Albany native and FSU leading receiver Rashad Greene had a breakout season as a freshman with 596 yards and seven TDs --- both team-highs.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Rashad Greene had a breakout freshman season last year — the likes of which haven’t been seen at Florida State in many years.
Now, the Seminoles’ star receiver may be called on to do even more.
The Albany native and former Westover star was one of a handful of players FSU coach Jimbo Fisher mentioned by name Monday when the Seminoles opened practice as a possibility to replace star punt returner Greg Reid, the Lowndes native who was booted from the team last week following his latest run-in with police.
And while it may be hard to duplicate what Reid did for FSU’s return game — after all, Reid was a little more than 300 yards away from breaking NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders’ school record when he was dismissed — Fisher thinks Greene can handle the duty.
“We’ve got plenty of those guys (who can return punts),” said Fisher, who threw the names of Greene, Marvin Bracy and Kenny Shaw, defensive back Ronald Darby and running back Chris Thompson into the mix.
On Tuesday, Greene wasn’t missed practice again because he is recovering from surgery unrelated to football, but he is expected to be ready to go before the Seminoles kick off the season by hosting Murray State on Sept. 1. Greene had an appendectomy while he was home visiting family in Albany two weeks ago.
Fisher said Tuesday that he expects Greene to be back at practice soon, and that Greene will be ordered to take things easy when he returns.
“We’re going (to be) precautionary ourselves the first week to make sure we don’t overload him,” Fisher told ESPN.com on Tuesday. “But he’s at 70, 75 percent. Two or three practices, maybe a week — he should be going.”
The 6-foot, 170-pound Greene missed time last year with an Achilles injury — four games to be exact — yet he still managed to finish as the Seminoles’ leading receiver with 38 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns, while averaging a team-leading 66.2 yards a game.
Greene was also called on, at times, last season to return punts for Reid, who missed action due to injury and suspension. Greene returned a total of six kicks — three punts and three kickoffs — and one of those returns in particular captivated Fisher’s attention. The FSU coach recalled the moment in an interview with The Herald earlier this year.
“One of the things I remember (most when I first watched Rashad play) was in the second game (of the season) he took a punt back for a touchdown that was called back, but the opportunity to see him in space, not just as a receiver, (impressed me),” Fisher told The Herald in late January.
Fisher’s assessment of Reid came shortly after FSU’s Champs Sports Bowl win against Notre Dame — a game that Greene was named the MVP of when he almost single-handedly led the Seminoles back from a halftime deficit. He finished with five catches for 96 yards and one TD — all of which came in the second half.
Fisher said in January his expectations for Greene’s sophomore year may be as high as anyone’s.
“I think it is way too early to say where he ranks (all-time among all the players I’ve coached). I have been blessed to have some great ones, but I think he can be one of the great ones if he will continue to progress and not worry about numbers or anything else; if he keeps learning to be a better football player,” Fisher told The Herald. “He is such a team guy. Such a smart guy. I think he will be one of the best ones I ever coached, but it is still early to say that. He still has a lot of growing to do and a lot of potential to fulfill, but if his work ethic stays the same and his attitude stays the same, there is no reason he won’t reach those goals.”
FISHER TALKS EXPECTATIONS, LOSING REID: Fisher, starting his third season since replacing the iconic Bobby Bowden, said his seniors have matured and learned what it takes to win after failing to live up to expectations with a 9-4 record in 2011.
“There’s something about seniors and getting enough of them that have played,” Fisher said. “The world just slows down for you, you know what I’m saying? I see a quiet confidence.”
Reid’s scholarship is going to freshman placekicker Roberto Aguayo. He had been promised a scholarship after the season if he enrolled this fall. He’ll now be able to practice with the team and back up senior Dustin Hopkins.
A Georgia state trooper charged Reid with marijuana possession after stopping him near his Valdosta home. Reid, 21, was arrested last year on resisting arrest and perjury charges that subsequently were dropped. He also was suspended for a game last season for an unspecified team rules violation.
“I love Greg to death,” Fisher said, but he added, “Rules are rules and what we have to go by. We wish Greg the best. I don’t think it’s ended his career.”
Fisher said Reid may be able to latch onto a lower division school. He said Reid responded maturely when told he had been kicked off the team.
“We had a great conversation, very sad conversation,” Fisher said.
Sophomore Nick Waisome will move into Reid’s starting position at corner for now.
FSU ADDS PENN STATE TRANSFER: FSU started preseason practice Monday with one big addition.
Fisher said offering a scholarship to 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end Kevin Haplea, a Penn State transfer, was an easy decision.
The Seminoles recruited Haplea out of high school in Annandale, N.J., but he chose Happy Valley over Tallahassee. Haplea played in every game for the Nittany Lions last season, catching three passes for 21 yards and one touchdown. He also was credited with opening running lanes for 1,200-yard rusher Silas Redd, who is going to Southern California.
Haplea is among nine Penn State players who have transferred since the NCAA slapped sanctions on the school, including a four-year bowl ban, for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“He called us,” Fisher said. “We did not go after any of the Penn State players, and we’re not going to.”
Florida State was one short of its 85-scholarship maximum when Haplea called.
“It was like getting a free agent,” Fisher said. “We had cap room.”
Haplea has a big athletic body, can run and catch and has played in a lot of big-time games, Fisher said.
“We loved him out of high school, great student, great guy,” he said. “To me it was almost a no-brainer.”
RUNNING GAME TO GET A BOOST?: Chris Thompson, who broke his back last season, has returned to full strength, and Fisher says he might be better than ever.
“Chris says he hasn’t felt this good since he can’t remember when,” Fisher said.
If the senior feels as good as he did in 2010, that would be a big boost for Florida State’s running game. Thompson was the most valuable player in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, led the Seminoles in rushing with 845 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry during his sophomore year.
Several Seminoles, though, are going into practice at less than full speed.
Fullback Chad Abram, like Greene, is recovering from surgery unrelated to football. Abram had a urinary system blockage.
Receiver Greg Dent also should be ready by then after undergoing knee surgery three weeks ago to clean out some cartilage, while Mario Pender is recovering from a groin injury but should be able to practice on a limited basis.
Defensive tackle Jacobii McDaniel has an ankle injury and is about 60 to 70 percent, Fisher said. He said another defensive tackle, Derrick Mitchell, will miss the first half of the season due to back surgery to fix an old high school injury that flared up.
DB HUNTER STILL IN HOT WATER: Defensive back Tyler Hunter of Lowndes is working his way out of Fisher’s doghouse after posting Twitter comments including rap lyrics during a routine traffic stop recently that referred to killing police, which drew objections from law enforcement officials. Hunter’s punishment includes meetings with campus police chief David Perry and riding along with officers.
“I want him to have a great understanding for what those guys do, and what they go through daily, and what their families have to go through before he makes an apology,” Fisher said.
The coach also has ordered players to stop tweeting.
“We’re not banning it,” Fisher insisted. “We’re going to educate the use of it before it’s ever reinstated again. I’m not saying it won’t be and it could be, but I think it’s a powerful thing — words.”
Herald sports editor Danny Aller, AP writer Bill Kaczor contributed, and information from ESPN.com was used in this report