TALLAHASSEE — The eight games Florida State receiver Keith Gavin appeared in during his true freshman season boiled down to one play — his 66-yard kickoff return against Michigan.
It was an enormous play during the Orange Bowl, even if Gavin probably wasn't supposed to take the ball out of the end zone. The Seminoles were trailing 30-27 before Gavin hesitated, plowed over one would-be tackler and returned the kick to the Wolverines 34. Four players later, Deondre Francois threw the game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass to Nyqwan Murray with 36 seconds left.
But that play had some long-term effects, too, for Gavin.
"Obviously it boosted me up a little bit," Gavin said. "I really needed that, though, because I didn't do much my freshman year."
No, he did not. Although he played in FSU's final –four games (mostly on special teams), that return was his first career touch.
Gavin was highly recruited out of Crawfordville's Wakulla High, where he was teammates with Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks. Gavin was an Under Armour All-American, a four-star recruit and a two-time all-state player. He chose the Seminoles over Alabama and Florida, among others.
So the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gavin had never had a year like 2016, when he sat on the bench and did little contribute.
If FSU is going to contend for a championship this year, Gavin will have to produce more than one highlight-reel kickoff return.
Although head coach Jimbo Fisher insists he isn't worried about the receiving corps' depth, position coach Lawrence Dawsey said it's the thinnest group he's had at FSU. Dawsey also said it's one of the most talented groups he's had at FSU, too.
"No doubt — the talent is there," Dawsey said.
And that leads back to Gavin.
Assuming Murray and Wharton High product Auden Tate continue to progress, FSU will need at least one more receiver to emerge, too. Maybe it's George Campbell, the former East Lake High star who missed last season with a core muscle injury. Maybe it's one of the freshmen, Tamorrion Terry or D.J. Matthews.
Or maybe it's Gavin.
It didn't come on a catch, but Gavin has already shown that he can change the game in a crunch-time situation against a big-name opponent.
"It gave me some confidence last year and coming into this season," Gavin said. "I have all the confidence now, so I'm ready."
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.