The Daily Nole

FSU Football: Duties of Spelling Cook Now a 3-Man Race

FSU athletics

Florida State’s deep, talented stable of tailbacks shrunk by one on Saturday as the Seminoles dismissed senior running back Mario Pender, who was arrested on charges of domestic violence and resisting arrest. With Pender now a part of the past at FSU, the role of No. 2 back behind All-ACC performer Dalvin Cook has become a 3-man race.

There’s no question that if Cook is healthy, the bulk of the load in the backfield will be his. Last season, Cook not only crushed the FSU single-season rushing record by tallying 1,691 yards on the ground, but he did so on the second-most carries in Florida State history with 229. To put that into further perspective, only eight NFL backs had more carries a season ago than Cook.

Cook’s high number of carries came in a season in which he battled a season-long hamstring injury and missed an Oct. 31 contest against Syracuse with an ankle injury. Some added relief in 2016 would not only be welcomed, but it’s absolutely necessary.

The dismissal of Pender means that FSU will have to say goodbye to its most experienced back, but in four years on the roster, injuries and trouble in the classroom limited Pender to only 12 career games, 346 yards rushing and six total touchdowns.

Statistically, Jacques Patrick almost equaled Pender’s career totals as a freshman last season. Patrick rushed for 314 yards and five touchdowns on 63 carries.

At 6-1 and more than 230 pounds, Patrick is the quintessential power-back and was a 5-star recruit out of Timber Creek High School in Orlando. Patrick might serve as the perfect back to give defenses a different look when Cook is out of the game, but as a freshman, Patrick didn’t always run with the veracity that FSU fans and coaches had hoped to see.

The back who made the biggest case for more touches this spring was redshirt junior Ryan Green.

After carrying the ball just 39 times and mostly in garbage time in his first two seasons at Florida State, Green moved to cornerback last offseason and was pushing Marquez White for the starting spot opposite recent top-5 NFL draft pick Jalen Ramsey. Green’s quest to start for the FSU defense was derailed by a season-ending shoulder injury and he was moved back to offense this spring.

In Florida State’s spring game last month, Green totaled 125 yards from scrimmage, including 84 on the ground and a touchdown. Green showed good hands out of the backfield and some added power not many knew he had. It remains to be seen whether Green will be the top guy when it comes to spelling Cook, but he’s at least made a convincing case for meaningful touches.

The sleeper in the FSU backfield is junior Johnathan Vickers. Vickers wasn’t as highly-touted as any of the other guys mentioned, nor does he have as much upside, but head coach Jimbo Fisher has raved about his ability.

Vickers has just 153 total yards and two touchdowns for his career, but filled in admirably last season against Wake Forest in place of an injured Cook and against Syracuse, spelling Patrick. Vickers’ 4.8 yards per carry average last season was actually better than Pender’s and just slightly below Patrick’s 5-yard average.

In what many feel could be a championship-caliber season for Florida State, Dalvin Cook will undoubtedly be the heart and soul of an offense that returns all 11 starters. Cook will likely be pegged by many as a preseason All-American and some feel that he could be FSU’s first Heisman Trophy winner to play something other than quarterback.

But for Cook to be able to carry Florida State to college football’s finish line, he’ll need to be able to get there himself. Cook is a team-first guy and has never complained about being the team’s workhorse. If the Seminoles are to get to where they want to be however, they’d be best served to get some help from the rest of the stable.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply