Florida State wide receiver Bert Reed has some things he'd like to prove.
Reed has been inconsistent, with too many dropped passes, running poor routes and even skipping classes. And yet, he heads into his senior season as the sixth-ranked Seminoles' most reliable receiver.
''Bert's one of those guys that you just give him a chance to catch the ball, and you know he's going to give you 10 or 15 yards,'' said quarterback E.J. Manuel. ''He's a high-reward type of receiver. You give him a chance to make a play, and he's going to do that for you.''
Reed ranks sixth in career catches at Florida State with 141 and would join Ron Sellers and Peter Warrick as the only Seminoles to reach the 200 mark in receptions if he can duplicate the production in either of his last two seasons.
With the Seminoles opening their season Saturday against ULM, Manuel will need a reliable target, especially after Reed's best friend on the team, Taiwan Easterling, gave up his final year of eligibility to turn professional in baseball.
''I feel the void with Taiwan gone,'' Reed said. ''He always gave me that confidence when we were out their together.''
But now Reed with have to fill the void, especially if junior receiver Willie Haulstead is out for any period of time with concussion issues.
Reed, a 23-year-old former high school quarterback from Panama City, has matured into the type of threat that Fisher has coveted since arriving as the school's offensive coordinator in 2007.
''He's been in a lot of big games, made plays in big games to win a lot of big games,'' Fisher said. ''Hopefully he can be that guy who shows the guys the way.''
Finding his own way has been Reed's big challenge for most of his years, including his first couple at Florida State.
''When I got here my freshman and sophomore years, it was total trouble,'' Reed conceded in an interview. ''I had to figure out, What are you doing wrong? What's going on? What do you want to be? And how do you fix it?''
Having already been suspended twice for cutting classes, Reed and former Seminole Cameron Wade were arrested on battery charges for their role in a November 2008 campus brawl at the student union.
Reed, one of four children who grew up with their father in prison for much of the time, feared the worst.
''I was terrified,'' he said. ''It could have gone either way.''
Reed knew he'd put himself in a bad place.
''He calls me immediately when things go awry,'' said Don Brothers, a Panama City medical professional who coached Reed in youth flag football and has remained close to the athlete and his family through the years. ''He knows morals and values.''
Reed also knew that eight of his teammates from those early football days in Panama City are now incarcerated.
But former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden gave Reed one final chance.
''It meant a lot to me for him to keep me around,'' Reed said. ''He told me I was on my last straw. If I got anything else, I was out of here.''
Reed said he was embarrassed that he and some fellow receivers were putting a bad light on their position coach, Lawrence Dawsey, by getting into trouble.
''It was about what we were doing to his reputation,'' Reed said. ''He is, to me, the main reason I'm graduating. He pushes me more about school than he does football. Coach Dawsey stayed on me.''
Brothers said he's not surprised Reed has remained on the straight and narrow, since and is now on track to become the first member his family to earn a college degree. Reed is scheduled to receive his degree in political science in December.
Fisher has seen the change as well.
''He's matured and understands the accountability and dependability issues in general in our organization and how important that that is in life,'' Fisher said. ''I think he's getting a greater grasp of that.''
Reed, who has added 28 pounds since arriving at Florida State and how has 178 pounds on his 5-10 frame, has also got a good grasp on his future.
For starters, he wants to leave a good impression on and off the playing field. Naturally he'd love to reach the stratosphere where only Sellers and Warrick reside in Florida State's record book.
''The whole goal is to win and also be remembered with all those great football players,'' Reed said. ''That's important to me.''
Reed's receiving numbers suggest he's been mostly a possession receiver like his buddy Easterling, averaging 11.5 yards a catch with just five touchdowns, or one for every 28 catches.
But more is expected, much more, this year.
He's so valuable to the Seminoles' title hopes that Fisher had the speedy wideout don a blue no-jersey to keep him from getting hit during some of the August drills.
''You know what he is capable of,'' Fisher said. ''His talent is great.''
In Part II of our Behind Enemy Lines series prior to ULM vs. Florida State, Matt Vines of The News…