Leaps and bounds: WR Auden Tate emerges as threat for Florida State


The catch was pure Kelvin Benjamin.

Auden Tate knew he had messed up. So he had to make up for running the wrong route late in Florida State’s spring game. Tate adjusted and when he saw the ball in the air knew there was only one thing to do.

“He just threw it up there,” the 6-foot-5 Tate said of quarterback Deondre Francois. “I had to go get it.”

And?

“Auden made a phenomenal catch,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “The play itself was phenomenal.”

That catch, from 11 yards, was Tate’s second touchdown of the game at the Citrus Bowl and looked similar to Belle Glades’ Benjamin leaping high to pull in Jameis Winston’s pass for the game-winning score in the January 2014 national championship. Both, by the way, coming with :13 on the clock. The difference being Fisher was able to extend a spring game by more than a minute to add drama, something Auburn wishes it could have done that night in the Rose Bowl.

Tate, named one of the Seminoles’ most improved players this spring, got his signals crossed was and was supposed to run a slant. Instead he ran a fade.

“I got the signal, but I didn’t get the full signal, because it was a hectic situation,” Tate, a rising sophomore, said.

Still, the play demonstrated what Tate could mean to the Seminoles if he continues on this path through the summer and fall.

“You saw his body size, you see what he has a chance to be,” Fisher said. “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.”

The Seminoles entered the spring looking for more weapons to complement receivers Travis Rudolph (Cardinal Newman), Jesus Wilson and Kermit Whitfield. The candidates were aplenty with the 2014 and 2015 recruiting class hauls. But each of those players, with the exceptions of Rudolph, had not busted out. … until Tate’s emergence this spring.

Tate is tall and athletic. He is 218 pounds, 20 lighter than Benjamin was his second year, and is what the Seminoles have missed since Benjamin became an undervalued pick (No. 28) in the 2014 draft. The 6-2 Rudolph, who led FSU’s receivers last season with 59 catches, 916 yards and 7 TDs, is the only receiver among the top three taller than 5-10.

“Throw the jump ball and he’ll make a play,” Rudolph said.

Tate played in six games last season and the next catch he makes in a regular season game will be his first. But that is expected to come quick after his six-reception, 100-yard performance in the spring game.

Tate, from Wharton, may be on the same career track as Benjamin, who redshirted his freshman season, had a modest 30 catches his redshirt freshman year before exploding his second season on the field, which allowed him to forgo his final two years of eligibility.

In fact, Tate even sounds like Benjamin when asked for the reason for his development this spring.

“Attitude, not taking plays off,” Tate said. “Instead of running a play just when knowing I’m getting the ball, and then next play when I know it’s a run just taking a play off. … going full speed the full time.”

Tate said he struggled when he didn’t have a role from the start.

“I ended up learning,” he said. “I ended up seeing everything. I was able to work on myself, my routes, all that stuff. I feel like it actually benefited me.”

The Seminoles are counting on more than Tate to emerge. They also have hopes for 6-4 George Campbell, 6-3 Ermon Lane, 6-2 Ja’Vonn Harrison among others to help add depth (and size) to the receiving corps.


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