Murray, Tate Ready for ‘Noles
By BJ Bennett
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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 were all at the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis. 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 slightly-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 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 pairing with Michigan is where Murray truly shined. On just two catches, he directly changed the outcome of the game. Murray 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 grab gave the Seminoles a dramatic 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.
As spring settles in, Murray and Tate give Francois and Florida State two top playmakers around which to build.