mix the better.”
WR Auden Tate is for real
One of the biggest disappointments last season was that none of the receivers behind Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson emerged. Well, now there is a fourth member of the top tier, 6-5 Tate, who had six catches for 100 yards and two TDs. The most impressive was a play in which he ran the wrong route, but kept moving, headed down the sideline and leaped to catch the throw from Francois, giving the Gold a 21-17 lead. The catch was pure Kelvin Benjamin, who by the way is the player to whom Tate is drawing the most comparisons. “Auden made a phenomenal catch,” Fisher said. “The play itself was phenomenal. That was a great play. But you saw his body size, you see what he has a chance to be and he’s got to get better. He’ll keep polishing those routes but that big body and those hands, he can be a weapon for us.”
Derwin James is an All-American in the making
James, the strong safety, made a name for himself last season making several freshman All-American teams and even being touted by some as the best freshman in the country. Now he has taken the next step this spring not only on the field but as a leader. James was all over the field on Saturday. But as much as his physical ability, Fisher continues to praise James for the way he has taken hold of the leadership role. “He just gets it,” Fisher said. “The physical skills are crazy, he’s unbelievably instinctive but he’s an intelligent guy, a very intelligent person, not just football player. And then he’s a great people person. Derwin’s a fun guy to be a round. Guys just flock to him. He has that charisma.”
Ryan Green is back where he belongs
The rising junior made the switch back to running back after spending a season at cornerback and looks as though he never left. Green gained a game-high 84 yards on 16 carries. And although the 5-11, 205-pound green appears as if he’s too small to plow through the middle and will only beat you on the edge, he showed he’s also capable to picking up the tough yards. Green and Jacques Patrick will enter camp battling for the most playing time behind Dalvin Cook. “It’s just natural,” Green said. “I know how to make people miss, I can catch out of the backfield. I run hard. I just feel like it’s the way to go.”
Ricky Aguayo ready to step into some very big shoes
Ironically, those shoes belong to his brother, Roberto, who concluded his historic career last season by joining Deion Sanders as the only two FSU players to be named to at least one All-America team three straight years. Ricky, a true freshman who enrolled early, got off to a good start as his brother’s successor by nailing both of his field goal attempts, from 45 and 46 yards, the latter coming with four seconds remaining and his team trailing by three points. Aguayo hit a low line drive that cleared the crossbar by feet. “What Ricky did at the end of the game was special,” Fisher said. “To come in in that situation, tie the game, you never know. We could have that during the season.”
Now one appears to have separated himself, at least this spring.
Auden Tate, at 6-5 the tallest of the Seminoles receivers, was singled out by coach Jimbo Fisher following Saturday’s scrimmage at Doak Campbell Stadium. Tate
“Auden made a play or two,” Fisher said. “He is having a heck of a spring. He is definitely making big plays out there, making some great catches. (His size) gives him a lot of advantage because he can box a lot of guys out, making acrobatic catches and he’s got good body control.”
Adding Tate, who weighs 218 pounds, to the core lead by 6-2 Travis Rudolph and including 5-10 Jesus Wilson and 5-8 Kermit Whitfield would be significant considering his size. The Seminoles have missed that presence since 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin left for the NFL following the 2013 season.
One plays says it all when describing how important it is to have a big body at receiver; the game-winning pass from Jameis Winston to Benjamin in the final seconds of the championship game.
“It gives him a lot of advantages,” Rudolph said about Tate’s size. “He can box a lot of guys out and make acrobatic catches. He has good body control.”
Tate, a rising sophomore, is taking advantage of his opportunities in a spring where several of the young receivers have missed time or been limited, including Da’Vante Phillips, George Campbell, Nyqwan Murray and Ja’Vonn Harrison.
Rudolph, Wilson and Whitfield all surpassed 50 receptions last season. Harrison, Murray and Ermon Lane each had six catches. Tate played in six games and did not have a catch.
Florida State’s spring practice starts today and concludes with the annual spring game April 9 in Orlando.
The Seminoles are coming off their fourth consecutive 10 win season (10-3) in what many labeled a rebuilding year. The expectations are even higher for Jimbo Fisher’s squad in 2016 with 16 returning starters, including the entire offense.
We have broken down each position over the last two weeks and conclude our series today with a look at special teams.
Projected starters: K: FR Ricky Aguayo. P: FR Logan Tyler. LS: JR Stephen Gabbard. KR: SR Kermit Whitfield, JR Travis Rudolph. PR: SR Jesus Wilson.
Key backups: SO Tarvarus McFadden, R-JR Jonathan Hernandez, SO Kevin Robledo.
What to watch for: The Seminoles had one of the nation’s steadiest and reliable kicker/punter combinations the last three years with Roberto Aguayo and Cason Beatty. Aguayo is taking his All-American talents to the NFL and Beatty has graduated. The jobs likely will go to two incoming freshmen: RickyAguayo (Roberto’s brother) and Tyler. While Aguayo’s specialty is kicking, Tyler can do both. … Florida State’s return game is in good hands with experienced receivers handling the kickoff and punt return duties. Whitfield returns for his fourth season as the kickoff returner. He was 17th nationally last season with a 26.7 average (507 yards on 19 returns). … FSU will be looking to replace Jalen Ramsey as the secondary kick returner. Expect Rudolph and Tarvarus McFadden to get a look. … Wilson moved over from returning kicks early in his career to Rashad Greene’s replacement as the punt returner last season and had 111 yards on 26 returns.
In conclusion: Roberto Aguayo was as automatic as they come, ending his career converting 69 of 78 field goals and all 198 PATs. Can his brother be as trustworthy? If Ricky stumbles, Tyler excelled at both in high school. Ideally, FSU would like one to settle in as the kicker and kickoff man and one as the punter. … Whitfield is looking to get back to the dynamic kick returner he was as a freshman when he led the country with an average of 36.4 yards per return and scored two TDs, including the play that stands as the biggest of his career, a 100-yard TD in the fourth quarter of the national championship game against Auburn. … FSU would like to get more out of the punt return game which took a step back last season after Greene averaged 10.7-yards per return in 2014.