The Daily Nole

FSU Spring Game: Cook’s Absence Opens Opportunity for Other Backs athletics

It was announced earlier this week that Florida State junior running back Dalvin Cook would miss the remainder of spring after having shoulder surgery. Cook should be healthy long before the start of the 2016 season and though FSU fans won’t get to watch one of college football’s most electrifying players during Saturday’s spring game at the Citrus Bowl, it does open an opportunity for others at the position to shine.

Cook enjoyed the best season ever for a Florida State running back in 2015, compiling a school-record 1,691 yards on the ground to go along with 20 total touchdowns. If there was a downfall to Cook’s recent campaign, it’s that he was forced to be a workhorse and a workhorse that was never completely healthy, at that.

With Cook out of the equation on Saturday, four others backs will get to make their case for being the team’s No. 2 — a desperate need for the Seminoles.

The front-runner, most believe, is sophomore Jacques Patrick. A 5-star recruit out of high school, Patrick is considered a power back. Patrick shined during last year’s spring game, but in the regular season, didn’t always run with the power and low pad-level most had hoped, with the exception of a 162-yard, 3-touchdown rushing effort against Syracuse. That day, Patrick was the primary ball-carrier in place of an injured Cook.

Mario Pender is the most veteran member of the FSU backfield, but staying on the field has been an issue. Pender suffered a collapsed lung early last season and missed previous campaigns in 2012 and 2013 to injury and academic issues. Pender, like Cook, is considered a home run threat with the ball in his hands, but his opportunities have been limited.

Johnathan Vickers is a seldom-used back for FSU, but has been praised by head coach Jimbo Fisher in the past. At 6-1 and 215 pounds, the junior is regarded as a between-the-tackles back, but injuries throughout the spring could keep him out of Saturday’s spring game.

Perhaps the most intriguing backfield story this spring has revolved around redshirt junior Ryan Green. Green spent his first two seasons in Tallahassee buried on the depth chart behind the likes of Cook, Karlos Williams, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. Green moved to cornerback last spring and was pushing Marquez White for the starting job opposite All-American Jalen Ramsey.

With a loaded corps of defensive backs, Green has made the move back to offense this spring. As a former 4-star recruit out of high school, this may be Green’s biggest chance to become a viable part of the FSU lineup.

Though fans won’t get to see the explosive Dalvin Cook in action on Saturday, it’s likely that Cook would have spent the majority of the contest in a green, non-contact jersey as was the case last spring. Instead, Cook can sit back, relax and watch his colleagues make their cases for being the top guy to spell him. If there’s anyone who could stand to relax after last season, it’s Cook.

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