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Murray, Tate Ready for ‘Noles

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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In Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate, Florida State has talented classmates ready for starring roles.

Gone are Florida State's top four leaders in receptions from a year ago, three wideouts and a running back who combined for a staggering 472 career receptions. Minus veterans Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield, Jesus Wilson, and Dalvin Cook, the Seminoles' passing game, even with the return of quarterback Deondre Francois, will have a dramatically-different look. In Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate, Florida State has talented classmates ready for starring roles.

Murray, with 22 receptions and five scores over the final six games of the season, was the team's top target down the home stretch. He burst onto the scene as a dynamic talent with six receptions for 96 yards and a score in a national showdown with eventual College Football Playoff champion Clemson. For an encore, Murray hauled in nine passes for a career-high 153 yards at North Carolina State the following week. The next two outings, Boston College and Syracuse, came with touchdowns as well.

The bright lights of a classic postseason pairing with Michigan, which finished with the nation's top pass defense, is where Murray truly shined. On just two catches, he directly changed the outcome of the game. Murray first set a new Orange Bowl record with a 92-yard scoring connection from Francois. Mere moments after the Wolverines took a late three-point lead, Murray won a one-on-one battle on a 12-yard fade on a critical 3rd-and-9; his signature grab gave the Seminoles a memorable victory on the big stage.

A pair of Orlando-natives, Murray and Francois have a special bond.

"That's my little brother there," the FSU quarterback nodded after the win. "I've known Noonie since he was eight. For him to do that, he has been doing that all his life. Big players make big-time plays in big-time moments, and that was a big-time moment right there. As soon as that ball left my hand, I knew he was going to come down with it."

At 6'5'', 225 pounds, Tate finished second on the team with six touchdown receptions. He scored twice against Louisville and Boston College. Tate gives Florida State both an imposing redzone option and a deep downfield threat; that ability helped key the Seminoles' November offensive rise. Establishing himself in the rotation, Tate had multiple receptions in each of the final four games of the regular season.

Few receivers in the country have the potential of Tate, given his size and skills.

Francois, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year, is well-established after 3,350 passing yards and 25 total touchdowns. Minus Cook, Francois steps in as Florida State's new offensive centerpiece. He, as a gritty competitor who led the Seminoles back from some early deficits, takes over a leadership role for the Seminoles. After Christian Ponder, E.J. Manuel and Jameis Winston, Francois appears to be the next-in-line.

In Tallahassee, expectations are at a championship level. Florida State has been a fixture in the top five of the various summer rankings and will likely be top three when the official polls come out. The Seminoles' young receivers, including a number of talented other options, will have to be ready to go right away as a massive showdown with Alabama will serve as college football's start. A fitting stage given the matchup, the pressure will be on right away.   

As fall approaches, Murray and Tate give Francois and Florida State two top playmakers around which to build.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports