Deonte Sheffield settling into role as slot receiver

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - As is usually the case leading up to a new season, improvement as a team and as individuals emerged as a clear theme at Florida State Media Day Sunday morning.

Even those who didn't see the field at all in 2017 are excited about the chance to make an impact in 2018.

Niceville alum Deonte Sheffield was recruited as a running back and redshirted last season. Now that Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers have asserted themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the backfield, there isn't much room for Sheffield to thrive at his primary position.

Luckily for Sheffield, plan B could see him hitting the field far sooner in a new role.

"Coach Taggart called me and said, 'I want to put you in slot [receiver] because I feel like you can make plays in space,'" Sheffield recalled. "It wasn't a second thought."

Of course not.

Sheffield shined at the Garnet and Gold spring game, hauling in a spectacular 65 yard touchdown from Bailey Hockman. If changing positions presented any challenges, Sheffield isn't letting on.

"As an athlete, it wasn't really that big a deal because at running back, it's the same thing as slot. At slot, you're catching the ball. You can see the whole field, but at running back, you need to make everything happen, so it's easier at slot because you're catching the ball in space and you get gone."

In the running for primary slot receiver are Nyquan Murray, DJ Matthews, and the freshman trio of Sheffield, Tre'Shaun Helton and Kewshawn Helton. Coaches wouldn't comment on playing time for anybody, but wide receivers coach David Kelly is excited about working with his newest weapon.

"Honestly, I've always liked running backs who move to wide receiver," Kelly said. "They know what to do with the football after they get it. A lot of times, a kid will be an excellent wide receiver, but that's what he is. What I mean by that is, they're not as adept as playing with people around them or playing in a crowd, whereas a running back is accustomed to that."

As it turns out, Sheffield is also accustomed to taking reps as a wideout, serving a multi-purpose role for Niceville head coach John Hicks in the regular season and elsewhere.

"In high school, there was this thing called 7-on-7," Sheffield recalled. "I played slot in 7-on-7. Actually, at a camp here, my team won the 7 on 7 at FSU my senior year in front of all the coaches, so that was big. I played slot a lot in high school too. They moved me out to empty and stuff, so that was huge."

It remains to be seen how Sheffield can supplement Taggart's offense right away. Still, his enthusiasm and play-making abilities are the same as ever, even if he's lining up on a different part of the field on Saturdays.