FSU's Kermit Whitfield hopes for big week at Shrine Game
At 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, Kermit Whitfield is the smallest of 100-plus prospects in St. Petersburg this week for the East-West Shrine Game, but he sees hope all over the NFL in similarly sized players who have used their speed to find success.
"Tavon Austin's doing good. Tyreek Hill, AB (Antonio Brown), people like that," he said. "Taylor Gabriel, Brandin Cooks, little guys like that."
Whitfield made a name for himself as a freshman in 2013, taking a kickoff return 100 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 4:31 to play in FSU's national championship win over Auburn. He also had a 97-yard kickoff return that year against Clemson, showing off track-star speed that had timed as fast at 10.15 seconds in the 100 meters.
Whitfield had returns of 50-plus yards in each of the last two seasons at FSU, but after an impressive junior year in 2015 -- 57 catches for 798 yards and six touchdowns -- his numbers dropped off as a receiver last year, catching 34 passes for 395 yards and one touchdown, finishing fifth on the team in receiving yards. This week, he's eager to show off that speed and show he can help an NFL team on returns as well.
"I've got to show I can block, catch balls, run routes," he said. "Catching punt returns, I'm already good at catching kick returns, but they haven't seen me on punt returns yet. ... I'm just out here to impress him, trying to turn heads."
Whitfield is training at the Applied Science and Performance Institute ("The Compound") in Tampa with former Bucs receivers Yo Murphy and Reidel Anthony. He's also working on being able to process information better as a receiver, getting smarter this spring as he gets faster and stronger. Saturday's game at Tropicana Field is a chance to make a big splash, and he'd love the opportunity to reunite with Jameis Winston with the Bucs in Tampa.
"That would be great," he said.